Perhilitan: Zero poaching cases last year

KUALA LUMPUR: One of the few positives that came out of the pandemic was that it helped cut down wildlife poaching cases in Malaysia to zero last year - thanks to tighter movement and border control.

According to the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan), the number of wildlife smuggling also dropped by 60% in 2021 - from 10 cases in 2020 to four last year. As for poaching cases, the department recorded also 10 in 2020.

However, its director of enforcement, Noor Alif Wira Osman, credited the decrease to the establishment of the National Task Force (NTF).

"Wildlife smuggling cases decreased by 60% in 2021 since the government formed the NTF, which comprises 19 enforcement agencies. Their task is to manage illegal entry into the country,” he told Bernama in an interview recently.

He said that most wildlife smuggling activities took place in Johor.

"Such activities are concentrated in Johor due to the number of possible wildlife trafficking routes there. These are where traffickers gather, transport and distribute animals and their derivatives to Indonesia,” he revealed.

The NTF was established in May 2020 to strengthen the country’s border control in the bid to curb illegal entry and the spread of Covid-19, as well as to crack down on poachers.

Meanwhile, the Wildlife Conservation Society Malaysia (WCS-Malaysia) believed that the Khazanah Integrated Operation (OBK) also made significant impact in reducing all forms of poaching and wildlife smuggling activities.

Its country director Dr Mark Rayan Darmaraj said that OBK, which started in September 2019, is one of the best efforts by the government in getting multi-agencies to work together to clamp down on illegal wildlife trading and poaching activities.

The operation called for the police, Customs Department and state forestry and wildlife enforcement authorities to work together and as at Dec 2021, they have managed to arrest some 350 individuals and seized wildlife worth about RM36.1mil in the black market. They have also destroyed 1,425 animal traps in the process.

Mark said that extensive monitoring of tigers across the forested Peninsular Malaysia landscape, especially in three priority tiger areas namely Belum-Temengor, Taman Negara, and Endau-Rompin could help determine the extent of OBK effectiveness in deterring the decline of the tiger population.

The preliminary results of the first National Tiger Survey, conducted from 2016 to 2018, revealed that there are less than 200 tigers in 75% of the surveyed plots.

The survey covered eight major tiger habitats in the Malay Peninsula namely in Kedah, Perak, Selangor, Negeri Sembilan, Johor, Pahang, Kelantan and Terengganu.

"What we need now is a proper captive breeding program for the sambar deer, which is the tiger’s preferred prey species. This deer species is declining due to over-hunting and poaching in most of our forests, and has been wiped out in a number of forest complexes,” he said to Bernama.

He believes that this effort will greatly influence the tiger reproduction and the cub survival rates but reminded that other factors also had a bearing on survival outcome. These include whether poaching can be minimised, connectivity maintenance of major forest blocks as well as ensuring climate change and diseases do not negatively impact the environment and wildlife.

In an effort to promote the recovery of the tiger population, Perhilitan is releasing approximately 100 sambar deers per year at different forested locations across the country.

The Wildlife Conservation Society Malaysia is a non-profit organisation with the mission of saving wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature.

Its operations are primarily based in two locations, the Southern Peninsular Malaysia (Johor and Pahang) and the state of Sarawak. Currently, WCS-Malaysia works to conserve several priority species, namely tigers, elephants, orangutans, sharks, and rays. - Bernama

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