Compromising on wildlife crimes will lead to species extinction
The Sarawak Wild Life Protection Ordinance came into force in 1998 after much approval by the legislative assembly and was passed by the State Government into law. It was and is designed to prevent depletion of wildlife and if properly enforced, allows for wildlife to recover.
In recent months, the wildlife enforcement agencies have stepped up their efforts, turning the tables on those who choose to flout the laws approved by the legislators. There is much to be proud of in terms of actions of the enforcers as wildlife is a heritage of the State and one which all generations should enjoy.
Sarawak has lost two iconic species to overhunting – the Sumatran Rhinoceros and the Banteng (wild cattle) in the 1980s – and if wildlife crimes are not addressed, more species will go extinct in the coming years, said conservation non-governmental organisations (NGOs) Malaysian Nature Society Kuching Branch (MNS), Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and World Wide Fund for Nature Malaysia (WWF-Malaysia) in a joint statement today.
Laws are created for the betterment of societies’ future. Laws are not meant to be bent or compromised, for doing so would disrespect the wishes of society and its legislators who drafted, tabled, argued and voted for it, and consequently passed it into law. The enforcers meanwhile are tasked with the assignment of upholding the law as they are legislated to do so as well.
Enforcement agencies are right in that they must not be allowed to bend the law or any law, as this will set all sorts of cascading precedence of a slippery slope into a form of legal anarchy.
On a regional or international front, not implementing the law and thus hastening the decline of wildlife in the state also negatively affects Sarawak’s green image for tourism which the State is positively trying to cultivate.
In response to a quote by Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri James Datuk Amar Dr James Jemut Masing who called on enforcement personnel not to be too strict with wildlife traders in Kapit on 13 November, MNS, WCS and WWF-Malaysia said the recent enforcement efforts in different parts of the State should instead be applauded and personnel should be further encouraged to continue and carry out their roles effectively and efficiently.
The three organisations also commented that apart from the enforcement authorities who had shown strong commitment in carrying enforcement activities, the media themselves are excellent allies as they have carried the reports and increased publicity on wildlife enforcement activities. Such reporting improves conservation awareness and reminds the public that Sarawak has a law that prohibits the sale of wildlife – dead or alive, and wildlife parts.
Beyond the concerted efforts by Sarawak Forestry Corporation and Forest Department Sarawak, the three organisations are also heartened to see the collaborations given by other agencies in combating wildlife crimes. Among the more notable ones were the joint efforts by the Royal Malaysian Customs Department, Police, General Operation Force, Immigration Department and even Interpol.
It is also noteworthy that Second Urban Development and Natural Resources Minister Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan recently told the State Legislative Assembly that the authorities had taken stern actions to halt wildlife crimes and illegal logging. This year, a total of 50.2kg of wildlife meat, 634 live animals, 1,116 turtle eggs, 2,233 wildlife parts, 477 protected plants and 21.8kg agarwood were seized.
Furthermore, a State Task Force on Illegal Logging has been established to detect illegal logging activities. The Minister urged everyone to cooperate by providing information to tackle this problem. Based on these successes, the State should continue to intensify its efforts and not slow them down by being less strict or flexible in any way.
Even though the Ordinance came into force over 20 years ago, illegal wildlife trade is on the rise due to lack of resources in implementing the law and uncertainty over the roles of various agencies tasked with enforcing it.
As there is now clarity over who should enforce wildlife laws, and a future that promises to be better for wildlife, the three organisations will continue to carry out awareness programmes to highlight the severity of declining wildlife populations in Sarawak.
Therefore, we also call upon the public to come on board to give their support by not buying, consuming and harming wildlife, and to help be the eyes and ears of the authorities.