More Boots On The Ground Against Wildlife Poaching And Trafficking

Poacher sitting on a banteng bull he just shot in Tabin Wildlife Reserve. – Photo courtesy of DGFC

KOTA KINABALU: Implementation of the three State Action Plans 2019-2028 for the Bornean banteng, Sunda clouded leopard and proboscis monkey launched late last year by Datuk Christina Liew, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment, has started.

The Sime Darby Foundation (SDF) has allocated RM4 million to Sabah Forestry Department (SFD) to increase the capacity of its Protect Team, targeting the eradication of poaching and wildlife trafficking in Sabah.

“Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC) and conservation partners identified an alarming increase in poaching and wildlife trafficking for the past few years, especially of elephants, bantengs, sun bears, pangolins and sea turtles,” said Dr Benoit Goossens, Director of DGFC and Reader at Cardiff University.

Elephant bull murdered by ivory poachers in central Sabah. – Photo courtesy of SWD

“In 2019 alone, Sabah lost more than 15 elephants to fire arms and poisoning in forest reserve areas and plantations and seized close to RM 8 million worth of pangolin scales, elephant ivory and wildlife meat in Sepanggar and Tamparuli; and last year, three Bornean bantengs were shot in Paitan Forest Reserve on the same day,” added Goossens.

“Therefore, early 2019, DGFC and Sabah Forestry Department submitted a proposal to Sime Darby Foundation in response to the main priority action recommended in the three state action plans on the Bornean banteng, Sunda clouded leopard and proboscis monkey: increasing the capacity and effectiveness of the State’s agencies in combatting poaching and wildlife trafficking.

“And we are so grateful to the Foundation for approving the sponsorship of RM 4 million over a period of two years for the expansion of SFD’s Protect Team. It will provide a fantastic boost to wildlife conservation in the State,” concluded Goossens.

Female bearded pig found by DGFC students and staff, killed by an explosive used by poachers. – Photo courtesy of DGFC

Datuk Mashor Bin Mohd Jaini, Chief Conservator of Forests said Sime Darby Foundation’s support will boost the enforcement capacity of the Sabah Government, especially the Forestry Department to reduce the number of poaching cases in Sabah, in particular within forest reserve areas.

It will do so by putting more boots on the ground, purchasing equipment, as well as conducting trainings and workshops for the rangers, Mashor said.

“Protect Team was formed in 2016 with the support of WWF-Malaysia. It monitors two million hectares of totally protected and conservation areas, mainly focusing on illegal forestry activities and forest reserves’ encroachment.

Banteng bull slaughtered by professional hunters in Tabin Wildlife Reserve. – Photo courtesy of DGFC

It also carries out anti-poaching patrols in forest reserves and road blocks at strategic locations. But 24 rangers to cover such an area is not enough. Therefore, the support from the Foundation is crucial to allow us to increase our presence in the field and combat wildlife poaching and trafficking,” added Datuk Mashor.

Accordinng to Caroline Christine Russell, Governing Council Member of the Sime Darby Foundation, they look forward to this collaboration to mobilise a new team of highly trained personnel in Sabah forest reserves, to combat poaching and trafficking.

“The Foundation is very concerned about the effects of poaching throughout the whole of Malaysia, and we are currently working closely with another government agency, the Perak State Park Corporation, for the protection of the Royal Belum State Park in Perak by supporting two teams of rangers and Orang Asal as boots on the ground to patrol the state park,” she said.

Poacher captured on camera trap in Sipitang Forest Reserve. – Photo courtesy of DGFC

Sime Darby’s decade-long relationship with SFD began with the rehabilitation of 5,400 ha of highly degraded forest at the Bukit Piton Forest Reserve, towards the conservation of orangutan habitat.

This successful project with SFD ended impactfully in November last year with consistently more frequent sightings of orangutans and their nests recorded.

Due to this successful collaboration, SFD’s high level of transparency and governance, as well as our serious concern towards the escalating poaching occurrences in Sabah; the Foundation’s funding for the recruitment and deployment of 25 rangers and 1 crime analyst officer of the SFD Protect team, alongside specialised training and high-end equipment to equip the personnel with the right knowledge, skills, and gear to effectively fight poachers, is indeed timely.

“We understand only too well that with poaching and wildlife trafficking becoming more rampant, our endangered species of flora and fauna are threatened to the brink of extinction,” Russell emphasised.

Female banteng shot by poachers in the vicinity of Maliau Basin last October 2017.- Photo courtesy of DGFC

“We do not wish for a recurrence of the situation with our Sumatran Rhinoceros, where poaching for the demand of its horn pushed this precious species to extinction.

“We hope that the communities surrounding our forests will also be our eyes and ears in combatting this criminal act, following the exemplary achievement of Nepal in celebrating 365 days of zero poaching annually for five years since 2011, with all the agencies and communities playing their part.

“It is hoped that with the Sime Darby Foundation’s support for this government-led initiative and by a renowned wildlife research and conservation centre like DGFC, poachers could be sentenced more gravely towards the eradication of poaching, for the continued existence of our national treasures.”