NABAWAN: On Dec 9, Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD), Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC) and EcoHealth Alliance (EHA) launched a Wildlife Health Genetic and Forensic Laboratory (WHGFL) in Kota Kinabalu to be a focal point to analyse confiscated illegal bushmeat to determine species and origin, using genetic tools. They did not expect that the laboratory would be busy so fast!
Indeed, Datuk Dr Laurentius Ambu said: “We received today’s pictures from the public showing protected species slaughtered and sold in an open market in the district of Nabawan here in Sabah”.
“I immediately sent my enforcement team, including our boys from the Wildlife Rescue Unit to investigate the market that operates on Wednesdays, so today!” he added.
“The species shown on the pictures include binturong, common palm civet, banded palm civet, Malay civet, sambar deer, porcupine, blood python and many others. Those species are definitely hunted from forest reserves and national parks, where hunting is totally forbidden,” Ambu said.
“This is unacceptable and we need the support from the public to tackle this,” he said.
“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,” said Dr Sen Nathan, Assistant Director of Sabah Wildlife Department and wildlife veterinarian.
SWD is seriously looking at beefing up the department’s capacity by setting up a Wildlife Enforcement Unit to address this serious issue, very similar to the department’s very successful Wildlife Rescue Unit,” he said.
“Last Saturday we informed the press about illegal hunting and wildlife trade happening in national parks and protected forests in Sabah, with evidence shown by camera traps,” said Director ofDGFC, Dr Benoit Goossens, also an advisor to the SWD and the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Environment in wildlife conservation.
“People who hunt, handle, buy and eat bushmeat do not understand that they not only act against the law, but also risk their lives by handling and/or consuming wildlife,” he said.
“Take the example of ebola, a zoonotic and deadly disease transmitted by bushmeat handling and consumption in central Africa, especially of chimpanzees and gorillas. Ebola has killed thousands of people! More closely to us, the nipah virus was carried by flying foxes (fruit bats) and transmitted to pork and then to people handling and or consuming bats and/or pork,” he added.
“This is what prompted us to set up the Wildlife Health Genetic and Forensic Laboratory together with EcoHealth Alliance. We need to inform the public that handling and/or consuming wild meat is not only against the law, but it is also dangerous to their lives,” concluded Goossens.
“Enough is enough,” said Dr Marc Ancrenaz, co-director of the NGO HUTAN based in the Kinabatangan and also a wildlife veterinarian.
“Tourism is one of the major sources of income for the State. People visit Sabah for our natural resources and our wildlife. For our 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,” he added.
“This is unacceptable. I wish that they will be brought to justice. People like this are jeopardising and threatening the future of our wildlife, the future of the state,” concluded Ancrenaz.
Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment said at the launching of the WHGFL that “the facility will help counteract the threat of diseases from wildlife to humans, but it cannot stop people going to the forest and slaughter our wildlife”.
“I want this to stop immediately and I will put all efforts and means into place to tackle this issue. Sabah will not be a place where our beautiful wildlife and national treasures will be decimated by heartless people,” concluded Masidi.