GRIK: Although an "old issue", poaching in the Belum-Temengor Forest Complex, near here, has become a major concern for many quarters, particularly local leaders and wildlife conservationists.
Grik member of parliament Datuk Hasbullah Osman said a small number of such illegal activities were still occurring despite monitoring and enforcement by the authorities.
He said poachers, both locals and foreigners, were encroaching into the forested area to hunt for animals such as pangolin and fish, and collect the prized agarwood which is in high demand overseas.
"In the latest cases that I heard of, certain quarters had encroached into the forest to steal tin ore from areas near the Temengor Lake.
"I am worried that such activities will cause pollution in the areas concerned," he told Streets.
Thai, Vietnamese and Cambodian nationals were among the foreign poachers who have been nabbed by the authorities in the past few years.
To make matters worse, allegations have also surfaced that army personnel stationed inside the forest have used explosives for fishing.
Hasbullah said easy accessibility to the area via the East-West Highway, which connects Grik to Jeli in Kelantan and cuts across the sprawling forest, was one of the reasons why the illegal activity could not be eradicated.
He said certain stretches of the highway, especially between Banding Island and the Kelantan border, had hundreds of laluan tikus (secret entry/exit points) which could easily be used by poachers to carry out their activities.
"Poachers travelling from the Kelantan border, can use the laluan tikus to go into the Temengor forest which is on the left side of the road and the Belum forest which is located on the right side," he said.
The former Temengor assemblyman suggested that the police and other enforcement agencies patrol the forested areas along the East-West Highway more regularly in order to stamp out the problem.
He said the government should form a task force consisting of representatives of the various authorities, including Immigration, the army, Forestry Department and the Perak State Parks Corporation to curb poaching and cross-border encroachment activities.
"As of today, I have yet to see the various agencies performing their enforcement duties in an integrated approach.
"We can't assign enforcement responsibility solely to a certain agency only, such as the Wildlife and National Parks Department or the police. These agencies have limited jurisdiction," he said.
Hasbullah added that he did not know to what extent the enforcement duties had been performed by the Perak State Parks Corporation.
It was previously reported that the corporation lacked the resources to conduct enforcement in the Belum-Temengor Forest Complex efficiently and effectively.
A proposal for the government to form a task force, comprising the various agencies, was put forward by Worldwide Fund for Nature Malaysia executive director and chief executive officer Datuk Dr Dionysius S.K. Sharma back in 2009.
The cooperation among the various agencies is needed particularly in dealing with armed foreign poachers, who are more dangerous and difficult to handle.
The Belum-Temengor reserve is known not only for their rich flora and fauna, but also as an important habitat for mammals such as the Asian elephant (Elephas maximus), Malayan tiger (Panthera tigris jacksoni) and the endangered Sumatran rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis).