The Sabah Wildlife Department is stepping up its crackdown against those dealing with wildlife meat amid criticisms that such an action was adversely affecting some indigenous communities here.
Department director Datuk Dr Laurentius Ambu said wildlife rangers would be conducting more surprise checks on tamu or weekly farmers’ markets and other places where wildlife meat was being sold.
"Some of the meat sold there are totally protected species,” he said, noting that endangered animals such as the binturong bearcat had been found to be sold in such markets.
He said under the law, all wildlife belonged to the government and special permits were required for the hunting, trading or possession of wildlife meat.
On Nov 11, three individuals were detained after wildlife rangers seized 160kg of Sambar and barking deer meat at the tamu in the interior remote town of Nabawan.
Following the crackdown, United Murut Community Organisation president Datuk Alizulfakar Alexius said the action ran contrary to the tradition of the indigenous community who had been hunting wildlife for protein as they have done so for centuries.
He said indigenous communities would usually hunt wildlife that had wandered into their farms or orchards and destroyed their crops.
He said villagers selling their meat in the tamu should not be considered as committing a crime.
Meanwhile, wildlife officer Benedict Jani said Nabawan had become a hotspot for the sale of illegal bushmeat in recent years due to the vast road network all the way to Tawau.
He said it was not surprising that bushmeat was illegally hunted in Maliau Basin or as far as some protected forest reserves in Tawau and Lahad Datu.
State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said the war on illegal wildlife trade and poaching has just begun.