Conflict spike


Highly endangered: According to the Energy and Natural Resources Minister, there are now fewer than 150 of the Malayan tigers in the country.

INCIDENTS of human and wildlife conflict have risen since the movement control order was lifted while crimes against wildlife are also expected to increase this year, says the Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan).

The department points to an increase in wildlife and human conflict after Covid-19 movement restrictions were relaxed, with 12,799 such complaints received in 2021 compared to 11,811 complaints in 2020.

“Yes, there was an increase in complaints when the MCO was lifted because there were no longer strict restrictions of people’s mobility outside their residences and they were more exposed to clashes with wildlife,” says Perhilitan in an email interview.

Meanwhile, for this year, the department says it has logged 1,682 complaints of human and wildlife conflict up to February.

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) describes human-wildlife conflict as “when struggles arise from people and animals coming into contact”.

The conflict can have a negative impact not only on humans such as loss of property, livelihoods, and even life, but also on the animals – the encounters often lead to people killing animals in self-defence, or as preemptive or retaliatory killings, which can cause the extinction of the species.

According to experts, the causes of human-wildlife conflict are complex but they are often attributed to the human population growth and expansion, animal habitat degradation and fragmentation, land use transformation and infrastructure development.

Elephants had been destroying the crops of the Orang Asli community in Gua Musang after their habitat was destroyed following logging and land clearing activities in Kelantan.Elephants had been destroying the crops of the Orang Asli community in Gua Musang after their habitat was destroyed following logging and land clearing activities in Kelantan.

In 2020, Perhilitan received 245 reports of disturbances caused by elephants in Kelantan, with many destroying crops and property.

Another conflict was seen in a case in Kelantan in January this year when an Orang Asli man was mauled to death by a tiger at Kampung Sau, near Pos Bihai in Gua Musang. It was reported that the Kelantan Wildlife and National Parks Department team had pursued the tiger and killed the animal after it tried to attack them.

In another incident later that month, the residents of Pos Ber in Gua Musang were forced to hunker down at home when a few tigers were seen roaming in the surrounding area.

On March 3, Energy and Natural Resources Minister Datuk Seri Takiyuddin Hassan told Parliament that the ministry through Perhilitan has spent RM201,250 since January 2022 to address the human and tiger conflict in Kelantan, involving detect and capture operations.

He also said in the event that a tiger entered the village or other human settlement areas, people were advised not to make any provocation, attempt to approach or harm the animal, throw objects at it, shoot or kill it.

On Mar 24, Takiyuddin said in Parliament that there are now fewer than 150 of the highly endangered Malayan tigers in the country.

Tighter measures

Based on its quarterly projections of wildlife crime trends, Perhilitan also expects there to be an increase in crimes against wildlife this year.

There were 76 cases of wildlife crimes in 2020 and 75 in 2021, according to the statistics of wildlife crime arrests done by the Perhilitan’s Khazanah Integrated Operations series that started in September 2019.

“While in 2022, there were 15 cases as of March 21. But if we look at quarterly trends, this year there is expected to be an increase in wildlife crimes.

“As long as there are resources and demand, wildlife crime will continue to occur,” says Perhilitan.

However, the department hopes that the beefed-up Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 (Amendment 2021), which is expected to be in effect at the end of June, will help to curb and stop these wildlife crimes.

The amendments to the Act, which was passed by the Dewan Rakyat in October 2021, will ensure that poachers and illegal wildlife traders face higher penalties and longer duration of imprisonment.

“Under amendments to the Act, the maximum fine has been increased from RM500,000 to RM1mil while the maximum jail term is also increased from 10 to 15 years.

“The amended Act also included new provisions that provide for punishments for those who promote wildlife sales online. We will be enforcing this Act,” says the department.

Perhilitan is also working to curb and stop crimes against wildlife through action and enforcement under its Wildlife Crime Unit (WCU) and Intelligence and Tactical Centre for Wildlife Crime (INTAC) as well as cooperation with other enforcement agencies.

This includes the International Criminal Police Organisation (Interpol), Malaysian police, the Customs Department and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

Among the measures taken by Perhilitan to reduce the potential for human and wildlife conflict include providing advisory services to communities in encounters with wildlife and working with other agencies in reducing the impact of development on wildlife.

“Change of land use contributes to habitat depletion and fragmentation. This increases the risk of wildlife displacement as well as the risk of human and wildlife clashes,” the department explains.

Perhilitan also gives technical views before any development project is implemented at the state level.

“In addition, the department is also making improvements in this matter where the Wildlife Impact Study (WIS) will be one of the requirements of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report in order to identify the impact of development on wildlife,” it says.

The project proponent would also be required to provide a Wildlife Management Plan (WMP) to counter any potential negative impacts to wildlife from the project.

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