JOHOR BARU: The 12,000ha Panti forest reserve with over 250 species of animals is in danger of being poached by foreigners who trap birds for the Indonesian songbird market.
Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) vice-president Vincent Chow said more resources should be put in to curb poaching and bird trapping in the reserve located in the district of Kota Tinggi.
“This reserve is considered a southern bastion for wildlife and birds. However, we have found numerous snares and even traps used to catch wildlife here.
“We believe that some of the poachers are foreigners.
“They are expert trappers who lure the animals or birds into their improvised traps, ” he said in an interview.
The murai batu (shamas), added Chow, could fetch between RM3,000 and RM5,000 in the black market.
These birds, as well as other species, are highly valued in the songbird market in Indonesia, which conservationists have blamed for the dwindling populations in the wild.
“In one day, poachers can sometimes catch up to a dozen of the birds which are then smuggled to Indonesia.
“There are now fewer of these birds due to them being trapped by poachers.
“We usually destroy the traps whenever we come across them, ” he said.
He added that there was also a huge black market for animals like the banded civet, sun bear and baby gibbons.
“More rangers are needed to be deployed in Panti to stop such illegal activities.”
The Johor state government had announced a RM500,000 allocation for the Panti conservation area in its Budget 2021 on Thursday.
Chow said that within the reserve there was a 1,800ha sanctuary known as Panti Bird sanctuary, which is home to 43% of the country’s bird species.
“We also have many migratory birds travelling all the way from Siberia, Korea and Japan to this sanctuary, ” he said, adding that MNS had mooted an 18-month scientific expedition to the area at the request of former Johor forestry director Datuk Jeffri Abd Rasid last year.
Together with forest rangers, over a dozen MNS experts in various fields from Malaysia and Singapore collected data and information about the flora and fauna in the bird sanctuary during the expedition as well as pictures of wildlife from the dozen camera traps.
“We have since published all our findings and data, including pictures in a 100-page magazine known as Naturalist which can be a guide to those wanting to know about Panti’s biodiversity, ” he said, adding that the expedition ended in September.
Commending the state government for its allocation, he expressed hope that agencies such as the Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) and Forestry Department would continue to work with NGOs such as MNS to protect Johor’s forest reserves.
“We also need the private sector such as plantation companies to work with MNS on conservation efforts as many of them are located on the fringes of forest reserves, ” he said.
He urged the public, especially organisations, to continue supporting MNS’ conservation efforts, including getting a copy of the Naturalist magazine for RM20 by contacting Johor MNS officials at 019-752 4335 or 012-708 0855.