Saturday, May 15

Much to be done for wildlife conservation — Director

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SUMATRAN RHINOCEROS: A close-up photo of Puntung taken by Assoc Prof Abdul Hamid Ahmad, chairman of Borneo Rhino Alliance.

KOTA KINABALU: The survival of the recently captured female Sumatran Rhinoceros named ‘Puntung’ was a miracle considering the odds that were stacked against her.

“Puntung was captured because over the years of monitoring her revealed that no other rhino had come into within her range.

This is symptomatic of many other species of wildlife in Sabah as their habitat is broken up and we have a lack of linkages between them,” said Wildlife Department director Dr Laurentius Ambu.

While Sabah is considered rich in wildlife and has many success stories in terms of conservation, Ambu said much still need to be done to rectify the broken landscape of conservation areas.

“This increases the level of threats to wildlife as the situation gives the opportunity to poachers and increase the conflicts with humans as access to fragmented areas is not difficult,” said Dr Ambu in a statement.

Puntung, according to him, is a prime example of this type of treat as upon close examination by the veterinarian, it was also found that the bones of her front left foot was missing indicating that her foot had been ripped out by what was most likely an illegal wildlife trap when she was young.

“This makes her survival a true miracle as she survived what would have been a horrible amputation and this is directly due to the fact that our conservation areas are fragmented,” he added.

The Sabah Wildlife Department has been continually calling for corridors and linkages to be made between fragmented forest with wildlife populations.

“The state government is playing its part but what we need are actions of the private sector now, particularly from the oil palm industry.

“We want them to put aside land for corridors or patches of forest today,” stated Ambu.

He has long advocated  a multi-stakeholder approach to conservation in the state, with governmental agencies working together with non-governmental organisations, universities and the private sector.

“This is why we are jointly organising the Sabah Wildlife Conservation Colloquium (SWCC) with the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) to bring together these different groups of people for the future of wildlife conservation in this State,” he said.

The SWCC will address wildlife issues in Malaysia with emphasis on wildlife in Sabah as well as the role of funding from corporate and non-corporate bodies in wildlife conservation.

“This colloquium is about all our wildlife issues with special emphasis on our orang-utans, elephants and rhinos.

“We will also officially launch our five-year State Action Plan for these three keystone species,” Ambu elaborated.

The SWCC will run over two days bringing together 250 people including international participants from these various groups.

“We have done our studies, we know what we need to ensure the survival of the wildlife and we are looking for action particularly from the private sector to make this happen today before it is too late,” he added.