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Sabah Wildlife Dept turning a blind eye

June 27, 2014

FMT LETTER: Sean Whyte, Chief Executive – Nature Alert

Mother-and-Infant-Orangutans-by-Jami-Tarris-CorbisIt was just recently that I wrote “Sabah’s wildlife officials don’t walk the talk” and in that short time frame more devastating wildlife news has emerged.

It’s official: You can now add orangutans and elephants to the list of Sabah’s fast-disappearing wildlife.

The orangutan population in the Kinabatangan area has dropped from 1,100 in the early 2000’s to about 800 today. About 90% of all the orangutans that once roamed Sabah unhindered by loggers and palm oil plantations have now been ‘lost’ forever.

Elephants in Sabah are faring no better. In addition to the 14 poisoned last year at least six more have been killed this year.

It would be hard if not impossible to exaggerate how useless the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) has proved itself to be.

Despite SWD’s shameful lack of wildlife protection and law enforcement, Minister Masidi Manjun seems either incapable or unwilling to make any changes, which is why we see things going from bad to worse.

Sabah wildlife continues to be plundered by criminals with no fear of arrest or prosecution. Have you ever heard of a single person being prosecuted for killing a protected species in Sabah? It doesn’t happen because SWD have neither the guts nor professionalism to take the perpetrators on.

Additionally, this week it was disclosed that nine elephants had been “boxed into an isolated patch of forest”. Majestic, protected species, on which most of Sabah’s tourism depends on are all being driven from their forest habitat, shot or poisoned.

With seemingly no shame, Sabah’s government promotes Sepilok as a great conservation success when in fact it reflects a conservation disaster.

If SWD did their job properly there would be no need for Sepilok. In reality, Sepilok is a tourist attraction – a money earner for Sabah on which countless people and businesses depend.

Amazingly, despite all this tourist income Sepilok still solicits hand-outs from foreign donors and volunteers.

Sabah does not ‘need’ the donations but it clearly ‘wants’ it. In other words Sabah is patently unwilling or unable to save its own orangutans – wildlife icons that provide jobs and profits to a lot of locals.

Many donors think they are sponsoring Sepilok’s orangutans when in fact their money really subsidises the Sabah government.

Baby orangutans are loaned out to the nearby Rasa Ria Resort. Why is this endangered species deposited with a commercial (profit-driven) enterprise?

Is this an admission of Sepilok’s inability to care for these orangutans? Or is this ‘loan’ really nothing more than a rental agreement – a good earner for SWD and Rasa Ria?

Try asking SWD or the minister for an explanation and you will meet with a wall of silence.

In return for providing many people with a good income and profits, orangutans in Sabah are relentlessly driven from their forest homes, killed or captured.

Elephants are now experiencing the same fate; for rhinos it’s too late – they have already been driven to the edge of extinction by Sabah’s government.

Is there any hope for Sabah’s remaining wildlife? What do you think?


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