Concern on diminishing wildlife
Published on: Friday, December 28, 2018
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Sabah: The year 2018 saw wildlife conservation in Sabah reviewed to tackle the dwindling population of species that are under threat due to poaching and loss of habitat.

With a new State Government in place, extensive efforts have been taken to improve the Sabah Wildlife Department's core activities of enforcement, wildlife monitoring, and addressing human-wildlife conflict, enhancing awareness on wildlife conservation as well as research and capacity building.

This came following increased human-elephant conflict in Telupid, Kinabatangan, Tawau and Lahad Datu over the years that does not augur well for the future of Borneo elephants in Sabah which, based on a 12-year-old population data, showed that Sabah has only about 2,000 Bornean elephants left.

Its population has dwindled because many wild Bornean elephants have been either shot or poisoned in the past five years.

Sabah's iconic Bornean orangutan, a wildlife species that has been used as a mascot for many national programmes and one of the most popular tourism draws for visitors, has declined considerably in numbers.

According to a recent scientific paper that was published in the Current Biology Journal, there were 100,000 Orangutans killed in Borneo in the last 16 years. Out of that number, more than 6,000 died in Sabah alone.

Poaching has reached pandemic proportions, evident from the alarming number of cases encountered in many fully protected areas that shelter the remaining pristine forests and wildlife of Sabah.

It is no longer just a matter of self-indulgence for personal consumption but feeds the very lucrative and illegal global trade of wildlife products.

The Sabah Wildlife Department has also gone all out to protect Sabah's wildlife after several cases of exotic dinners being served in private homes were reported in Kota Kinabalu.

It is believed that the increase in tourists to Sabah has given rise to private dinners for visitors longing for the meat of protected species which, if not tackled, will spell doom for Sabah's wildlife.

Lok Kawi Wildlife Park also made good its promises to make things better for the animals under their care.

Although enclosure upgrade will take several years involving significant investment, there are many steps that the park management has already embarked on.

The condition of the animals has by far improved tremendously. Elephants have gained weight and the orang-utans have been put on a new strict diet plan. The rectification works on the elephant display area are ongoing and progressing well, according to Deputy Chief Minister-cum-Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Christina Liew in October.

The year also saw giant companies stepping in to help in wildlife conservation, among them was the Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) between Genting Plantations Berhad and Sabah Wildlife Department which will see wildlife, including Borneo pygmy elephants, having more living space.

The agreement saw 44.5 hectares of oil palm plantation land being set aside for wildlife conservation in the east coast. In addition to give elephants and other wildlife an undisturbed area to go to, the move also helped reduce human-elephant conflict.

Despite all-out efforts to save elephant, elephant deaths are still reported with a total of 30 deaths thus far this year, prompting the State Government to contemplate creating a new "corridor of life" linking three known pygmy elephant habitats which will have ample food and thus ensure their survival through minimising conflicts with humans.

Pangolins were also not spared, among them involved the seizure of pangolin scales valued at more than RM100 million from a man who tried to export the prohibited goods at the Sepanggar Port in September.

Sabahans were also shocked when news of an adult green sea turtle earlier rescued and tagged for conservation in Sabah was butchered for its meat in Cebu City, Philippine in December. - Sherell Jeffrey


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