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Sabah Wildlife Dept blowing more smoke?

March 10, 2014

FMT LETTER: From Sean Whyte, via e-mail

This week has seen the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) making claims in the media it’s at long-last going to get tough on wildlife poachers. If this ever happens it will be a breath of fresh air and tantamount to a miracle.

The SWD’s record is at best patchy, but usually lacking in real commitment. As others have said in this forum, arguably the worst chapter in the history of this underwhelming department concerns the one of poisoned pygmy elephants. If the SWD department was ‘really’ serious about tackling wildlife crime, are we expected to believe all these elephants were killed by a person or persons unknown whom SWD could not track down?

Rightly or wrongly some people believe the finger of guilt should be directed at the palm oil industry. Who else has an issue with elephants trying to find diminishing amounts of their food in what little forest remains after the rest has been destroyed by the palm oil industry?

But, as we all know, the SWD and the palm oil industry have a very cosy relationship. So cosy as to make it rather difficult to arrest anyone who breaks the law?

We will have to wait and see if the department is finally going to get its act together and once and for all ‘walk its talk’. Based on the past the odds are very much in favour of poachers being allowed to continue plundering, unhindered Sabah’s wildlife.

Think of all those baby orangutans which over the years have ended up at Sepilok. None of them booked a space in a cage and walked there on their own. All were orphans from the forest and for this to happen someone must have killed the mothers.

How many hundreds of orangutans have been taken to Sepilok over the years and how many people have been prosecuted for harming an orangutan? Now, which industry in Sabah has been relentlessly destroying orangutan habitat and undeniably creating these orphan baby orangutans?

The final indignity for the SWD is: Sepilok depends heavily on foreign donations and foreigners to run this sanctuary. Sabah, a wealthy state, won’t, not can’t, even pay to save its own orangutans from its own people. How sad is that? It just about sums up the pathetic ‘won’t care, don’t care’ track record and attitude of the SWD,

What’s happened in the past has only been possible because those who destroy Sabah’s wildlife have nothing to fear from the SWD. It’s a worry, therefore, when Minister Masidi Manjun said in January: “I will let the Wildlife Department handle the protection of the wildlife. The Environment Protection Department (EPD) and the Wildlife Department will have to work together at the same time.”

It’s precisely the same two departments who have to date so spectacularly failed Sabah’s wildlife and its people. But, don’t take my word for it, you only need to do a search on Google and you will find many reports generated in Malaysia highlighting the demise of Sabah’s wildlife.

In January 2012, Masidi Manjun in an article headlined ‘Sabah losing its flagship species’ said: “We need to educate the people and address the corruption within the system. It is time for us to act and not just talk.”

That was two years ago. What’s happened since then? For starters, there is the not small matter of all those poisoned elephants with no one punished for this heinous crime. Two years later, nothing has changed.

The writer is CEO of Nature Alert


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