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Foreign gang of poachers busted
Published on: Friday, August 12, 2016

Kota Kinabalu: An elite Special Force of the Forestry Department has finally captured red-handed a suspect, believed to be part of a gang of six aggressive foreigners who ruthlessly carried out wildlife poaching within Sabah's prime protected areas in recent months. "Finally, our Special Force caught up with one of the six suspects camping inside Deramakot Forest Reserve with their loot of hornbill carcass, gaharu, weapons like shotguns, bullets, axes and so on," said State Forestry Department Director Datuk Sam Mannan.

"The tattooed suspect has been identified as a Dayak Kenyah from Southern Borneo, undocumented, calling himself Nopel Bin Ulang, who revealed that they were working for one "Moksin" based in Tawau, probably a local, or God knows what," said Mannan.

He appealed to members of the public who know this "Moksin" to report immediately to the nearest Forestry offices.

"But I won't be surprised that the name given could be a fictitious one," Mannan said. "The suspect shall be charged soon under the Forestry Enactment 1968 and the Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997, and we shall plead for maximum sentences from the court should he be found guilty," he said.

"What is new is the boldness of foreign poachers. They come in with weapons, particularly home-made shotguns, spears, trapping devices and swords with the audacity and arrogance to confront enforcement officers.

And at the same time, they destroy public properties to assist in their poaching, such as cutting government water tanks as floaters for wildlife parts down river for collection," a furious Mannan added.

"In the past one month, we twice encountered this band of six foreign poachers, all believed to be Kenyahs/Dayaks from Kalimantan, in Pinangan-Tangkulap Deramakot, with their hoard of slaughtered wildlife – bears, hornbills and a cache of gaharu wood," Mannan said. "When encountered, they reacted aggressively and brandished their weapons and showed off their tattooed bodies, addressing aggressively that they were in the forests, to take whatever was available."

"Due to the small numbers of enforcement officers on patrol at that time, it was decided that confrontation was unwise and reinforcement was needed due to the precarious situation," Mannan said.

"Unfortunately, the band of poachers escaped, but blatantly went to other parts of the forest to continue poaching.

Because they were very aggressive, the Department decided to deploy its "Protect Team" (Special Forces) from Lahad Datu, headed by Senior Forestry Officer Eddie Bungkoris, to hunt down, apprehend and arrest the bandits, assisted by the District Forestry Officer of Deramakot, with the K-9 Dog Unit of the Department," said Mannan.

Mannan said he believed the recent spate of serious poaching in the Kinabatangan Kretam-Kulamba area, with sun bear deaths, etc, may be associated to this gang of seasoned and professional poachers from outside Sabah.

"The Forestry Department is now discussing with WWF to reinforce its training in anti-poaching for greater capacity to set up more "Protect Teams", which will entail additional recruitment and resources," he said.

"Apart from two sniffer dogs, a German Shepherd and Belgian Malinois procured in 2015 for gaharu detection, the Department has this year acquired two more Malinois dogs, this time trained for protection, search and to apprehend," Mannan added.

"The Department has so far spent not less than RM600,000 on the K-9 Unit, under State Government funds, covering the procurement of four dogs, staff training for four specialised dog handlers and buildings. This will increase in time."

"We fear on the availability of guns, bullets, other weapons, etc, by foreign poachers, although this is not a first occurrence," Mannan said.

He said in July, an illegal immigrant from the Philippines was arrested for committing a forest offence in Tabin, and also happened to be in the possession of a home-made gun. This case is being investigated by the police.

Mannan says he believes foreigners with illegal arms deserve the maximum sentences if found guilty as they may and can cause harm to enforcement officers and the general public have nothing to lose.

"The department believes these foreigners can have easy access to forests and wildlife in Sabah because of long term in depth knowledge of our environment and more than likely, the collaboration of local traitors," he noted.

"At the same time, due to the potential bonanza of knowledge intelligence and information the suspect may possess on the poaching network in Sabah, the Department may have to seek specialist help from the police in the investigation," Mannan said.

"We shall endeavour to upgrade its capacity to control poaching and increase its resources, including obtaining more guns," he promised and urged the public to assist the Department and other enforcement officers in providing information should they encounter suspicious characters, inside or nearby forests.



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