By AVILA GERALDINE
ILLEGAL TRADE: Wildlife study cameras in Sabah catch them in the actKOTA KINABALU: ILLEGAL hunters are prowling even protected forests in Sabah.
Poachers have been found to be encroaching crucial sites, such as the Crocker Range National Park, Tawau Hills National Park, Maliau Basin Conservation Area, Tabin Wildlife Reserve, Malua BioBank and Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary.
Footage of their activities was caught by camera traps set up at specific locations by the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC) for wildlife study purposes.
Describing the hunting within forest reserves as serious, DGFC director Dr Benoit Goossens stressed on the need for the government and relevant agencies to sit down and tackle the problem.
"It is paramount that the millions of ringgit invested in our protected forests are used for wildlife protection and enforcement against wildlife trade and poaching.
"Shall we wait for another iconic species, such as the Sumatran rhino, to disappear in Sabah before reacting?"
Speaking at the recent Wild Animal Rescue Network (Warn) conference, Goossens said a report by the trade monitoring network, Traffic, revealed that 22,200 pangolins were traded in the state by syndicates within 13 months.
The figure was derived from logbooks seized by the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) from syndicates in 2009.
The report also revealed that eight of 21 shops surveyed in 2010 sold bear bile products, while 10 of 24 shops sold similar products last year.
SWD director Datuk Dr Laurentius Ambu said the department would look into setting up an enforcement unit to tackle wildlife trade and illegal hunters.
"This unit will focus on wildlife trade, illegal hunting and bushmeat trade, using the best tools against wildlife smuggling and poaching.
"It will have a permanent presence in all protected areas in Sabah.
"We are looking for institutions keen on supporting the unit."
More than 100 wildlife experts participated in the two-day conference, organised by SWD and DGFC.
Among the participating countries were India, China, Hong Kong and Singapore.
Warn is a network of wild animal rescue centres, wildlife law enforcement groups and officials, and animal protection groups in East and Southeast Asia.
The conference was aimed at boosting the capabilities of East and Southeast Asian wildlife rescue centres to rescue and conserve wildlife and providing conservation awareness education for the public, as well as advocating minimum standards practised by wildlife rescue centres.
SWD assistant director Dr Sen Nathan said Warn would bring Asian countries together in matters pertaining to wildlife conservation and assist government authorities in each country to monitor illegal wildlife trade.