Existing laws should be tightened to help protect endangered animal species — Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye

KOTA KINABALU: Among the main factors related to the extinction of our wildlife is the loss of their original habitat due to deforestation as well as poaching.


Other factors include weak monitoring and enforcement, lack of public awareness and scientific studies, inadequate financial allocation and expertise for management of wildlife.

Existing laws should be tightened while the enforcement aspect must be strengthened to help protect endangered animal species such as tiger, elephant, seladang, tapir, sun bear and orangutan.

All the enforcement agencies must also strengthen their cooperation to tackle poaching and smuggling of our wildlife.

These problems are also part of wildlife trafficking which takes place in all regions of the world with countries with high biodiversity like Malaysia being the source, transit areas and hubs for smuggled species.

The United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime has estimated that the global wildlife trafficking industry to be worth between US$7bil (RM28bil) and US$23bil (RM92bil) annually.

It is rather unfortunate that a 2016 report by Wildlife Justice Commission revealed that Kuala Lumpur is the easiest port to move illegal wildlife. The report also revealed that it costs traffickers 50% less to move contraband through KLIA and KLIA2, compared to Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport.

There is an urgent need to review and tighten all existing laws, especially legislation pertaining to animal poaching, to help curb the illegal activities that could reduce the number of our wildlife particularly the endangered species.

The government should expedite its plan to amend the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 to imprison poachers for more than 10 years and fine them up to RM5 million upon conviction. It is timely in view of the rampant poaching cases that threaten the protected species.

Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) has also made a clarion call that without serious action, the already critically small population of various wildlife such as the Bornean pygmy elephant will suffer the same fate as the Sumatran rhino.

The killings of Bornean pygmy elephants for their tasks have shown how serious the poaching problem is, as well as the continuing irresponsible land exploitation in Sabah.

Despite harsher punishments and improved wildlife enforcement capabilities under the new Act, poaching numbers continue to increase and SAM believed that this was because of the absence of arrests of high-level individuals in connection with these seizures.

The government should therefore consider mandatory imprisonment not only for poachers but also those charged and proven guilty to be abetting the culprits.

We must also take into account the police’s recommendation for mandatory whipping for criminals involved in wildlife smuggling, and tighten conditions for the issuance of firearms licence and hunting permits.

We should treat wildlife crime seriously as stiffer penalties alone are not enough to deter such crimes.

As for enforcement of the law, the government should strengthen the collaboration among the enforcement agencies including increasing the number of military or police personnel to check and prevent poaching activities especially in our forest reserves.

We should not allow more species to face the same fate as the Sumatran rhino which is already extinct in the wild or the fate of leatherback turtle, Malayan tiger and gaur which are in peril.

Wildlife species have been declining, even within protected areas, due to poaching and illegal deforestation.

Greater public awareness, better law enforcement and political will are needed to not only prevent poaching activities and illegal wildlife trade, but also to avoid over-exploitation of natural resources.

Protecting wildlife and our nature’s treasure trove is not only the responsibility of the enforcement agencies but requires collaboration across NGOs, government, corporate stakeholders and local communities.

We must take immediate action to help conserve our biodiversity which includes more than 15,000 species of flowering plants, 1,500 species of terrestrial vertebrates, and about 150,000 species of invertebrates.

Despite our hectic schedules and quest to become a developed nation, it is necessary for us to spare a little time to step aside and ask what we need to do to deal with the multiple environmental threats that could wipe out our precious biodiversity.

The authorities must also tackle wildlife roadkill and smuggling activities which have affected their population.

The implementatation of development projects also has an impact on protection of wildlife. Take for example the construction of the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) which will cut through and dissect hundreds of hectares of protected forests in the Central Forest Spine.

Unless adequate and effective measures are taken to protect wildlife in the affected areas, the construction of the multi-million project will have a huge impact on our environment and our eco-system.

We must stress on human behavioural change to help stop wildlife trade and roadkill and for the relevant laws to succeed, there must be public education and awareness efforts to encourage the public to fight against wildlife exploitation and appreciate their existence as part of our planet.

Efforts to protect our wildlife are also in line with the theme for this year’s Earth Day celebration which is “Protect Our Species”. It is intended to educate and raise awareness about the accelerating rate of extinction of various species of fauna and flora.

Animal welfare

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