KOTA KINABALU: A senior manager of a plantation company based in Lahad Datu is believed to be key suspect of a poaching syndicate operating in the east coast of Sabah.
The man’s latest conquest was the killing of a banteng in the protected Tabin Wildlife Reserve in Lahad Datu last month, and his dastardly act also proved to be his undoing as he has since been transferred out to Sarawak.
That is not all, as the authorities are looking at legal action against the culprit, said to be from a certain ethnic group that most would not expect to be involved in poaching.
Sam Mannan, the Chief Conservator of Forests, Sabah, said he could not reveal more as the case was still under investigation.
“There will be a prosecution,” was all he said at the Bornean Banteng International Workshop and Conference held here on Thursday.
Mannan did not mince his words when he rebuked the actions of poachers and said it was an “embarrassment” to the people with the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).
“We had warned them that this was happening. The people in peninsular Malaysia like beef, and there is an emerging market of exotic meat; therefore, these banteng meat and payau or local deer, are in demand,” he said.
The poaching of the endangered and totally protected species of wild cattle, also known as as tembadau locally, was ironically carried out during the recent Heart of Borneo (HoB) conference.
It was one of three banteng poaching cases that were recorded over three days in three different areas – the other two being the Maliau Basin and Sipitang Forest Reserve.
All three cases are unrelated.
According to Mannan, the suspect was identified through photographs with a carcass of the banteng that he downed with a high powered rifle at Tabin.
“We have focused in on one person, but this one person could lead us to so much more information,” he said, adding the hunters were not local villagers but outsiders who either killed for sport or trade.
According to Mannan, the rising demand for banteng meat in Peninsular Malaysia is one reason for the high incidence of poaching the banteng.
He said the initial investigation has led them to believe that the meat was not meant for own consumption but to meet demand for exotic meat in Peninsular Malaysia.
Earlier, Benoit Goossens, the Danau Girang field centre director told the conference there were three banteng poaching incidents at the three different protected areas here were carried out by poachers carrying sophisticated guns and were wearing proper gear.
He said since an estimated 70 per cent of poaching went unrecorded, this meant that as many as a dozen banteng may be killed each year.
“With only a population of fewer than 400, this (12) is a massive number. Many herds live in small pockets of isolation and they cannot afford to lose a single individual.
“At that rate of poaching, the species will not survive another 20 years and we will lose it like we lost our Sumatran rhinoceros,” he said.
The banteng is the second most endangered animal in Sabah after the rhinos and the Wildlife Department has classified it as a totally protected animal.