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."