KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Forestry Department's special "Protect Team" – aimed at wiping out poachers and traffickers threatening the state's iconic wildlife species – has been given a boost with an RM4mil donation from the Sime Darby Foundation.
This is part of the state's renewed effort to eradicate poaching and wildlife trafficking by having more enforcement on the ground.
The injection will allow an increase in the number of enforcers and jump start the implementation of the three State Action Plans 2019-2028 for the protection of Bornean banteng (wild cattle), Sunda clouded leopard and proboscis monkey, launched late last year by state Tourism, Culture, and Environment Minister Datuk Christina Liew.
Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC) director Dr Benoit Goossens said on Sunday (June 30) that that there has been an alarming increase in poaching and wildlife trafficking of elephants, banteng (wild cattle), sun bears, pangolins and sea turtles.
He said DGFC and its conservation partners have noted that in 2019 alone, Sabah lost more than 15 elephants to firearms and poisoning in forest reserve areas and plantations.
Authorities also seized close to RM8mil worth of pangolin scales, elephant ivory and bush meat in Sepanggar and Tamparuli this year.
Last year, three Bornean banteng were shot dead in Paitan Forest Reserve in northern Sabah in a single day.
He said DGFC and the Sabah Forestry Department submitted a proposal to the Sime Darby Foundation to request help to implement the state action plan and to increase state agencies' capacity and effectiveness to combat poaching and wildlife trafficking.
Meanwhile, Chief Conservator of Forests Datuk Mashor Mohd Jaini said that the foundation's support would boost the Sabah Forestry Department's enforcement capacity and reduce poaching in the state, especially in forest reserve areas.
"The Department will do so by putting more boots (manpower) on the ground, purchasing equipment, as well as conducting training and workshops for rangers," he said.
The "Protect Team was formed in 2016 with the support of WWF-Malaysia.
It monitors two million hectares of totally protected and conservation areas, mainly focusing on illegal forestry activities and encroachment into forest reserves. It also carries out anti-poaching patrols.
"We have 24 rangers to cover such a large area, which is not enough. The support is crucial to allow us to increase our presence in the field," Mashor said.
Sime Darby Foundation's governing counsel member Caroline Christine Russell said they were glad to collaborate.
"The Foundation is very concerned about the effects of poaching throughout the whole of Malaysia, and we are currently working closely with another government agency, the Perak State Park Corporation, for the protection of the Royal Belum State Park by supporting two teams of rangers and Orang Asal as boots on the ground to patrol the state park," Russell said.
She said the foundation over a decade has worked with Sabah forestry to successfully rehabilitate 5,400ha of degraded forest at the Bukit Piton Forest Reserve in the conservation of orangutan habitat.
"We understand only too well that with poaching and wildlife trafficking becoming more rampant, our endangered species of flora and fauna are threatened to the brink of extinction.
"We do not wish for a recurrence of the situation with our Sumatran Rhinoceros, where poaching for the demand of its horn pushed this precious species to extinction," she said, hoping that Sabah could achieve zero poaching.
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