KUCHING: A Sarawak assemblyman has come under criticism for not upholding a wildlife protection law after he called for leniency for villagers found selling wildlife.
World Wide Fund for Nature Malaysia said elected representatives should get rural folk to protect wildlife instead of encouraging villagers to sell wildlife.
Jason Hon, head of WWF-Malaysia’s Sarawak conservation programme, said enforcement authorities were obliged to uphold the Sarawak Wild Life Protection Ordinance enacted in 1998 to reduce wildlife trading and trafficking.
He said Bukit Goram assemblyman Jefferson Jamit was wrong in urging the enforcement authorities not to take action against rural folk found selling wildlife.
He said the assemblyman should instead hold a roundtable discussion to find other legal means for these people to make a living.
The assemblyman was reported to have said that selling wild boar meat was one of the sources of income for rural folk in Kapit. He said hunting wild animals and selling them in the open market as food should be an activity of the past.
Hon said the Sarawak law was designed to prevent depletion of wildlife. “If properly enforced, this law allows wildlife and the natural ecosystems to thrive. It ensures that local communities will continue to have access to their natural sources of food and prevent outsiders from profiteering.”
He said the local communities may continue to hunt non-protected species such as wild boar (without a permit) for their own consumption.
However, the law is clear that they cannot sell any wildlife, dead or alive, or even their parts without a permit.
“Although the ordinance came into force over 20 years ago, illegal wildlife trade has not been entirely wiped out,” he said.
Sarawak Forestry Corporation general manager Oswald Braken Tisen said the law applied equally to everyone, regardless of their ethnic background or location.