Expert: Public apathy is greatest threat to wildlife

PETALING JAYA: Deforestation and illegal wildlife trafficking are affecting Malaysia’s biodiversity but the greatest threat to the local ecology is public apathy, says Dr Chris Shepherd.

That is why Shepherd, a conservationist for over 20 years and formerly the regional director for Traffic South-East Asia, has set up a new wildlife conservation NGO – the Monitor Conservation Research Society (Monitor).

Monitor seeks to address the illegal trade of lesser known wild species that are neglected not only by the public but also larger conservation initiatives.

“The vast majority of species threatened are those that most people are not even aware of.

“Many species of songbirds, reptiles and amphibians, small mammals and more are being traded in alarming numbers and are now in serious decline.

“Sadly, the public is largely ignorant to this crisis, and species are vanishing, unnoticed, at a rapid pace, ” said Shepherd in an email interview recently.

Among the species Monitor is currently campaigning for are the Malayan sun bear, the Asian black bear, the black crested macaque and the serow.

“Our role, as we see it, is to collect, compile and analyse evidence of illegal and unsustainable trade and to catalyse conservation initiatives to ensure that this threat does not lead to the extinction of more species.

“Research has shown that Malaysia is a very significant consumer of bear parts and products – sourced from locally poached sun bears or from those in other parts of Asia.

“Continuing demand for bear parts and products is a major driver behind the decline in Asia’s bears and more needs to be done to halt the trade and reverse the decline in wild populations, ” he said, adding that habitat loss and poaching are the two biggest challenges.

Shepherd urged the public to report any sighting of illegal wildlife trade to the hotline 019-356 4194.

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