Wednesday, June 26

Call for review to wildlife protection ordinance

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STRENGTHENING POLICIES: Jayasilan delivering his paper during the symposium at BCCK.

KUCHING: The sharp increase in trading of protected wildlife in the country over the past decade has led to calls that the state revise its Wildlife Protection Ordinance, 1998.

Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) head of Zoology Department, Faculty of Resource Science and Technology, Dr Mohd-Azlan Jayasilan Abdul Gulam Azad said reports compiled by the Wildlife and National Parks Department revealed over 52,000 cases of illegal trading in protected wildlife in the Peninsula in the past 15 years.

The species traded, he said, were mostly lizards and pangolins, while 15,000 kg of meat mostly of wild boar and deer, and over 800,000 kg of skins and scales of civets, lizards, pythons and pangolins were seized. The seizures also included some 10,000 turtle eggs.

“The Peninsula has introduced a new Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 considering the increasing threat on wildlife, habitat declinations, loss of land and forested areas due to agriculture, land conversion, illegal hunting, poaching and others.

“In Peninsular Malaysia, the past 10 years has seen a sharp increase in illegal trades and similar trend could be expected in Sabah and Sarawak,” Jayasilan highlighted when delivering his paper during the Animals and the City International Symposium held at Borneo Convention Centre Kuching (BCCK) here recently.

He mentioned that the number of animals categorised as endangered species under the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) had tripled over the past decade in the state, at an average of two new species each year.

Another point worth to ponder, he pointed out, was that penalties under the Wildlife Protection Ordinance 1998 appeared to be quite low considering the high profits made from illegal trading.

He cited the recent case in Miri where a man charged with killing a pied hornbill was only given a three-month jail sentence for failing to pay the RM2,000 fine imposed on him, whereas the penalty for killing a totally protected animal in the state is three years imprisonment and a fine of RM25,000.

“The penalty was mild in comparison to a recent unrelated case in Sibu, where a youth was sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment for stealing a television from a budget hotel. Hornbill is a state emblem; it is the pride of the state. We need to re-look at our existing legislation,” continued Jayasilan, who is a member of the IUCN Species Survival Commission.

He added that the state’s Wildlife Protection Ordinance 1998 appeared to have the least number of parts and sections when compared to legislation in the Peninsula and Sabah, and it also imposed the least amount of penalties and jail sentences.

Elaborating, he said the state imposed a maximum fine of RM50,000 for offences related to totally protected animal species whereas in Sabah it is at least RM100,000 and RM500,000 in the Peninsula.

“The increased hunting raises questions on the relevancy of the state’s current ordinance,” he added.

He suggested both the state and federal governments study whether there is a need to formulate a national wildlife conservation policy similar to the existing national forestry policy, which should include the review and re-evaluation of the ordinance for flora and fauna protection, increasing resources for wildlife management fund and preventive measures.