KOTA KINABALU: The death of Iman, Malaysia's last Sumatran rhino, is a desperate wake-up call to all, and a reminder that nature is not invincible.
The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Malaysia said the loss of Iman signifies the complete loss of the Sumatran rhino in the country and the hope of ever seeing this species in the wild is now forever gone.
WWF-Malaysia CEO Sophia Lim said the focus now is to help other endangered species thrive and to eliminate threats to wildlife.
"We need better policies and stronger legislation to regulate wildlife conservation into land uses that are administered by different agencies according to various laws," she said.
She said on WWF's part, they will continue working closely with the various government agencies to coordinate implementation efforts on the ground that will hopefully curb the loss of more wildlife.
Lim said some of the biggest threats to wildlife include poaching and the illegal wildlife trade, where species like tigers, banteng, pangolins, sun bears and elephants face the daily threat of poachers who hunt them as part of a lucrative business.
"While we must collectively address the threat of poaching, we must also work on saving the natural habitats that harbour our wildlife species," she said.
She said the remaining forests that we have should be retained either as protected areas for wildlife sanctuaries, or forest reserves where harvesting of timber is done in a refined and sustainable manner that allows wildlife to co-exist.
"Ultimately, ensuring the survival of wildlife is a responsibility that is shared by all. It is only in a collective effort that we will be able to preserve our wildlife," Lim said.
She said the involvement of the Royal Malaysia Police in collaboration with other agencies to patrol forests, investigate and make arrests with intelligence provided by numerous wildlife and environment-related departments have led to some success in poachers getting arrested and bush meat seized.
"But this is still the tip of the iceberg of an illegal economy worth billions of ringgit," she said.
Lim said wildlife crime was not just a local problem but part of an international wildlife trade syndicate associated with drug and human trafficking, as well as money laundering.
"As such, the call to set up a Wildlife Crime Bureau within the police force is indeed timely to collaborate with international agencies such as Interpol, Traffic International and regional wildlife hubs set up by WWF for Africa and Asia," she said.
She said over the years, WWF-Malaysia has worked with the government and other non-governmental organisations to help curb the extinction of the Sumatran rhinoceros in Sabah.
The organisations had set up camera traps in search of rhinos, which led to the detection of male Tam in 2009 and then female Iman in 2014.
In a last bid to save the Sumatran rhino, the Sabah government, WWF-Malaysia, and the Borneo Rhino Alliance met with Indonesian officials to outline key details in a much-needed collaboration between Malaysia and Indonesia in rhino conservation.
Lim said seeing that Malaysian forests are fragmented, wildlife corridors should be established to enable breeding among different population groups to maintain healthy gene pools and prevent in-breeding.
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