The Star Online, 30th May 2018
by Fatimah Zainal
KOTA KINABALU: From sun bear cubs and tapir calfs to slow loris and hornbills, the illegal wildlife trade is booming online and must be stopped, said wildlife biologist Dr Wong Siew Te.
Dr Wong, who found many such businesses brazenly operating on social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, said it was sad that such illegal activities were still widespread in Malaysia.
Despite these sales being illegal under the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010, hundreds of juvenile protected animals are still being killed, captured and sold as pets and for individual profits, said Dr Wong.
Dr Wong, who is known for his studies on the sun bear and for founding the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) in Sandakan, was shocked to discover sun bear cubs being sold online.
One Instagram page had more than 500 posts advertising protected infant animals for sale.
“The protected wildlife species that are sold include the calfs of the highly endangered Malayan tapir, sun bear cubs, infant gibbons, infant leaf monkeys, slow loris, leopard cat kittens, juvenile raptors, hornbills, civets, and more.
“All of these protected wildlife infants possibly had their mothers killed by illegal poachers in order to obtain these infants,” he said.
On the BSBCC Facebook page, Dr Wong on Wednesday (May 30) shared a video he found on the Instagram page which was advertising a sun bear cub for sale.
It showed a man bottle feeding milk to the cub.
“The sun bear is a totally protected species in West Malaysia and Sabah, and protected species in Sarawak.
“No one is allowed to sell, to kill, to keep, and to possess any body parts of sun bears,” Dr Wong wrote in his post accompanying the video.
Since the online business is being conducted in the peninsula, Dr Wong had reported the matter to the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) which told him that the matter will be investigated.
He said the discovery of sun bear cubs being sold online comes just two weeks after BSBCC celebrated Sun Bear Day on May 16, which was aimed at raising public awareness on the protection and conservation of sun bears.
“If we keep quiet and choose to do nothing, soon our forests will be empty,” he said.
The Independent, 3rd January 2014
The country accounts for 70 per cent of global ivory demand, but awareness is growing
Shopkeepers hunch over takeaway boxes at Beijing’s Dongfangbobao Market as sporadic lunchtime visitors wander between displays of jade, gold, bronze and bone curios. The market’s sleepy air belies its past as a dependable source of illegal ivory. Enquiries for “elephant teeth,” as it is known in Chinese, are now met with dismissive waves.
Antique dealer Ren Wenzhuo produces an intricately carved pendant from a glass display case before retrieving three more trinkets from a locked safe, each costing between 6,000 and 7,000 RMB (£607-708). But these small pieces, one of which allegedly dates from the 18th century, are of little concern to Chinese authorities. It is newly smuggled items that directly contribute to the decimation of Africa’s elephant population.
“We used to sell new ivory here but not any more,” says Ren. “Haven’t you seen the news? Ivory is like tiger skins; it harms animals.”
Dongfangbobao appears to be one of the latest targets of a reported government crackdown on illegal ivory marked by awareness campaigns in state-owned media, tougher sentences for unlicensed dealers and contraband seizures.
But the capital’s ivory shoppers need not look far for the coveted “white gold.”
Just over a mile north at Beijing Curio City, customers can find celestial scenes, imperial ships, and herds of water buffaloes carved from full-length elephant tusks. Accreditation certificates hang on the walls and each piece comes with a registration number.
By legitimising the sale of ivory sourced from natural elephant deaths, culls and police seizures, the registration system was introduced in 2004 to cut prices and profits in the black market. It has had the reverse effect. The wholesale price of ivory has tripled over the last nine years.
Legal retailers regularly use their businesses as a cover for unlawful sales. An investigation by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) in 2011 found that almost 60 percent of authorised sellers and carving factories were involved in some form of laundering. Vendors regularly discourage customers from taking products’ identity cards and reuse them with illicit items.
Conservationists believe that the very existence of a licensed trade only serves to fuel demand in China, where ivory carving is considered a traditional art form. Revered as a status symbol by the country’s growing middle classes, ivory is also seen as a lucrative bet for investors facing diminishing returns on equity and real estate.
While the international ban in 1989 is widely credited with curtailing trade in the West, China is now the largest ivory market in the world and accounts for an estimated 70 per cent of global demand.
Its continued popularity may stem from a lack of knowledge about the scale and environmental impact of the trade, according to WildAid, the wildlife protection group behind a new awareness campaign. The organisation is using high-profile figures to highlight poaching and the quantity of illegal products in the Chinese market.
