By Alexander Chen
“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” – Masidi Manjun
“This (poaching or illegal hunting) is extremely serious. Shall we wait for another iconic species (such as the Sumatran rhino) to disappear in Sabah before reacting,” – Dr Benoit Goosens
KOTA KINABALU: Illegal hunting in several forest reserves and national parks in Sabah, including iconic protected areas such as Crocker Range National Park, is still going on, concerned non-governmental organisations has warned.
These NGOs charged that poachers have infiltrated the Tawau Hills National Park, Maliau Basin Conservation Area and Tabin Wildlife Reserve, as well as the 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 Dr Benoit Goossens, Director of Danau Girang Field Centre.
“It is paramount that the millions (of Ringgit) recently invested in our protected forests are used for wildlife protection and wildlife trade and poaching enforcement,” he told the recent 5th East and Southeast Asian Wild Animal Rescue Network (WARN) Conference held in Tuaran.
“Shall we wait for another iconic species (such as the Sumatran rhino) to disappear in Sabah before reacting?” concluded Goossens in his talk.
The conference, the 1st in Sabah, was organised by the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) and DGFC last 26 and 27 November.
The conference was sponsored by the Malaysian Palm Oil Council, EcoOils, Sabah Tourism Board and Shangri La’s Rasa Ria Resort.
“In fact, a discussion on wildlife trade and poaching in Southeast Asia, with a focus on Sabah was co-chaired by Dr Marc Ancrenaz from HUTAN and myself,” said Goossens, the co-organiser of the conference.
“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,” he added.
“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,” he pointed out.
Meanwhile, Datuk Dr Laurentius Ambu, Director of SWD said they are looking at setting up a Wildlife Enforcement Unit
“This works in a similar way as 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,” he said in a statement jointly issued by the SWD and DGFC.
When officiating at the WARN conference, Datuk Seri Panglima Masidi Manjun, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment, proudly exclaimed:
“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.
“I give all my trust to them 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,” he said.