Hunt for the challenge, not the numbers.
THOSE who enjoy the sport of hunting flying foxes insist that there is a difference between those who uphold the “gentleman hunter’s code” and those who hunt with the sole intention of bagging as many animals as possible. Following the hunter’s code is supposed to mean two things: affording your prey a fair chance of escaping, and avoiding practices which inflict unnecessary suffering.
Remi Yap Fui Lee, 63, is from Kuala Lumpur, but retired in Wakaf Tapai, Terengganu, so that he could enjoy a better quality of life and continue a lifelong hobby, recreational shooting. His pursuit of game has taken him on hunting expeditions across Peninsular Malaysia. An ex-national shooter (South-East Asian Games 1971 and 1981), he prides himself on being a gentleman about the sport. Yap says he was taught to adhere to etiquette by his mother Chou Sui Ying, also an ex-national shooter, and his father Yap Paw Thong, an ex-Olympic shooter.
Yap has a quaint selection of photographs, most in black and white, documenting how much hunting was a part of his life. One photograph shows him as a young boy, holding a bunch of green pigeons. In another, he and his mother posed with a dead seladang in Gua Musang, Kelantan. There is one rather shocking image of a dead elephant taken during a hunt in Sabah in the 1950s, when the practice was still legal, as well as a faded colour photograph of Yap as a young man in the 70s, with a sambar deer. At one point, his family had 10 guns, between him, his parents and his brother.
“One thing you should never do is shoot bats while they are roosting, feeding or nesting. Not only is this ungentlemanly, it’s not in anyone’s interest as this may cause them to clear the nest and never return,” says Yap, who has hunting permits for wild boar and flying fox.
If shooting bats at their roost is not in the hunter’s long-term interest, why do people still do it?
“Maybe it’s greed,” Yap suggests, alluding to the fact that some might be hunting for commerce, not leisure.
Yap remembers his very first hunt, at age nine, near Angkasapuri in Kuala Lumpur, where he caught two flying foxes. Today, that patch of habitat has been concreted over, and on it stands Mid Valley MegaMall in Kuala Lumpur, a testament to the additional pressures of development that the animal faces. When asked about his thoughts on how hunting adds to these pressures, his response is similar to most hunters’ – any decline in the number of bats is attributed to habitat destruction, not hunting.
Yap is staunch that hunters must follow the rules. A sharper than average shooter, his “take home ratio”, the number of bats which fall within a retrievable distance, is higher than most people’s – out of 25 bats shot, he takes home between 10 and 20. The average hunter, on the other hand, will probably only pick up two to five, so more bats will have to be shot.
The truth is ugly. As Jonathan Epstein’s study indicates, even if everyone was a gentleman, and shot like Yap, the figures stipulated by legal hunting in Peninsular Malaysia is most likely driving Pteropus vampyrus to extinction.
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