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Tourism players urged to play role in wildlife crime fight
Published on: Wednesday, January 22, 2020
By: Larry Ralon
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KOTA KINABALU: Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister, Datuk Christina Liew, urged the tourism industry players especially in Sabah to play their part in supporting the fight against wildlife crime, by sharing correct information about the wildlife and relevant laws of the country.

Apart from that, she also hope the conservation partners and collaborators would maintain the momentum in raising awareness on illegal wildlife trade, and for the public to continue assisting in the enforcement efforts.

“The pangolin is indeed a fitting species to represent the threatened status of wildlife in Sabah. It could act as an ambassador for our wildlife to remind us that humans and wildlife must co-exist, and that we must all work together in protecting them before it is too late,” she said when officiating the launching of “KKIA Wildlife Awareness Programme and Pangolin  Sculpture” at Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) here Tuesday.

The programme was jointly organised by Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD), Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC), Future Alam Borneo and Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre, with the support of Malaysia Airports Sdn Bhd. 

Liew, who is also Deputy Chief Minister, said a 2017 report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime revealed that when wildlife and timber crime are combined, illegal trade in flora and fauna now ranks as the fourth biggest transnational crime behind drugs and people. 

“Despite the existence of laws against wildlife crime in all countries, poaching and illegal trafficking of wildlife species persist on an upward trend, where demand is driven by the unfortunate belief that these animal parts contain medicinal curative properties. 

“Pangolins continue to be poached for their meat and scales, and the same fate befalls on elephants for their tusks, and rhinos for their horns,” she said.

Just last week, she said, a workshop in illegal wildlife trade here brought together government departments, enforcement agencies and conservation partners to further strengthen and align the collective efforts to fight wildlife crimes, and to bring to justice the guilty perpetrators. 

“More such programmes have been scheduled as a confident move forward that underlines the government’s commitment to eradicate illegal wildlife trade,” she said, while pleased to learn that this awareness effort is a continuation of the first programme that started in Sandakan Airport last year, and that the next planned location will be at Tawau Airport. 

“As the main gateway for domestic and international tourist arrivals into Sabah, our airports are ideal locations to attract their attention into understanding and appreciating not only our wildlife and environment, but also our people and our diverse cultures,” she said. 

She also hopes the relationship between the government and private sectors towards the welfare of wildlife in the State will continue to flourish for the benefit of the people of Sabah.

Malaysia Airports’ Senior Manager of KKIA, Sunif Naiman, SWD Director, Augustine Tuuga, and DGFC Director, Professor Benoit Goossens, among others, were also present.    

Goossens, meanwhile, said the Government has made the right decision by elevating the status of pangolin, which is the world’s highest-trafficked mammal, to a Totally Protected Species under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife Conservation Enactment in 2018.

“In Sabah, though we are still not able to determine the size of the pangolin population, we were fully convinced that it deserves to be fully protected. 

“Certainly, the threats to pangolins have intensified in the past five years, with a worrying number of cases reporting the massive amount of pangolin seizures in Sabah and in the region. 

“In Malaysia, especially Sabah and Sarawak, despite being protected by wildlife law, pangolins are still seen sold at the tamu or local markets, as well as online through social media. Pangolin and other wildlife meats are also known to be offered at restaurants catering to wealthy patrons or tourists who want to eat rare and endangered wildlife. 

“There is a need to correct this wrong perception on wildlife meats and parts, through education and sharing of proven information,” he said. 

Sunif said KKIA is considered as an ideal place for such programme considering it is the second busiest airport in the country, and continue to receive increasing number of passengers annually, with about 9.4 million passengers last year alone against 8.6 million in 2018.   

Meanwhile, Tuuga invites any scientific research especially in determining the exact pangolin population in the State. 

There is no seizure of pangolin made at KKIA so far, he said, adding the only seizure of pangolins from Sabah ever reported was the case at Penang Airport where the seized pangolins were said to have originated from Sabah. 

He said Sabah has prosecuted 24 cases related to pangolins since 2002, and two more cases which are yet to be prosecuted including the RM8.4 million pangolin seizure case last year. 


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