Fronting the campaign is former NBA basketball player and Olympic flag bearer Yao Ming, whose public influence in the recent campaign against shark fin soup has been widely lauded.
The drive appears to have yielded remarkable results. During this year’s Spring Festival, when shark fin soup is commonly eaten, the Chinese Commerce Ministry reported a 70 per cent drop in consumption compared with the previous year.
This success sets an encouraging precedent for ivory campaigners, according to WildAid’s chief representative in China, May Mei.
“Things move so quickly in China and as we are seeing with shark fin, it is possible to make a completely desirable product quickly unfashionable,” she says.
Mei also credits a government ban on the soup at official banquets with the turnaround in demand.
“If the government takes a strong stance on ivory, such as announcing no further legal imports or announcing a ban [on] officials giving ivory as gifts, the impact will be enormous,” she argues.
There have been promising signs from Chinese authorities. In the first conviction of its kind, a court in Fujian Province sentenced a licensed dealer found importing and selling illegal products to 15 years in prison in May.
Moves to curb illegal sales on unregulated online marketplaces have also seen the government ban all online wildlife trade and monitor key search terms. Conservation groups are working with search engine giant Baidu to purge illegal wildlife listings and shut down forums that facilitate black-market trade.
But with as many as 100 African elephants killed a day, attempts to tame this vast and elusive industry remain frustratingly, and perhaps fatally, slow. Although Illegal ivory is shrinking from view in markets like Dongfangbobao, its place in Chinese consumers’ eyes continues to pose the single greatest threat to the species’ survival.
The Star Online, 26 December 2013
BY J. KUGAN
Animals falling victim to violence, abuse and neglect continue to make headlines in Malaysia. We look back at six of the 2013’s worst animal scandals.
Although Malaysians would rather forget the horrifying photos and reports of cruelty against animals that have become commonplace in our social media feeds, it’d be heartless to ignore the reality of what’s happening.
From the poisoning of endangered elephants to the inhumane killing of unwanted strays, the evidence is clear that Malaysians need to step up efforts to protect the well-being of our animal friends, lest we see more of these sickening cases of unchecked cruelty.
Warning: Some of the videos and pictures are very upsetting – we advise viewer discretion.
Pygmy elephants poisoned in Sabah
A baby elephant caressing its lifeless mother: That was the heart-tugging image that caused an international scandal in January when 14 pygmy elephants – 10 females and four males aged between four and 20 years – were found dead in Sabah’s Gunung Rare Forest Reserve. When news broke out that the endangered pachyderms had succumbed to poisoning, allegedly by workers in oil palm plantations bordering the reserve, it hit home hard.
How much of our natural fauna are we willing to sacrifice for profit? Despite rewards posted for information on the culprits, it’s doubtful we’ll ever know what really happened. Our only consolation is that Baby Joe, who had stayed beside his mother’s carcass for days before being found, is doing well.
Sun bear and stallion poisoned in Malacca
Barely a month after the elephant poisoning in Sabah, a 14-year-old female Malayan sun bear and Arabian stallion at Malacca Zoo and Night Safari fell victim to poisoning by an elderly businessman from Johor. CCTV footage from the Feb 17 incident showed the man in the zoo feeding the animals fruit that had been laced with toxin.
It could’ve been worse: poisoned fruits were also found in the chimpanzee and orang utan enclosures. What drove the man to poison these beautiful creatures? Apparently, it was out of resentment due to the fact he had previously owned a zoo that was shut down. His confiscated animals had been moved to Malacca Zoo where some later died due to mishandling.
Stray dogs violently killed
In late September, a gruesome video showing dogcatchers dragging and eventually strangling a stray dog was uploaded by Malaysian Independent Animal Rescue (MIAR) activist Puspa Rani to her YouTube account. Even though there had been other videos showing similar acts of council-related abuse of strays all over the country, this one touched a nerve and went viral, clocking up to more than 100,000 hits to date.
MIAR claims that the dogcatchers – in this instance, hired by the Kajang Municipal Council (MPKj) – disregard all the recommended protocols for the humane handling of strays. MPKj, on the other hand, denies any wrongdoing, claiming that MIAR’s allegations are baseless.
Despite the finger-pointing and denials, the video – almost seven minutes of pure torture – speaks for itself.
Kitten sealed in a jar by Johor youths
Two Malaysian youths from Johor Baru caused a Facebook uproar in September when they posted photos of themselves posing with a kitten they had put inside a sealed jar. The photos caused such serious consternation among cat lovers that Mark Soh, founder of the Malaysian Crime Awareness Campaign Facebook page, lodged a report to the Society For The Prevention Of Cruelty To Animals (SPCA) against the offending duo.
