AS one who is deeply interested in wildlife protection, I strongly urge the authorities to take concrete and urgent action to tackle wildlife roadkill and smuggling activities which have affected protected animals such as elephants and tapir.
As such, I fully support the call by the Malaysian Nature Society to stress on human behavioural change to help stop wildlife trade and roadkill.
For the relevant laws to succeed, there must be public education and awareness efforts to encourage people not only to fight wildlife exploitation but also to appreciate the existence of wild animals.
Wildlife and vehicles just don’t mix and the construction of new roads across wildlife habitats means that more species may be hit by vehicles than ever before.
The latest incident occurred on Aug 25 when a pair of tapirs were killed after being hit by a car at the Gebeng bypass road near Kuantan.
On Aug 23, a 10-year-old bull elephant died after it was struck by a bus along the Gerik-Jeli Highway. The incident happened some two months after an elephant calf collided with a car and was killed in the same area.
It was reported that the incidents happened despite the many signboards put up to warn motorists about elephants and other wildlife crossing in the area near the Royal Belum State Park.
More animal crossings should be built along highways and roads passing through animal habitats or migration routes.
I believe the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) has the statistics on wildlife roadkill which could help the authorities construct animal crossings at suitable locations.
According to a Perak Perhilitan report, there are more than 60 elephants roaming near the Gerik-Jeli Highway. This is equivalent to about 70% of the elephant population in Perak.
The same problem is seen along other roads and highways, especially the East Coast Expressway where many wild animals have been killed while trying to cross the road.
It pains me whenever I read about the roadkill, especially those which involve gentle creatures like the tapir.
The authorities should adopt the solutions used by some countries to reduce roadkill. These include installing wildlife detectors that trigger flashing signs when an animal is detected near the road.
In South America, reflective stickers are placed on the collars of tapirs so that the animals could easily be seen in the dark.
Tapirs are particularly at risk of being roadkill as these nocturnal creatures regularly look for food near roads, and drivers cannot spot them easily in the dark.
The authorities should also install speed bumps and cameras and introduce light-coloured roads in wildlife-rich areas to help reduce roadkill.
With the help of IT experts, the authorities could also develop mobile apps that work together with apps such as Waze and Google Maps to warn drivers of the presence of wildlife.
Motorists should be more cautious when driving on roads that traverse forests.
Change to human behaviour is crucial to prevent collision with the animals as not all wildlife would use viaducts or special crossings.
Like humans, animals in the wild have the right of coexistence.
On smuggling of wildlife, the authorities should enforce the International Trade in Endangered Species Act 2008 (Intesa) to implement the country’s obligation under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
Malaysia and other member states of CITES at its 17th meeting last year agreed to include all eight known pangolin species in Appendix I, which lists species threatened with extinction, and commercial trade in such species, including their parts and derivatives, is strictly prohibited.
Intesa is one of the best wildlife trade laws as it provides stricter penalties and applies to both native and non-native animals.
Malaysia is one of the popular wildlife smuggling transit points as shown by the recent success of the Customs Department in seizing some 8,000 tonnes of pangolin scales at the Sepangar port in Sabah recently, and ivory at KLIA in July.
The Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 should also be amended to provide harsher penalties on poachers and wildlife traffickers.
Although the law, which was passed in 2010 to replace the Wildlife Protection Act 1972, is tough on lawbreakers, some quarters claim it is not deterrent enough.
Wildlife species have been declining even within protected areas due to poaching and illegal deforestation.
Social media and online trading portals make the situation worse and we need to have a more
comprehensive and stricter law to go after those involved in illegal wildlife trade over the Internet as well.
TAN SRI LEE LAM THYE
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