SANDAKAN – To curb encroachment of forest reserves, the Sabah Forestry Department has formed a special squad known as ‘SFD Protect’.
The Enforcement, Tactical, Operational and Protection Squad comprises 25 inspectors and forest rangers who are equipped with firearms.
Sabah Forestry Department director Datuk Sam Mannan said the squad was set up in line with efforts to strengthen the department’s enforcement capacity to face challenges to ensure the treasures of forest reserves in the state were well-preserved and protected.
He said forest criminals were getting more violent and aggressive, based on several incidents where forest rangers and officers were injured in attacks.
According to him, those criminals who comprised local poachers and intruders from the neighbouring countries would encroach into the forest reserves to look for sandalwood and mangrove wood.
“Some of them (poachers and intruders) are armed with firearms and have threatened forest rangers and officers who carry out enforcement duties,” he said when launching the SFD Protect squad and opening the department’s dog unit (K9) building here.
Meanwhile, 789 forest reserve encroachment cases were recorded between 2012 and last September.
Sam said of the total, 62 cases involved encroachment on forest reserves, cutting of trees in state land (86), illegal possession of timber (197) while the rest involved violation of licence conditions.
He said during that period, 486 people were arrested for various offences related to forest, 192 of whom were tried and sentenced by the court.
According to him, the department had also seized and auctioned logs worth RM1.73 million, as well as forfeited the ownership and auctioned 299 equipment worth RM495,120.
Sam, who is also state forest chief conservator said a total of 70 cases of encroachment of forest reserves for cultivation were recorded under Section 20(1)(b)(iii) of the Forest Enactment 1968.