KUCHING: WWF-Malaysia is calling on the public to keep animals safe in their natural habitats by not consuming wild meat during the Gawai festival.
Its Sarawak programme leader Dr Jason Hon said this small step would go a long way to ensure the survival of wildlife species for posterity.
“Let us show by example because conservation of our rich biodiversity starts with all of us. Any celebration can be memorable and merry even without the consumption of exotic meat.
“Animals are already facing the threat of becoming extinct because of development and encroachment into their natural habitats,” he said in a statement.
According to Hon, wildlife trading, hunting and unsustainable subsistence hunting may cause Sarawak to lose some of its endangered and vulnerable species.
“The Sumatran rhino and wild cattle or seladang have been hunted to extinction in Sarawak and species such as the clouded leopard, sun bear, civet, helmeted hornbill and pangolin may face a similar fate if they are hunted and traded for meat and body parts,” he said.
Hon said while it was understandable for indigenous people in rural areas to hunt, this should be done by taking into consideration the animals protected under the Sarawak Wild Life Ordinance.
“We acknowledge that the forest provides protein to local communities. What is important is not to hunt protected species and to practise sustainable consumption. Do not take more than what is needed,” he said.
He added that when people took more than what they need, there would be an intention to sell the leftovers. This is when the practice becomes wrong as it will create a supply and demand for wildlife meat and parts. Trading of wildlife meat and parts is illegal in Sarawak.
In Sarawak, 279 species of plants and 45 species of animals are listed as critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species.
State laws on biodiversity conservation include the National Parks and Nature Reserves Ordinance, Wildlife Protection Ordinance, Forest Ordinance, Natural Resources and Environment (Amendment) Ordinance, Sarawak Biodiversity Centre (Amendment) Ordinance, Public Parks and Greens Ordinance and Water Ordinance for protection of water catchments.
Hon noted that despite these laws, wildlife often made the headlines for the wrong reasons such as wildlife trafficking, illegal trading and hunting.
He urged the public to contact the authorities if they encounter or know of anyone selling wildlife meat and parts.
The public can call the state Forest Department hotline at 1800-88-7777 or Sarawak Forestry Corporation’s hotline at 019-885 9996 (Kuching), 019-829 0994 (Miri), 019-826 6096 (Bintulu) and 019-829 0992 (Sibu) to report suspicious activities concerning wildlife trade.