Even after Ai Knowl claimed that the kitten is still alive and apologised for what he calls a silly joke, netizens were not satisfied. One of them said, "I cannot accept your 'sorry'. It's a wonder if he doesn't get death threats."
Until now, the duo have not been charged with anything.
Australians upset over mistreatment of goats
The ethical treatment of animals can sometimes be a touchy issue, especially across national and cultural boundaries. In May, animal rights group Animals Australia highlighted the issue of how Malaysians mistreat live Australian wild goats that had been exported to our country with a hidden camera footage.
Though Malaysians may find it hard to accept the fact that some of our cultural practices may be perceived as cruel, perhaps it’s high time we take another look at how we really treat animals in our daily lives.
Return of Anson Wong AKA “Lizard King”
In November, Al Jazeera reported that Anson Wong AKA the “Lizard King” is back in business. Notorious for being one of the world’s worst wildlife traffickers, Wong was last arrested in 2010 at KL International Airport when he attempted to smuggle 95 boa constrictors to Indonesia.
Although he was sentenced to five years in jail, he was freed in 2012 despite overwhelming protest from the public.
Wong’s licenses for legitimate wildlife trading has since been revoked but the Al Jazeera video report entitled “Return Of The Lizard King” claims that he and his wife have resumed their illicit business from their base in Penang.
Both Wong and the Malaysian authorities have yet to respond to the allegations made in the video report, but we know that old habits die hard, and while the Lizard King lives on, the real victims – exotic lizards, snakes and tortoises – continue to suffer ignominious ends.
The Star Online, 13th December 2013
BY VICTORIA BROWN
Illegal wildlife trade in Malaysia may be rampant, but we should work to plug gaps in enforcement rather than concede defeat.HUSKS being sawed off, tigers being skinned, bears kept in captivity to harvest bile, and endangered animals being eating by humans.
Wildlife poaching and trade is becoming a huge problem in Malaysia.
I spoke to the Southeast Asia regional director of wildlife protection NGO Traffic Dr Chris Shepherd and he told me that Malaysia plays an important role in the global wildlife trade.
Malaysia is not only a source of exotic wildlife to be sold off in the black market, but we are also a consumer of illegal wildlife items, and transit point for several poachers around the world.
“Tigers are being poached all over Malaysia. Malaysia is also a source for pangolins, freshwater turtles and many more, for both the domestic market and export. Sambar deers are also being poached in a serious way which is mostly used for local consumption at the local restaurants,” said Shepherd.
The illegal slaughter of these animals have already caused banteng (wild cattle) and rhinos to be extinct in Peninsular Malaysia.
“Tigers are dwindling, and that’s sad because Malaysia really has a chance to keep its tigers. We will lose them if we don’t change,” said Shepherd.
Shepherd says that there is no excuse for the senseless drop in our wildlife population.
“The only reason it happened was because there wasn’t enough effort to protect them. The habitat is still there,” he said.
“There’s enough habitat to have over a thousand tigers for example, they’re just getting emptied out,” said Shepherd.
It is estimated that less than 500 tigers can be found in the wild in Malaysia.
“Everything is in decline. It’s very depressing that we’re losing so much wildlife so fast. Even though people know about this, the most depressing thing is that so little is being done,” said Shepherd.
The worse thing is that these illegal items harvested by poachers are relatively easy to find in Malaysia.
“Malaysia is one of the top five countries in the world for availability of illegal bear bile medicine.
“And it’s in the “group of eight” countries known for illegal ivory smuggling. It’s also a major consumer and transit point for illegal tortoises from India and Madagascar,” said Shepherd.
This business is not only responsible for the dwindling amounts of wildlife in Malaysia, but these poachers are earning millions out of the illegal trade.
“Anson Wong is just one of them. There are other dealers that is of the same scale as Anson Wong operating in Malaysia, and the authorities really need to do something about this because these guys are operating in huge volumes and big money,” said Shepherd.
He says that the authorities are aware of the issue, but corruption and complacency is a problem.
“There’s no way that dealers can operate on such a large scale without the authorities becoming aware of it. But being aware about it and doing something about it are different things,” said Shepherd.
He says that illegal wildlife trade has to become a priority for the government.
“The authorities have to be going after the big dealers in Malaysia and putting them out of business. They are completely plundering Malaysia’s forests and they think that they are untouchable. This has to change,” said Shepherd.
