National Geographic : 2010 Jan
• that Anson does all his deals over the phone. "In Malaysia you must catch someone with the animals. Not like the U.S. with the Lacey Act," she said contemptuously. The Lacey Act makes it a federal crime to violate wildlife laws, even those of a foreign country, and a wildlife smuggler doesn't have to be caught in possession of an animal to face felony prosecution. Misliah considers Anson's conviction under the Lacey Act illegitimate and has publicly accused the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service of framing him. " ey said he had Komodos, but he never handles animals himself---he has runners every- where," Misliah said. "When he was in prison, Anson wrote me letters. He bribed his way. ey treated him like a king!" She explained that his business had gone down while he was in prison and his wife was in charge. "But," she said, "now it is going up." Malaysia's second highest wildlife law en- forcement o cer speaks of her country's most notorious illegal tra cker like a doting aunt. "People say, 'How can you give him his license?' " A smile wreathed Misliah's face. "He was a very bad boy, but if we don't give him a license, he would just do it anyway." is way, she said, they could keep their eye on him. To this day Misliah vouches for Anson. "Anson Wong has carried out his business legally and complying [sic] the needs and requirements under the domestic law. He and his business in peninsular Malaysia have been monitored closely by this department," her o ce asserted in a written statement to the press in 2008. She was also in favor of legalized tiger and bear-bile farming. "Why not?" she asked me. Misliah Mohamad Basir, so inconspicuous, seemingly so benign, is one of the most power- ful wildlife decision-makers on the planet. On her watch Malaysia has become a global traf- cking hub. I kept coming back to how delightful she seemed in person. "Isn't Misliah the sweetest little woman you ever met?" I asked a senior Perhilitan o cer. e o cer studied me for a moment, then smiled. "In Perhilitan we have a saying about her: Kecik-kecik cili padi." A park ranger standing nearby nodded. " e smallest chilies are always the hottest." SHERIFF WANTED Misliah had mentioned an adversary named Chris Shepherd, an intrepid investigator who has drawn attention to black market wildlife operations throughout Southeast Asia. "He says we're just a transit country," Misliah told me, with obvious disdain. "He says we do nothing to stop smuggling." Shepherd, a Canadian, works for , the trade-monitoring arm of the World Wildlife Fund and the International Union for Conser- vation of Nature. Based in Cambridge, England, with o ces around the world, 's investi- gators monitor crime and pass what they learn to host country law enforcement agencies. Shep- herd is the lead investigator in the Southeast Asia headquarters, in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia. Over the past decade he's published a moun- tain of reports covering illegal trade in bear parts, elephants, civets, Indonesia's laughing thrushes, the Indian star tortoise, the serow, the Roti Island snake-necked turtle, the Sumatran CASES DO WELL IN THE PRESS ONLY IF THEY INVOLVE ICONIC ANIMALS. NOT IF THEY'RE THE FISH CALLED HUMPHEAD WRASSE, OR THE 14 TONS OF TURTLES, MONITOR LIZARDS, AND PANGOLINS FOUND FLOATING IN A BOAT OFF THE COAST OF CHINA.