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Tighter access to forest reserves
Published on: Wednesday, January 28, 2015
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Kota Kinabalu: A proposal to amend the laws to tighten entry into forest reserves has been forwarded to the State Attorney-General's office in order to curb rampant poaching activities."Sabah is the only State in the country that has lax laws, downright appeasing, on forest reserve entry – consciously laisse faize," said Forestry Director Datuk Sam Mannan.

He said the seriousness of this menace needs a concerted effort in unison, starting with the prosecution of known and big time perpetrators.

"It is highly disturbing to report that poaching of wildlife in Sabah has reached pandemic proportions, evident from the cases encountered, in particular, within the Ulu Segama-Malua Forest Reserves and even within Danum Valley, the buffers of Maliau Basin and protected areas that shelter the remaining pristine forests and wildlife of Sabah," he said.

According to him, poaching was now not a matter of self-indulgence for own consumption but for trade and a lucrative export.

The poachers, often masked, encountered at the forest checkpoints, are invariably violent in their behaviour, probably intoxicated with drugs etc., armed with most likely, illegal and unregistered guns and willing and able to inflict harm on forest guards at site, he said.

Mannan said for the record, in 2009, the Ulu Segama-Malua Forestry Base Camp was raided and the District Forestry Officer hurt unconscious by a gang of hooligans from a particular village in Lahad Datu, miles from the forest reserves, but a number of whom, consider the forest reserves as their fiefdom for exterminating wildlife for sale.

The Forestry Department Checking Station at Ulu Segama was also recently pelted with shotgun bullets. "Although Forestry Department staff are armed, this is purely for self-protection and they are reluctant to use their licensed firearms against poachers.

"Besides that, it is to avoid a firefight with the poachers which may result in an ugly scene," he said, adding that the Department was able to stop illegal entries only when police provide escorts.

"But it is unreasonable to expect the police to provide assistance at all times and at all hours and at all places," he said, adding that the suspects, believed to be the main perpetrators of big scale poaching, were known and information has been given to the authorities concerned for further action.

The modus operandi, said Mannan, included the misuse of military uniforms probably to intimidate Forestry Department and Wildlife Department staff, and in the process, damage the good name of the security forces.

Evidence to this effect for action on this masquerade has also been conveyed to the authorities concerned.

"Until and unless this band of hooligans, largely based in Lahad Datu in particular, are arrested, charged in court, and sentenced severely, the killing field of iconic wildlife (random shooting of elephants near roads, planned execution of Tembadaus, massacre of deer, etc) will continue, expand and in the end leave us with a Dead Green Desert – lots of trees but no animals within.

"They may also eventually scare off tourists from coming to Danum Valley.

"The role of foreign poachers to steal Gaharu (agarwood) is also a menace and opportunistic i.e. kills of wildlife, have also been detected deep inside Danum Valley," he said.

The Forestry Department had also been informed that the extermination of rhinos in Ulu Segama-Malua-Danum was probably due to poaching more than anything else.

This was evident from a particular village in Borneo, who have been making annual raids to hunt for rhinos in Sabah over the last 50 years.

"This culture of coming to Sabah is then passed down the generations as a tradition, resulting in virtual extinction of Sabah's rhinos," he said.

Toward this end, Mannan said public cooperation, especially in providing information, photo evidence and other useful materials, would help in the monitoring and enforcement in vulnerable areas. "As of now, the killing continues," he said.



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