He says that authorities should be catching the big players and putting them in jail and slapping them with a huge fine (and not just a slap on the wrist).
“The wildlife trade is worth billions, if someone is earning millions of dollars of wildlife what good is it going to do fining them a thousand dollars?”
“Malaysia has really good laws actually, some of the best laws. But they are not always being enforced as well as they should be. We have the tools to tackle wildlife trade but if you don’t use them they are useless,” said Shepherd.
Everyone has to see that wildlife poaching is get worse year by year, with species being wiped out because of the trade.
“We have already seen the results of this kind of activities in other countries. Cambodia has no more tigers. Thailand has no more rhinos.
Vietnam lost its last rhino two years ago when it was shot,” said Shepherd.
Poaching and illegal traders are a even bigger threat to many species than habitat loss. So let’s learn from the mistakes of other countries and take action!
It is our concern that that poachers are killing protected animals in our jungles. It is concern that poachers are driving our wildlife to extinction for their own gain!
We can’t be sitting down thinking that somebody else is doing something or that it isn’t our problem. Stand up and take action!
“The public has to keep speaking up, the public has to stop eating at restaurants selling illegal wild meat.”
“The public has to stop going to shops that sell illegal medicines. If a shop sells bear bile, don’t go there. Don’t buy anything there.
Don’t even buy your bread there. Report it. It shouldn’t be just the NGOs making noise,” said Shepherd.
Everyone is going to lose at the end of the day if nothing is done.
Shepherd says that it’s not too late for Malaysia to turnaround and save our wildlife.
“Malaysia is unique in that there still is a good chance to keep its wildlife. There is still a lot of wildlife here and there are still many species still in good population numbers. Whereas other countries like Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar, it is already too late for many species,” says Shepherd.
So let’s take a stand for our animals. Report shops selling illegal products from the trade. Urge for better wildlife enforcement and penalties. Speak up before it’s too late!
> The views expressed are entirely the writer's own.
Tuaran: Illegal hunting is alleged to have taken place in several forest reserves and national parks in Sabah, including the Maliau Basin Conservation Area which is also known as The Lost World.
Also in Crocker Range National Park, Tawau Hills National Park, Tabin Wildlife Reserve, Malua Biobank and Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary.
This was exposed during the Fifth East and Southeast Asian Wild Animal Rescue Network (WARN) Conference held at Shangri-La's Rasa Ria Resort here on Nov 26-27.
The conference, which was the first to be held in Sabah, was co-organised by Sabah Wildlife Department and Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC) and sponsored by Malaysian Palm Oil Council, EcoOils, Sabah Tourism Board and Shangri-La's Tanjung Aru Resort.
"We also have evidence of illegal hunting in several forest reserves and national parks in Sabah, including 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," said Dr Benoit Goossens, Director of DGFC, who was the co-organiser of the conference, during a discussion on wildlife trade and poaching in Southeast Asia, with a focus on Sabah. The discussion was also co-chaired by Dr Marc Ancrenaz from HUTAN.
"This (illegal hunting) 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?" he asked.
Goossens said they also took the opportunity during the discussion 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.
"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 the Wildlife Department in 2009, showed that 22,200 pangolins were traded by the syndicate in 13 months," said Goossens.
Wildlife Director Datuk Dr Laurentius Ambu, meanwhile, said the department is actually looking at setting up a Wildlife Enforcement Unit, working 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.
WARN is a network of wild animal rescue centres, wildlife law enforcement groups and officials and animal protection groups in East and Southeast Asia.
WARN Interim Board Chair Professor Kurtis Pei, who is a professor at the National Pingtung University of Science and Technology, Taiwan, who was present at the conference said he was 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 centres in those countries attended WARN 2013 in Sabah."
"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," he said.
Wildlife Assistant Director and Wildlife Rescue Unit head Dr Sen Nathan said WARN 2013 was a great opportunity to showcase Sabah's 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.
"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," he said.
The conference was officiated by Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun who in his speech gave his assurance by saying: "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 É this has to stop and we will use every means to end it."
PETALING JAYA (Dec 11): The Sabah state government has declared war on illegal wildlife trade and poaching, warning hunters in the state that there would be no compromise.
In making the call, Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said the state would prosecute and charge them to the "highest extent of the law".
"Be ready to go to jail," he warned.
Masidi was responding to the successful sting operation carried out by the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) on Wednesday morning at the Tamu grounds of Nabawan Town, which netted three individuals.
