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Malaysian authorities failing to take action against poachers

Three-month-old Bornean elephant calf next to dead mother. Officials suspect this elephant, and 13 others, were poisoned. Photo by: Sabah Wildlife Department
Three-month-old Bornean elephant calf next to dead mother. This elephant, and 13 others, were poisoned in 2013 near an oil palm plantation. Photo by: Sabah Wildlife Department

Authorities in Sabah are failing to enforce anti-poaching laws, undermining governance and wildlife protection efforts in the Malaysian Borneo state, argues a letter published by several local conservation groups.

The letter, published by the Borneo Conservation Trust (BCT), Borneo Rhino Alliance (BORA), Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC), HUTAN-Kinabatangan Orang Utan Conservation Programme (HUTAN-KOCP), Land Empowerment Animals People (LEAP), WWF-Malaysia and Sabah Environmental Protection Association (SEPA), says the Royal Malaysian Police in Sabah have not completed a probe into poaching incidents that be linked to state security forces. The NGOs sent evidence to the police more than a year ago.

“Today, we are no closer to finding out the conclusion of the report, and we are losing hope of meeting with the police,” said LEAP Executive Director Cynthia Ong. “The fact that there is no meeting or response speaks louder than words.”

The conservationists warn that a poaching “pandemic” in Sabah could have adverse impacts on the region’s ecology and ecotourism sector.

“If nothing is done urgently, the forests in Sabah may become void of large mammals, which would be a terrible blow not only to the development of tourism in the State, but also to our own future,” said WWF-Malaysia Executive Director and CEO Dato’ Dionysius Sharma in a statement.

Sabah has suffered several high-profile poaching incidents in recent years, including mass shootings and poisonings of pygmy elephants. Authorities have failed to throughly investigate those crimes, which some have alleged are linked to off-duty police hired by plantation companies.

Footage of hunters caught on a camera trap. Photo courtesy of WWF-Malaysia.

More common however is poaching of smaller mammals like deer and primates.

The statement from the organizations didn’t go into specific cases or allegations, but did propose potential solutions.

“If this cannot be prevented, or if there is no serious enforcement or even feedback from the police, I believe we will lose our wildlife very quickly,” said BCT Technical Advisor Raymond Alfred. “Create a systematic approach to enable tracking back bullet casing so that we can trace individuals hunting in forest reserves.”

A four-wheel-drive with poached wildlife in the trunk. Photo courtesy of WWF-Malaysia

HUTAN-KOCP Honorary Wildlife Warden Head Azri Sawang suggested that a special wildlife unit be established to address the issue.

“Illegal hunting is a universal plague and key to stopping this is better enforcement and collaboration. This is something we hope to discuss with the police.”

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