KOTA KINABALU: Sabah has begun an all-out effort to eradicate poaching and wildlife trafficking with more enforcement on the ground.
Thanks to a RM4mil allocation by Sime Darby Foundation, the Sabah Forestry Department will be able to increase the capacity of its special Protect Team aimed at stopping poachers and traffickers.
The fresh efforts to protect wildlife by providing more manpower to the enforcers was to jump-start the implementation of the three State Action Plans 2019-2028 for the conservation of the Bornean banteng (wild cattle), Sunda clouded leopard and proboscis monkey launched late last year.
Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC) director Dr Benoit Goossens said they had observed an alarming increase in poaching and wildlife trafficking of elephants, banteng, sun bears, pangolins and sea turtles.He said DGFC and its conservation partners found that Sabah had lost over 15 elephants to firearms and poisoning in forest reserves and plantations so far this year.The authorities also seized close to RM8mil worth of pangolin scales, elephant ivory and wildlife meat in Sepanggar and Tamparuli near here this year.
Last year, three Bornean bantengs were shot dead at the Paitan Forest Reserve in northern Sabah – all within a day.
Following the rising number of such deaths, Goossens said DGFC and the Sabah Forestry Department submitted a proposal to Sime Darby Foundation to help implement the main recommendation of the State Action Plan for the conservation of the Bornean banteng, Sunda clouded leopard and proboscis monkey besides increasing the capacity and effectiveness of the state agencies in combating poaching and wildlife trafficking.
“We are so grateful to Sime Darby Foundation for approving the sponsorship of RM4mil over a period of two years for the expansion of the Protect Team. It will provide a fantastic boost to wildlife conservation in the state,” Goossens said.
Chief Conservator of Forests Datuk Mashor Mohd Jaini said the foundation’s support would boost the enforcement capacity of the Sabah Forestry Department to reduce the number of poaching cases, particularly within 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 the rangers,” he said.
He added that 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 forest reserve encroachment.
It also carries out anti-poaching patrols in forest reserves.
“But having 24 rangers to cover such an area is not enough. The support from the foundation is crucial to allow us to increase our presence in the field and combat wildlife poaching and trafficking,” Mashor said.
Sime Darby Foundation governing counsel member Caroline Christine Russell said they were looking forward to the collaboration to mobilise a new team of highly trained personnel in Sabah forest reserves to combat poaching and trafficking.
“The foundation is very concerned about the effects of poaching throughout Malaysia.
“We are currently working closely with another government agency, the Perak State Park Corporation, for the protection of the Royal Belum in Perak, by supporting two teams of rangers and Orang Asli as boots on the ground to patrol the state park,” she said.
She said the foundation had worked with Sabah forestry over a decade to successfully rehabilitate 5,400 ha of highly degraded forest at the Bukit Piton Forest Reserve in the conservation of orang utan 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,” Russell added.