Friday, May 7

‘Protecting Sarawak’s wildlife a niche tourism product’

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One of the two rescued macaques appears to enjoy the oranges given by Lee.

MIRI: Sarawakians should cooperate with the authorities by not buying, rearing or trapping protected and totally protected wild animals, to prevent them from being extinct.

Assistant Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Datuk Lee Kim Shin regards continuous and strong cooperation as being vital when it comes to protecting these animals from extinction and Sarawak’s tourism focus.

“Currently among our tourism targets include promoting nature tourism to tap its rich biodiversity, which is a niche tourism product especially to naturalists.

“However, if there are continuous negative reports on cruelty to animals and rampant hunting by the people in Sarawak, it would have adverse impact on our tourism industry. Needless to say, such cruelty could lead to the extinction of these wildlife and the offenders too are liable to face heavy penalties,” Lee stressed yesterday when asked for comments on the confiscation of two protected macaques on Friday, which were caged illegally at the backyard of a house in Taman Tunku here

On the prompt action taken by the Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC)’s Swift Wildlife Action Team (SWAT) in rescuing the two monkeys, Lee commended their action.

“Soon after I called SFC general manager Oswald Braken Tisen in Kuching, the SFC’s SWAT here sprang into action in rescuing the two macaques and brought them to the PNR (Piasau Nature Reserve) where they will be temporarily kept for health checks and treatment,” he said.

Lee said Braken told him that after the macaques were confirmed to be in good condition, they would be sent to and released at the Matang Wildlife Sanctuary in Kuching.

At the same time, Lee also called upon the Sarawak Forest Department and SFC to intensify their enforcement activities to book those contravening the Sarawak Wildlife Protection Ordinance (1998).

“Enforcement should be intensified and on-going, as on several occasions we read newspaper reports and also complaints from the public on the sales of these totally protected animals in the open markets, including in Miri,” said Lee, who is Senadin assemblyman.

Under the Sarawak Wildlife Protection Ordinance (1998), any person who hunts, kills, captures, sells, offers for sale or claims to be offering for sale, imports and exports, or is in possession of any totally protected animal (and protected animal) or any recognisable part or derivative or any nest thereof, shall be guilty of an offence.

For some totally protected animals such as the rhinoceros, the penalty is five years’ jail and a fine up to RM50,000, while for protected animals, the offender is liable to two years’ jail and a RM25,000 fine.

On his visit to the give Mandarin oranges to the two rescued macaques yesterday, Lee said it was also done in celebration of the Chinese New Year.

“The monkeys enjoyed the oranges that I gave them; (the oranges are meant) to wish them good luck and healthy life thereafter,” he said with a smile.