Man receives record fine, jail time stemming from ‘deep love’ of wildlife

A father of four in Malaysia was found to have at his home an endangered Malayan tiger and leopard, along with an assortment of other wildlife. His so-called "hobby" turned out to be a costly mistake.

Mohd Taha Abd Wahab, 51, of Kampung Gahal Jaya, Hulu Langat pled guilty to charges of possessing protected wildlife without a permit, The Star Online and the New Strait Times reported Thursday.

Besides the tiger and leopard, the senior engineer harbored a red eagle, a mountain raven, two white-crowned Shama birds, a Scheider's Dwarf Caiman crocodile, a mouse deer, a "Tiong Mas" bird and a white-rumped Shama.

In total, Judge Noridah Adam fined Wahab 550,000 Malaysian Ringgit, or $123,500 USD, and was sentenced to four months in jail.

The Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) said the fine was by far the largest its ever recorded. The jail sentence could have been far worse if not reduced by the Kajang Sessions Court.

All the animals are said to be protected under the First Schedule of the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010.

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Attorney Zaflee Pakwanteh said keeping the wildlife was a hobby for his client, who has heart issues.

"My client loves exotic animals and keeping these animals serves as therapy for his illness," Pakwanteh said.

Pakwanteh said Wahab bought the wildlife from a pet shop in Pekan Batu in hulu Langat, thinking the shop had a license to sell the animals.

“My client was remanded for three days and it was a frightening experience for him," Pakwanteh said. "It was his ignorance and deep love for animals that he had kept them without any permit, but this has resulted in great loss to him."