MONDAY, MARCH 05, 2012 – 14:10
POACHING, hunting, trapping and snaring of our endangered wildlife are frequently featured in the news these days. The situation has reached a climax especially for wildlife with high commercial value as almost all animals from fish to wildlife are killed for food and trade.
Poaching is rampant with poachers from neighbouring countries making inroads through the unmanned porous borders which make it easy for them to operate and decimate wildlife at will.
The situation is aggravated with growing human settlements encroaching into protected forests, as well as roads cutting into forest complexes as in the case of the East-West highway traversing through the 300,000ha forests in northern Perak, providing over 80 entry points for poachers. The situation is totally unacceptable in a country that claims to be
effectively addressing illegal wildlife trade.
With wildlife being pushed to the brim by habitat loss, poaching, the flourishing commercial trade and sophisticated wildlife criminals, Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) is disheartened to see how lightly the Natural Resource and Environment Ministry (NRE) and Perhilitan seem to take this matter. The Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 appears skewed towards exploiting rather than protecting wildlife through the issuing of licences for hunting, keeping, dealing, taxidermy and trade.
The hunting of game animal has drastically reduced prey in the forest for tigers, leading to a drastic plunge in the wild tiger populations along with other factors. Although a hunting permit allows the holder to bag just one deer, no one actually knows if they just kill one. SAM has repeatedly called for a ban on hunting licences of all forms which should be considered at all costs.
Continuous land shrinkage with the conversion of vast ecosystems and wildlife habitats from lowland forests to wetlands being converted into plantations, industries and the manufacturing sector, and human settlements is a tragedy of unimaginable proportion for our wildlife.
Rare and endangered tapirs, leopard cats, and many rare species have become victims of road vehicles when they cross roads that bisect their forested homes. Presence of roads cutting through forested areas has always been a cause of accidents involving wildlife. Tapir and other wildlife displaced by development or rescued from ditches, wells, roadsides and snares are increasing as they continue to be driven out of their habitats by forest segmentation and surrounding pressures.
Animals need to move safely across highways in order to find food and mates. Highway authorities and Perhilitan should conduct surveys to find out if highway viaducts are being utilised by large animals and the factors affecting their
effectiveness. This will enable them to identify important wildlife habitats where highways should be avoided in order to reduce the risk of forest fragmentation.
Data on road kills are no less important than field data on animal sightings because any population that is impacted by development is vulnerable to population fluctuation. With data generated, Perhilitan will be in a good position to work with state forestry departments in identifying forests of high conservation value, to ensure appropriate use of these forests and secure enough habitat for viable populations of tapir and other species.
The most crucial conservation measure is still to protect their habitat and give them space to roam. Our wildlife are living on borrowed time and unless drastic action is taken, all will be doomed.
S.M. MOHD IDRIS
PRESIDENT SAHABAT ALAM