By Karen Bong
KOTA KINABALU: World Wildlife Fund for Nature – Malaysia (WWF-Malaysia) has been working closely with Sabah Forest Department (SFD) in conducting joint patrols to monitor poaching in some of the forest reserves, particularly the newly protected forest reserves.
Thanks to surveillance cameras, WWF Malaysia revealed in a press release yesterday that poachers had been making frequent entry to the forest reserves.
The camera-trap photos also show that the poachers carried weapons such as machetes and firearms, and even transported carcasses of illegally killed animals at the back of their vehicles.
In Sabah, entry to any forest reserve requires a permit from SFD and any hunting activity in the reserves is illegal.
The evidence gathered showed that the poachers had total disregard for the laws and regulations of forest reserves in Sabah.
Illegal and over-hunting of wildlife in our forests may lead to local or even regional extinction of species, most of which are already endangered, declining or totally protected by law in Sabah.
Animals are an integral part of forests. Forests emptied of animals do not function well as natural forests.
Research has shown that loss of animal species starts a chain of further impact and even results in extinction of tree species that are dependent on animals to disperse their seeds.
Poaching causes a decline in animal numbers and results in loss of biodiversity and thereby crucial ecosystem services provided by forests to mankind.
WWF-Malaysia’s head of Conservation for Sabah Bernard Tai highlighted that WWF-Malaysia field teams have often encountered poaching activities in the forest reserves.
“For example, during a period of three months from April to June 2014, WWF-Malaysia’s field team encountered poachers five times while carrying out patrolling activities, while nine people were separately photo-captured entering the forest reserves illegally,” he said.
“Poachers pose a huge threat to the sustainability of these forest reserves. Should these illegal activities continue, even our protected forests will have species going extinct,” Tai added.
WWF-Malaysia recognises that long-term measures and resources are required to combat this threat and believes in adopting the Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART) patrolling system to help forest reserve managers to effectively manage the forest reserves.
In this connection, WWF-Malaysia conducted a SMART patrolling training for 23 SFD staff from Aug 11 to 15 in Telupid, Sabah.
A similar training was held last May involving staff from Yayasan Sabah managing Maliau Basin, Danum Valley, Imbak Canyon and Silam Coast conservation areas.
SMART patrolling enables rangers to capture more systematic data in their patrols, empowers conservation managers with information on the threats faced, guides managers to better protect the areas, and ensures strategic allocation of patrolling resources for protecting the areas.
It is a free, user-friendly technical solution that allows integration of patrols from different sources, strengthening of enforcement action, and is compatible with a wide variety of GPS units and data collection devices.
The director of SFD Datuk Sam Mannan expressed his appreciation to WWF-Malaysia for initiating the SMART training for forest reserve managers and rangers.
“SFD is collaborating with WWF-Malaysia on many fronts and the training in SMART patrolling will become crucial in protecting and better managing our forest reserves.
“SFD is fully committed to establish SMART patrolling system in our protection of forest reserves and will continue to have more of our staff trained in this method,” Manna added.