KUCHING: Months of probing led enforcement officers to a secluded spot in a border forest where they found more than 50 captured protected animals and wildlife specimens.
The officers from the Sarawak Forestry Corporation also stumbled upon the skeletal remains of a small primate, believed to be a baby orang-utan.
A foreigner and a local detained at the spot are being questioned. Initial investigations point to an international smuggling ring carrying out an illicit wildlife trade.
The seized wildlife – found in cages and inside enclosures – included birds and two cervus unicolour deer believed to have been smuggled into Sarawak from Kalimantan, Indonesia.
Among other the wildlife seized in Sunday night’s raid were spotted doves, adjutant storks, white-bellied fish eagles, and two pheasant species, the lophura bulweri and the crested fireback.
The corporation’s security and asset protection unit general manager Sani Bakar told a press conference here yesterday that the smuggling of these specimens was fuelled by international demand, especially from collectors, for the aesthetic appeal of the animals and birds.He warned that these specimens, especially the birds, could carry and spread infectious diseases that might affect the poultry industry as well as human health.
He said the raid culminated the unit’s longest active probe into suspected international wildlife smuggling activities.“Investigations started early this year with intelligence corroborated by reports from the Wildlife Conservation Society of poaching activities along the border areas.
“Our operations included probes by undercover officers, intensive patrols and inspections and information gathering.
“These helped in the profiling of suspected perpetrators and their modus operandi,” Sani said.
He said that although the main culprits had eluded arrest, the corporation was questioning the two men who were at the spot when the raiding party moved in.
He said the corporation earlier identified a key suspect involved in the smuggling but when they went to the man’s house here, the forestry officials were told by the family that he had not been home for a long time.
Sani said the state government would not allow itself to be used as a springboard for illicit trade of wild fauna and flora and would prosecute offenders under the law.