The event, the first in Sabah, was organised by Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) and Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC) at Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria Resort, Tuaran on Nov 26-27 and sponsored by the Malaysian Palm Oil Council, EcoOils, Sabah Tourism Board and Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria Resort..
Dr Benoit Goossens, Director of DGFC and co-organiser of the conference, said a discussion on wildlife trade and poaching in Southeast Asia, with a focus on Sabah, was co-chaired by him and Dr Marc Ancrenaz from HUTAN.
“We took the opportunity to present some recent data from surveys carried out by TRAFFIC in Sabah (and other Malaysian states) on pangolin trade and sun bear bile trade,” said Goossens.
“The results were astonishing, out of 21 shops visited in December 2010 in Kota Kinabalu, eight were selling bear bile products. Moreover, in a survey carried out in our State in 2012, 10 out of 24 shops surveyed were selling sun bear products. More astonishingly, a TRAFFIC report published in 2010 on pangolin trade in Sabah, including analysis of trade syndicate’s logbooks seized by SWD in 2009, showed that 22,200 pangolins were traded by the syndicate in 13 months,” added Goossens.
“We also have evidence of illegal hunting in several forest reserves and national parks in Sabah not only at iconic protected areas such as Crocker Range National Park, Tawau Hills National Park, Maliau Basin Conservation Area and Tabin Wildlife Reserve, but also Malua BioBank and Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary. This is extremely serious and we – government, NGOs, research institutions – need to tackle this issue as quickly as possible if we don’t want to see our wildlife ending in bowls and/or in medicine products,” said Goossens.
“It is paramount that the millions recently invested in our protected forests are used for wildlife protection and wildlife trade and poaching enforcement. Shall we wait for another iconic species (such as the Sumatran rhino) to disappear in Sabah before reacting?” concluded Goossens.
“WARN is a network of wild animal rescue centers, wildlife law enforcement groups and officials and animal protection groups in East and Southeast Asia,” said Professor Kurtis Pei, Interim Board Chair of WARN and professor at the National Pingtung University of Science and Technology, Taiwan.
“I’m very proud to say that WARN was established as a registered international NGO since August 2013 and that we have members in the following countries: Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam, and many representatives from wildlife rescue centers in those countries attended WARN 2013 in Sabah,” added Professor Pei.
“The purpose of WARN is to enhance the capabilities of East and Southeast Asian wildlife rescue centres to rescue and conserve wildlife, provide conservation awareness education for the public and advocate minimum standards for wildlife rescue centres,” concluded Professor Pei.
“WARN 2013 was a great opportunity to showcase our very own Wildlife Rescue Unit that was set up three years ago, a team of local boys and girls working tirelessly to save and protect wildlife in Sabah,” said Dr Sen Nathan, Assistant Director at SWD, and head of the Wildlife Rescue Unit.
“Sabah sees the potential of WARN as an organisation that would be able to bridge all Asian countries together in terms of wildlife conservation matters and also assist government authorities in respective countries monitoring illegal wildlife trade,” added Nathan.
“SWD is actually looking at setting up a Wildlife Enforcement Unit, working in a similar way to the Wildlife Rescue Unit, but focusing on wildlife trade, illegal hunting and bushmeat trade, using the best existing tools against wildlife smuggling and poaching and having a permanent presence in all protected areas in Sabah. We are currently looking for institutions interested to support this unit,” said Datuk Dr Laurentius Ambu, Director of SWD.
“We might seem to have lost many battles, but I can assure you, the buck stops here and the war for wildlife conservation is being fought hard by a very dedicated group of people here in Sabah in whom I give all my trust to be successful in tackling the problems caused by wildlife trade and illegal hunting in our protected areas. This has to stop and we will use every means to end it,” said Datuk Seri Panglima Masidi Manjun, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment when opening the WARN conference.