KOTA KINABALU: Malaysia’s International Ambassador for Orangutan Conservation, Tan Sri Michelle Yeoh, will be embarking on another conservation project in Sabah and it is for the protection of turtles.
“I am happy to announce today that we are discussing with Michelle for her next project in Sabah, the conservation of turtles which are also a target of poachers. Hopefully it will be realized in the not so distant future,” Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Masidi Manjun said.
He made the announcement at a press conference after the opening ceremony of the ASEAN Regional Security Forum Workshop on Combating Wildlife Trafficking by Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman at a resort in Tuaran yesterday.
Masidi believed that Michelle’s ‘voice’ will make people sit up and listen to why it is important to conserve our wildlife.
“It is all about education, no amount of assets or money will solve the problem unless the people are educated in the need to conserve. Look at drugs trafficking, the penalty is death by hanging and yet it is still a menace today and the simple reason is that I think educational effort needs to be enhanced.
“That is why we need Michelle. I am sure when she speaks people will listen. When Datuk Anifah and I speak, people will say ‘ah… politicians’. That is the difference,” he stressed.
In his welcoming remarks earlier, Masidi said that having the Workshop on Combating Wildlife Trafficking in Sabah is indeed timely.
“Though Sabah has always been in the forefront of wildlife conservation in Malaysia, we are now besieged by severe challenges with regards to wildlife poaching and smuggling. We know that most of our totally protected forest reserves and marine parks have been breached by wildlife poachers who are linked to very organized wildlife traffickers that seem to have seemless transboundary penetration.
“Some of the species that are of grave concern to us are the Sunda pangolin and the marine turtles. Credible reports from very reliable sources show huge numbers of these two species being hunted and smuggled out of Sabah to neighbouring countries due to the ever increasing and insatiable demand for the consumption of exotic meats, traditional medicine and many other reasons,” he said.
Masidi added that illegal exotic pet trade had also fuelled many other species to be slowly wiped out and lead them on the verge of extinction.
“With the congregation of a superb line of local and international speakers who would be sharing their experiences, knowledge and best pratices in combating wildlife trafficking, I sincerely hope that that this would further enhance transboundary collaboration on wildlife enforcement, information sharing, capacity building and heightened political will in combating wildlife trafficking among ARF participating countries,” he added.
On whether the state Wildlife Department has formulated any strategy to prevent another turtle massacre on Pulau Tiga in Kudat, Masidi replied, “first and foremost I must remind everyone that Sabah is not a small state.”
He disclosed that the proposed Tun Mustapha marine park is about one million hectares and monitoring such a huge area is not easy.
“Pulau tiga is very near to the Malaysia Philippines boundary, so there are limitations to what we can do, We can do something in our territory but there is nothing we can do outside the boundary.
“That is why today’s forum is very important because we need to see the problem as a mutual one and not just Sabah’s or even Malaysia for that matter. Obviously there is something that we have not done right and there may have been shortcomings but we need to tackle the bull by the horns and get it done.
“It may take time but surely with the cooperation from all ASEAN countries we will be able to do it. I always believe that blaming the past will get you some psychological satisfaction but it does not solve the problem. I think we need to start ‘as is and not what it should be’,” Masidi stressed.