UK NGO presents 3 vehicles to Sabah wildlife rescue unit

Deputy chief minister Christina Liew (left) checking one of the 3 new vehicles as OAUK founder Susan Sheward (2nd left) and Sabah Wildlife Department director Augustine Tuuga (3rd left) look on

KOTA KINABALU: The Wildlife Rescue Unit (WRU), under the Sabah Wildlife Department, today received three fully-modified 4-wheel-drive Toyota vehicles to carry out its work.

The vehicles were donated by the Orangutans Appeal UK (OAUK).

This is part of OAUK’s RM1 million pledge it made last year to help the government’s conservation efforts, particularly the WRU, over the next five years.

OAUK founder and director Susan Sheward said she made the pledge as she was aware that the WRU, set up nine years ago, had been playing a critical role in rescuing and translocating injured or displaced animals.

“The OAUK has been in Sabah for 18 years and invested over RM12 million to date.

“This includes the refurbishment of the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre and sponsorship of eight local staff to work there.

“Additionally, we have provided four utility vehicles for the department, medical equipment such as X-ray facilities, operating tables and blood testing equipment,” she said at a ceremony to hand over the keys of the three vehicles to the WRU today.

Sheward said OAUK was founded with the aim of providing support to the Sabah Wildlife Department and raising awareness for the critically endangered orangutan worldwide.

She praised the department’s assistant director, Dr Sen Nathan, for his help in overcoming obstacles faced by the charity body.

To date, the WRU has rescued close to 3,000 wildlife species throughout Sabah, including green turtles and injured Bornean pygmy elephants, deep in the forests.

Chief Minister Shafie Apdal thanked Sheward and her charity organisation for their continuous support.

He acknowledged that habitat loss and poaching was affecting wildlife conservation.

“We recently lost one of our remaining last two Sumatran rhinoceroses, which died of old age and other complications.

“I would like to assure you that we are doing everything in our power to resolve the current situation and prevent the extinction of other Sabah iconic wildlife, such as the Bornean elephant, Sunda pangolin, Bornean orangutans, tambadau and many more,” he said.

Shafie’s speech was read by Deputy Chief Minister-cum-Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Christina Liew.

Shafie said WRU rangers played an important role in carrying out wildlife rescues and translocation operations all over Sabah.

He promised to find ways to absorb its 18 WRU rangers into the Wildlife Department.

Liew said the three vehicles will be deployed to locations where they are needed the most.

“Obviously, the vehicles will be placed under the care of the WRU. So far, it has not been decided where they would be based.

“They will be used for rescuing and translocating wildlife,” she said.