KOTA KINABALU: A workshop for frontline enforcement officers on wildlife trafficking in Sabah has recognised the severity of trade in endangered and high-profile wildlife species in the State, and identified solutions to address the problem.
Illegal wildlife trade is among the greatest threats to some of the world's most endangered species, and has gained prominence as an issue in Sabah following several significant seizures and research on the sale of endangered species meat and body parts in the State.
Thirty enforcement agency personnel that play a wildlife crime-fighting role in Sabah were brought together at this workshop in an effort to find solutions to this problem.
Organised by TRAFFIC, WWF-Malaysia and the Sabah Wildlife Department, it drew participation from the Wildlife Department, Customs Department, Department of Veterinary Services and Animal Industry, Police, Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency, Sabah Forestry Department and Department of Fisheries.
This first Sabah-specific workshop on illegal wildlife trade also discussed issues related to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and its implications for Sabah.
It highlighted illegal wildlife trafficking, the State's role in regional trade, methods used by smugglers, key trade routes and techniques to identify commonly traded wildlife.
In his opening remarks, WWF-Malaysia's Head of Conservation for Sabah, Bernard Tai drew attention to the serious nature of wildlife trafficking, a major contributor to the drastic decline of global wildlife populations.
"In WWF's recently published 2014 Living Planet Report, we have noted that there is a 52 per cent decrease in global wildlife populations over the last 40 years; many of these population declines were caused by poaching driven by trade in wildlife products," he said.
"It is important that the participants are trained in wildlife trade regulations and I thank WWF-Malaysia and TRAFFIC for organising this workshop," said Sabah Wildlife Department Deputy Director, Augustine Tuuga.
"As these officers are the gatekeepers of our borders and coastlines, their knowledge on wildlife trade regulations is vital in intercepting smugglers and packages that contain endangered flora and fauna of Sabah," he said.
"From bears to deer to turtle eggs, criminals are plundering the State's wealth. This group of dedicated officials came together to gain knowledge and the tools to fight the crime together. It's a first step, and we look forward to more such effort in future," said Kanitha Krishnasamy, programme manager for TRAFFIC in Southeast Asia.