Remembering Sheena

Stop Animal Abuse in Malaysia.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Protect Wildlife Or Face Tourists 'Extinction'

How sad that even though Natural Resources and Environment Minister has been given the boot, the damage done under his leadership to the country's wildlife and nature is extreme.

Apr 21, 08 1:44pm MALAYSIA KINI

About 21 million tourists visited Malaysia last year, bringing with them RM45 billion, but unless we protect our wildlife, the country will soon see the number of tourists dwindling.

When faced with a choice between countries like India and Sri Lanka where wildlife is still abundant and Malaysia where its wildlife has been on the receiving end of “an intense and prolonged onslaught”, tourists would choose the former.

“As a result, it is increasingly difficult to see wildlife in Malaysian forests, and this is undoubtedly beginning to affect the tourist industry,” said Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) Gary Phong, who is the organisation’s Selangor branch chairperson.

“Many foreign tourists express disappointment when questioned about their experience in Malaysia's forests and compare the country unfavourably with places like India and Sri Lanka, where wildlife is still plentiful despite dense human populations,” he said in a statement.

Due to the onslaught on wildlife to feed the trade in exotic pets, the supply of medicinal products and local restaurants providing exotic meat, Malaysia’s protected areas are now almost devoid of wildlife, said MNS.

Among the disappearing wildlife in Sarawak are the rhinoceros hornbill, seven out of eight other hornbill species, Bornean gibbons, two species of leaf monkey, two species of flying squirrel, sunbears, a civet, a cat, an otter, and at least five species of hawk.

Meanwhile, in Peninsular Malaysia, both the Sumatran rhinoceros and the tiger are facing extinction.

Failure to enforce laws

The wildlife trade monitoring network Traffic says that the illegal wildlife trade is getting larger and more organised and is pushing many of Southeast Asia's species closer to the brink of extinction, said Phong.

“At the heart of the problem is a failure to enforce wildlife protection laws. The laws are for the most part perfectly adequate, but enforcement agencies are under-staffed and under-resourced,” he lamented.

The society also said that the work of enforcement agencies such as the Department of Wildlife is often undermined by senior government officials and politicians.

“For example, when a local plantation owner, who also happened to be a property tycoon, blatantly encroached into Lambir Hills National Park, the Sarawak Forestry Corporation was asked to drop the ensuing case by a senior politician.

“When the Department of Wildlife has succeeded in bringing cases against restaurants for serving bush meat, the fines handed down by the judges were paltry, ranging from RM1,800 to RM5,000 despite maximum sentences of RM15,000 and five years in prison.

“Similarly, in 2005 poachers who killed a tiger in Kelantan were fined just RM7,000. Sentences like these clearly serve more as a deterrent to the enforcement agencies than the criminals,” said MNS.

The examples reflect a “malaise” among senior politicians, civil servants, and the legal profession that crimes against wildlife are “minor”, said MSN.

Whether the poachers are international syndicates trading in wildlife, a property tycoon with a pet sunbear, a restaurateur serving endangered meat, or even just a villager shooting a protected species, they are all criminals and should be treated as such, the society added.

“They are stealing our natural heritage and threatening the long-term survival of much of Malaysia's biodiversity.

“Failure to enhance enforcement will not only result in further declining wildlife populations and extinctions across much of the country, but will also erode Malaysia's international reputation and start to impact tourist revenues.”


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