KUCHING: The Forest Department has reaffirmed its committment to protect crocodiles as they are the only ancient animal species, the living relics of the dinosaurs, that still exist in Sarawak.
Its director Sapuan Ahmad said through a press statement received here yesterday that hunting, selling and killing of crocodiles could not be done with impunity even though the status of crocodiles in Sarawak had been downlisted from Appendix 1 to Appendix II in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species in Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
“Like other animals listed in the same Appendix, any form of activity related to hunting, selling and killing of crocodiles will require permission from the Forest Department and the controller of National Parks and Wildlife.”
He was responding to issues hotly debated and published in local newspapers recently in order to prevent any public confusion.
Sapuan said crocodiles in Sarawak were also protected under the Wildlife Protection Ordinance (WPO 1998) and under the international provisions of CITES.
“Crocodile management issues have been raised because of conflicts between men and crocodiles due to the competition for food resources and habitat as the population of both are growing.
“Hunting and culling of the fierce predators are allowed when they are believed to threaten the peace and property, in respect to the regulations under Section 41, 42 and 42A of WPO 1998,” he said.
He however said the offenders or families of victims must immediately report to the Forest Deparment if they had killed the reptiles.
As measures to protect crocodiles to ensure their sustainability, he said the (forest) department would enhance the Crocodile Free Zone along Kuching Waterfront, Pasir Panjang and Pasir Pandak, besides expanding to other upstream regions with high population of crocodiles.
“And, considering the suitability of the area and its status as the only Ramsar Site in Sarawak, the Forest Department will make Kuching Wetland National Park a sustainable crocodile sanctuary.
“We will also continue to strengthen the work of culling especially in areas or rivers that have high population of crocodiles in order to create a more comfortable living environment, sufficient materials and food resources,” he said.
The Forest Department, he continued, would also conduct more awareness campaigns related to crocodile management in a systematic manner.
“This is to instill a sense of belonging and public awareness of the crocodiles so that they would not trigger conflicts in the future,” he said.
Sapuan also said that breeding of crocodiles in farms registered with the department and under the provisions of CITES was a form of sustainable crocodile management, “to maintain and control the population of crocodiles at a desired level”.
“The sales of crocodile products can boost the state’s economy if there is demand. A sustainable crocodile management can also become a tourism product in Sarawak as is practiced in developed countries like Australia and the United States,” he added.