KUCHING: Illegal wildlife hunters, beware – the Sarawak Forestry Corporation is tightening up the selection process of its honorary wildlife rangers and also training them in conservation work.
The corporation’s protective areas and biodiversity conservation general manager Wilfred S. Landong said only those who were passionate about conservation efforts would be appointed honorary rangers in future.
This, he said, was unlike the case previously when the appointment of community leaders as honorary rangers was mandatory.
“The appointment of honorary rangers has been reviewed to ensure quality,” he told reporters when relaunching the honorary wildlife rangers programme at his office at Hock Lee Centre here yesterday.
Landong said Sarawak Forestry was developing comprehensive training modules and identifying potential candidates, whose background would be carefully vetted, before providing them with training.
“They will only be conferred with certificates as honorary rangers after a strict evaluation. The first new batch is expected to be appointed next year,” he said.
In 2000, according to Landong, the state government appointed over 5,300 honorary rangers, who also included timber-camp managers and other individuals, for a three-year term.
He said based on a survey, about 70% of the community leaders appointed had found their job as honorary rangers a burden.
Some of these rangers, he added, were also found to be involved in the illegal trading of wildlife meat.
On illegal activities related to wildlife, he said two foreigners were jailed for 18 months for illegal hunting in the Samusan Wildlife Sanctuary in Lundu district two months ago.
“This penalty is the heaviest meted out for illegal hunters so far,” he added.
He said other offenders had been brought to court for similar offences or for the sale of banned wildlife meat.
“It is wrong to point fingers at the locals alone.
“The locals are allowed under the law to hunt, but for their own consumption,” he said.
Landong also said he was shocked to stumble on the skinless carcass of an adult orang utan that had apparently been shot by a riverbank in the Batang Ai National Park last year.
There are now between 1,500 and 2,000 orang utans – a protected endangered species – in the state, most of which are found in the national park.