MIRI: From deep jungles to urban centres, the wildlife trade is a widespread business in Sarawak.
The illicit trade leaves a heart-wrenching trail of cruelty starting from the habitats where these animals live to the longhouses and then to the markets in cities and towns, moving on to certain pet shops and finally right up to the homes of the rich.
An environmental group and two politicians in Sarawak want more enforcement to curb this wildlife trade in Miri and other parts of the state.
The poaching of protected animals and rare birds is happening even in urban Miri, according to Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) Miri branch chairman Musa Musbah.
“In the Kuala Baram wetlands, for example, poachers are blatantly hunting and trapping these wild animals. Despite MNS campaigns against poaching, there is a serious lack of enforcement.
“The government agencies responsible must take this issue of wildlife and animal protection seriously,” he said.
The 600ha Kuala Baram wetlands is near the Sarawak-Brunei border, about 20km away from Miri. It is an ecologically fragile area where rare migratory birds from around the globe take shelter.
The birds from America, Europe, Central Asia and China come here during winter en route to Australia.
Telang Usan state assemblyman Dennis Ngau said trapping and hunting wildlife was a dietary necessity in the past, but has now become a cruel trade.
The Star last week highlighted complaints about the sale of wildlife in markets here, including Centrepoint Tamu, Tamu Muhibbah, Pujut Corner, Tamu Pujut Padang Kerbau and E-Mart Tamu Tudan.
“There is a dire need to beef up ground enforcement to stop such wildlife cruelty,” said Sarawak Assistant Tourism Minister Datuk Lee Kim Shin.
“Wildlife abuse is bad for the image of Sarawak. I have spoken to the top boss of Sarawak Forestry Corporation on the need for deterrent measures at the grassroots levels.
“We must stop the smuggling of wildlife into the cities and towns,” he added.
Lee suggested setting up sentries to check products brought into the tamu (markets) for sale.
“The forestry people need to station enforcement units in every tamu. They must be strict in enforcing laws against wildlife trading,” he said.
Sarawak Forestry Corporation and Sarawak Forest Department are the two agencies involved in the enforcement of laws, while the Miri City Council is in charge of trade-licensing.