Malaysian wildlife officers arrested six Vietnamese suspected poachers and seized a large cache of animal parts, including skins of the critically endangered Malayan tiger, during a raid this week, officials said Friday.
Pieces of tiger skins, along with skins, claws, meat and other parts from protected bears, a leopard, serow goats and a python were recovered during the raid Wednesday on a workers' living quarters in the central state of Pahang.
Six Vietnamese nationals, including two women, believed to be poachers targeting the Malayan tiger were arrested and remanded for further investigation.
"This is the biggest raid involving tigers in Malaysia this year, worth half a million ringgit ($124,00)," said wildlife department chief Abdul Kadir Abu Hashim.
He said the poachers had killed three tigers. Wildlife officials later told AFP that one of the tigers was a cub.
The species once roamed the jungles of Malaysia in the thousands but is now critically endangered, with fewer than 340 believed left in the wild.
It is also the country's official animal, and depicted often on national emblems and its coat of arms.
Tiger skins, prized as upscale home decorations, can be sold on the black market outside Malaysia for thousands of dollars.
People found hunting protected wildlife in Malaysia can face jail time of up to five years as well as a fine of up to 500,000 ringgit.
Wildlife trafficking watchdog Traffic Southeast Asia senior communications officer Elizabeth John said the find was "heartbreaking."
"When you have so few, every single one is a massive loss. We don't have that many (left)" she told AFP.
"They (the government) need to invest more in law enforcement if they wish to save a national symbol."
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