A total of 145 kilograms of Sambar deer meat and 15 kilograms of Barking deer meat was confiscated as they were being sold without valid permits.
Keningau SWD officer Benedict Jani said that the Nabawan district has become a hotspot for the sale of illegal bushmeat in recent years due to the vast road networks all the way to Tawau.
"We will not be surprised if this bushmeat was illegally hunted in Maliau Basin or as far as some protected Forest Reserves in Tawau and Lahad Datu,” he said.
The department, Jani added, has been clamping down on such activities and currently have 10 similar cases pending prosecution.
SWD director Datuk Dr Laurentius Ambu said the department will be increasing regular surveillance on all districts in Sabah for illegal poaching as well as trading by strengthening its wildlife enforcement capabilities and efficiency by setting up a separate unit.
The operation in Nabawan, Laurentius assured, was just the beginning.
"We want to follow the template of our very successful Wildlife Rescue Unit and we need about RM 2 million to get the Wildlife Enforcement Unit underway with at least five fully modified four wheeled drive vehicles, 500 camera traps, unmanned drones for the team of 20 wildlife enforcement rangers," he said.
The Borneo Insider, 9th December 2013
KOTA KINABALU: Monday marks a momentous day with the official opening of Sabah’s first Bio-security 2 (BSL2) Wildlife Health, Genetic and Forensic laboratory (WHGFL) in Lok Kawi.
The setting up of this lab was a joint initiative between Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD), EcoHealth Alliance (EHA) and Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC).
The WHGFL opening was officiated by US Ambassador to Malaysia Joseph Yun. Yun also witnessed the signing of an MOU between EcoHealth Alliance and Sabah Wildlife Department for the USAID-PREDICT Project.
Datuk Dr Laurentius Ambu, Director of Sabah Wildlife Department commented “This is indeed a proud day for Sabah Wildlife Department as it has always been our goal to set up a Laboratory to not only look into wildlife health and genetic research but also to assist our Wildlife Enforcement Division in analyzing the confiscated illegal bushmeat to determine species and origin, using genetic tools.
“Capacity building within my department has also been enhanced by the setting up of a new unit, the Wildlife Health Unit in collaboration with EcoHealth Alliance and DGFC, which is part of SWD’s Wildlife Rescue Unit.
“While the WRU conducts wildlife rescue and translocation activities, the WHU will be responsible for leading the physical and diagnostic evaluation of rescued and relocated wildlife across the state as well as conducting sampling trips to trap and sample free ranging wildlife and assess wildlife in protected and unprotected areas,” added Ambu.
Director of Danau Girang Field Centre, Dr Benoit Goossens said “It is a great honour to be part of this historic moment, after two years of hard work with Dr Sen Nathan from SWD and Mr Tom Hughes from EHA, my two colleagues with whom we have shared sweat, tears and joy!
“Thanks to EHA support and the USAID Emerging Pandemic Threats (EPT) Program we have been able to set up this incredible tool which will allow us to carry out wildlife health work that will in return benefit conservation and land use planning for a better management of Sabah landscape, both agricultural and forest,” added Goossens.
Dr Peter Daszak, President of EcoHealth Alliance mentioned “This laboratory represents a bold step forward in showing the linkage between conservation and health and demonstrating how collaborative partnerships can work so effectively for conservation, and for health.
“It is a success story for Sabah Wildlife Department, for the State and for the country of Malaysia, and will show the World how the new field of “EcoHealth” can benefit wildlife, ecosystems and public health”.
In his speech, Ambassador Yun mentioned “The U.S. Government strongly supports the USAID-PREDICT project and its role in identifying threats to human health.
“The important job being done at the Wildlife Health, Genetic and Forensic Laboratory here in Lok Kawi strengthens public health work, advances scientific research and protects the economic health of the entire region.”
The Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment, Datuk Seri Panglima Masidi Manjun who was also present for the official opening and the signing of the MOU commented “We are here today to witness the fruition of the past two years’ hard work by my officers in SWD and the experts from EHA and DGFC, as well as the beginning of a new journey in wildlife health management in Sabah.
“I would like to take this opportunity to convey my sincere gratitude to all the major funders: USAID, Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) through its Malaysian Palm Oil Wildlife Conservation Fund, Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria Resort through its Wildlife Conservation Fund and US Fish and Wildlife Service as well as the primary initiators of this great work: Sabah Wildlife Department, EcoHealth Alliance and Danau Girang Field Centre,” added Manjun.
The Borneo Insider, 6th December 2013
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.