NABAWAN: The Wildlife Health Genetic and Forensic Laboratory (WHGFL) in Lok Kawi was only launched on Monday and it is already busy going after poachers.
Director of Sabah Wildlife Department, Datuk Dr Laurentius Ambu said the department received on Tuesday pictures from the public showing protected species slaughtered and sold in an open market in Nabawan.
He said that he immediately sent an enforcement team including from the Wildlife Rescue Unit to investigate the market that operates on Wednesdays.
From the pictures sent to the department, he said that the species include binturong, common palm civet, banded palm civet, Malay civet, sambar deer, porcupine and blood python, among others.
"Those species are definitely hunted from forest reserves and national parks, where hunting is totally forbidden," he said in a statement.
To this, he said the department needs support from the public to tackle the menace.
"There is a clear and present danger to our wildlife here in Sabah.
Illegal hunting and poaching is happening at an unprecedented rate now, fuelled not only by local consumption, but also by international illegal trade in wildlife," he said.
The WHGFL was set up by Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC) and EcoHealth Alliance (EHA) as a focal point to analyse confiscated illegal bushmeat to determine species and origin, using genetic tools.
On the other hand, Assistant Director of the Sabah Wildlife Department, Dr Sen Nathan, said the department is seriously looking at beefing up the department's capacity by setting up a Wildlife Enforcement Unit that is similar to the department's Wildlife Rescue Unit.
Director of DGFC, Dr Benoit Goossens, who is also an advisor to the department and the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Environment on wildlife conservation, said people who hunt, handle, buy and eat bushmeat are not only acting against the law, but also risk their lives by handling or consuming wildlife.
The Ebola, he said, is a zoonotic and deadly disease transmitted by bushmeat handling and consumption in central Africa, especially of chimpanzees and gorillas.
He said Ebola has killed thousands of people.
"More closely to us, the nipah virus that is carried by flying foxes (fruit bats) and transmitted to pork then people when handling and or consuming bats and/or pork, killed thousands of people in Peninsular Malaysia," he said.
It is for this reason that the Wildlife Health Genetic and Forensic Laboratory was set up together with EcoHealth Alliance, he said.
He said that they need to inform the public that handling and/or consuming wild meat is not only against the law but also dangerous to their lives.
Dr Marc Ancrenaz, co-director of the non-governmental organisation HUTAN based in Kinabatangan and also a wildlife veterinarian, said enough is enough because tourism is one of the major sources of income for the State.
People visit Sabah for its natural resources and wildlife, he said, and thus for the sake of Sabah's future, illegal killing of wild animals must be halted.
"These barbarian practices are not the result of traditional or cultural practices.
"This wildlife trade is carried out by unfaithful individuals for their own personal profit. This is unacceptable," he said.
He said such perpetrators should be brought to justice because they are jeopardising and threatening the future of the wildlife as well as the future of the State.