Confusion surrounds the decision to destroy over 120 animals confiscated by authorities last weekend, with both police and the Maldives National Defence Forces (MNDF) denying responsibility for the move.
With initial media reports today suggesting that the Maldives Police Service (MPS) had “executed” the animals, an official spokesman revealed that custody of the animals had been handed to the MNDF on Sunday, just hours after their seizure.
MNDF Captain Ali Ihusaan subsequently confirmed that all of the animals had been put down on the request of the MPS.
“The animals that were being handed over to the Ministry of Defence and National Security were being handed over in order to get rid of them, and we have established procedures and processes that we go through in order to take care of them and we have gone through that process on the day they were handed over to MNDF,” said Ihusaan.
These claims were promptly rejected by the police, however, who denied having asked the MNDF to terminate the animals.
“The information you have received is not right, we didn’t actually request from the MNDF to put them down,” said a police spokesperson who said he had been unable to contact his MNDF counterpart to clarify the conflicting account.
The spokesman went on to suggest that the responsibility for the transfer of the animals lay with the customs department, stating that the legal rationale for the decision could be explained by customs authorities.
“What we did was was request customs to take over those confiscated animals, to take the animals under their custody. So they requested us to hand over those animals to the MNDF,” said the MPS spokesman.
“Under customs regulations it is not allowed to bring those animals to Maldives. We requested them to take over the case, to take these animals to their custody”.
“I think it is because customs is run under Ministry of Defence, which might explain that decision”.
Minivan News was unable to contact customs officials at the time of press.
EPA deeply concerned
Meanwhile, news of the animals’ termination has prompted an outcry, with groups reportedly gathering outside of the Environment Ministry.
A group of protesters have assembled outside the children’s park in Malé – home to a captive crocodile – in opposition to the move, with one placard reading: “Stop killing animals against the law and regulations”.
Former President Mohamed Nasheed has taken to Twitter to denounce the decision.
“People’s beloved pets should not be killed just like that. Necessary regulations could be made,” tweeted Nasheed.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), whom the police have previously said were being consulted on the animal’s care, have expressed concern.
“As an organisation responsible for the protection and well being of all these creatures, we are not happy with killing or doing anything lethal to any of the animals. That is something that we are deeply concerned about,” said Director General of the EPA Ibrahim Naeem.
Naeem denied having been consulted over the care and maintenance of the confiscated animals.
The animals – including 11 iguanas, a snake, a sugar glider (possum), an owl, a squirrel, and 105 rats – were taken by police in an operation to tackle the number of illegal pets last weekend.
The scale of the problem has become apparent as the police have embarked on a campaign to tackle the nation’s endemic narcotics problems, with a series of exotic creatures increasingly featuring in the lists of items seized during raids.
In a joint operation with multiple branches of the government, the police revealed that animals were to be confiscated “so that the legality of their presence in the country can be assessed,” read a police statement.
Customs regulations list dogs and dangerous animals as prohibited from import, while other live animals entering the country are required to have valid sanitary certificates.
The regulation on importing live animals specifies that the procedure for handling animals considered wild or dangerous includes consultation with the Fisheries Ministry and the MNDF, as well as the production of a report, before repatriation or extermination.
When asked if the police had allowed relevant time for owners to produce the necessary certificates before the animals were destroyed, Minivan News was again referred to the customs department.
The EPA’s Ibrahim also condemned those who bring such animals into the country, saying that they should share some of the blame for the animals’ fate.
“We don’t expect these animals in the Maldives. I condemn those who import those who import them to Maldives, they should actually take the responsibility.”
Authorities have confirmed that the endangered slow loris – confiscated during an earlier police operation – was not amongst the destroyed animals. The EPA is currently discussing the potential repatriation of the animal with interested parties.