'Keep info in Sabah wildlife atlas out of poachers' hands'

KOTA KINABALU: Information in the atlas of Sabah’s wildlife species must not fall into the wrong hands for fear of poaching, says the state Wildlife Department.

Its director Dr Augustine Tuuga (pic) said while the information in this atlas is beneficial for scientists, researchers and enforcement officials, it can be abused by poachers.

With this in mind, he said wildlife officials will be focussing their patrols and operations on known animal habitats and routes to keep them safe.

“We should do better because two months ago, we had an extra 250 community rangers appointed and trained to help with conservation and enforcement,” he said after the launch of the Wildlife Atlas of Sabah's Bahasa Malaysia version here on Friday (Dec 8).

Tuuga said these community rangers, whose salaries and allowances are paid by the Federal Government, comprised locals from their respective areas of operation.

“We hope they help us achieve our goals and work closely with our officials in protecting our flora and fauna,” he said.

Community rangers will be an important source of first-hand information on wildlife cases, whether it involves trapped or injured animals, encroachment on human settlements or suspected poaching, he added.

At the launch, State Secretary Datuk Seri Safar Untong said the atlas contains information gathered from experts in various fields on almost 40 wildlife species in Sabah.

He said the translation was done to circumvent language barriers and make the atlas more accessible.

“Therefore, the scientific manuscripts are written in both English and Bahasa Malaysia to provide better access to information to the local officers involved in environmental conservation and natural resource management," Safar said.

His speech was delivered by his deputy (Development) Datuk Dr Ahead Sade.

Sabah Biodiversity Centre (SaBC) secretary Dr Gerald Jetony said the atlas was a vital addition to conservation reference materials for Sabah.

It contained a wealth of wildlife information in the state spanning 50 years and would provide readers with a foundation for understanding the rapid biodiversity and landscape changes in Sabah.

"This information is particularly important as we push for a more holistic approach towards conservation in Sabah,” he said.

Jetony said the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)-Malaysia, through the Sabah Landscapes Programme, advocates a living landscape approach that integrates the protection of forests, wildlife and rivers with the sustainable production of oil palm and the restoration of ecological corridors and riparian reserves.

SaBC is in the process of registering the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary and its surrounding areas as Unesco Man and the Biosphere (MAB) reserves.

Both initiatives provide opportunities for integrated management of natural resources where wildlife is one focus.

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