One of the more recent cases where a female Banteng was shot by poachers in the vicinity of Maliau Basin last October 2017.
Photo: Danau Girang Field Centre

Malaysia: VIPs, managers among poachers
By Kan Yaw Chong, 1st December 2017;

The future of Sabah’s Banteng (Bos javanicus) or wild cattle has reached a “critical” situation, says Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) Deputy Director Peter Malin.

“Given an average of four gunned down per month in the State by poachers and Sabah has only an estimated 316 Banteng left, the only fitting words to describe it is we have a critical situation,” he said.

He was speaking at the two-day Bornean Banteng International Workshop and Conference here Thursday, representing SWD Director Augustine Tuuga, where all speakers from across Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia and Sabah reported a decline of the Banteng populations.

“Sabah is left with no other choice but do something to control and reduce the killings or else the fate of our Banteng will be heading towards the same as our Sumatran Rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatraensis),” said Indra Sunjoto, Deputy Director of the Sabah Forest Department, who spoke on “Challenges of managing Banteng in commercial forests in Sabah.”

All speakers, from Dr Benoit Goossens, Director of Danau Girang Field Centre, to Iman Sapari of Kalimantan, Naris Bhumpakphan of Thailand, Prum Sovana of Cambodia and veteran researcher Ramesh Boonratana, cited poaching as the main culprit behind the decline.

In the course of his research dating back to the past, Boonratana said he found VIPs were among the pack of hunters who were contributing to its possible extinction.

“This fact is hard to take because they are supposed to set an example,” Boonratana noted.

At a press conference, Guest of Honour and Chief Conservator of Forests Datuk Sam Mannan, who launched the workshop earlier, said among the poachers were “people of high ranking in the oil palm industry and managers of plantations.”

“It couldn’t have been anybody else because they have their typical planters’ uniforms – shorts and high socks,” he told reporters.

“You see how difficult and how hard it is, and how embarrassing it is like RSPO,” he added.

“We wrote to RSPO and advised them: You warn your people who are certified and people who are with you that this is happening,” said Mannan, who noted the deteriorating poaching menace even within protected forests has forced the Forestry Department to take a direct role in prosecuting poachers caught in the act in a twin approach with the Wildlife Department to catch and put illegal hunters behind bars.

“We will start first where it will make a difference,” Mannan said

Asked what that meant, he said: “We will go where it all started first – Lahad Datu, Tabin, some parts of Kalabakan, south of Maliau, then the highway in Sapulut down to Tawau, especially the point where you enter Maliau Basin and then smaller cases in the northern area usually done by kampung people and Sipitang, etc.”

On what will make the difference this time around, Mannan said the authorities have mooted the idea of a specialised team of rangers to look solely into wildlife protection aspects, including data and intelligence collection and surveillance analysing and prosecution.

“They will be armed and work on shifts. They don’t do anything but 24-hour surveillance. We will give them guns.

It’s not necessarily to shoot people, more for warnings, but if things get heated, they have to be able to protect themselves,” he said.

“In the past, the same people looked after illegal felling, do forest restoration, do anti-poaching and so on, they were not focused. It doesn’t work but now they are focused, say five people in one vehicle and they do nothing else except go after poachers,” he added.

Mannan said the idea is still at the proposed stage, but added that the elite rangers would be under the Wildlife Enforcement Unit if accepted.

“A better effect sought would be deterrence,” said Boonratana.

Dr Goossens said plans are afoot to vastly improve surveillance, detective, software and hardware to analyse camera trap pictures and information gathered which will be able to pinpoint the whereabouts accurately and send enforcement teams to go to places that are very likely to catch the poachers.

“There is now that willingness to do what it takes such as increase the protection with 50 more forestry rangers who are mobile and focused only on wildlife,” noted Dr Goossens.

“It is very critical that we have a surveillance intelligence gathering, we will provide the training because information gathered need to be analysed so that enforcement teams will be able to go to places that are very likely will catch the poachers. Otherwise, we are sending rangers running around wasting time for nothing,” Goossens said.

Goossens said he agreed urgent work must begin now to avert another disaster like what befell Sabah’s Sumatran Rhino.

“Basically we have increased some of the populations like those in Sipitang, Sugut, etc, which don’t have enough numbers to survive the long term and even if there is no poaching, they go down.

So we need to supplement those populations and a captive breeding programme would be a solution to provide those animals,” Goossens told the media.

“We don’t want to end up with a situation like that of the Rhino where in 20 years we realise we have only 10 individuals left and only then suddenly do a captive program too late,” he explained.

“So with the Banteng, we want to start now and that’s going to be something we want to discuss in the workshop Friday (Nov 31) exactly what is the best way to do it and then together with the support of the Forestry Department, start a programme as soon as possible.”

Source: Daily Express

Malaysia: Poachers turning to Sabah for ivory?
1st January 2017;

Killing Elephants for their ivory is unheard of in Sabah who have previously been poisoned to death for being a “nuisance” in plantations or ended up dead after being stuck in a quarry pit at the most.

However, the grim discovery of a decapitated bull Pygmy Elephant (Elephas maximus borneensis) in the vicinity of the Ulu Segama Forest reserve may be an indication that the world crackdown on the ivory trade lately is making poachers try their luck in Sabah.

It was learnt that a single shotgun was fired at a male jumbo at an oil palm plantation boundary next to the Ulu Segama Forest Reserve. Its trunk was chopped off, its head hacked and tusks had disappeared without a trace.

The latest killing field was a plantation road next the collapsed bridge of the Segama River, said Conservator of Forest, Datuk Sam Mannan.

“We got to know this through a tip off from the plantation owners.

"No question that this was the job of a professional hunter who came up most probably from the Segama River and executed a quick kill and quick get away by boat,” Mannan said, quoting the opinion of Sabah Wildlife Department personnel.

The Sabah Pygmy Elephant may have become another statistic in the estimated 35,000 elephants killed worldwide each year for their tusks which can weigh a maximum 250 pounds at a market price of US$1,500 per pound, raising more questions on how to stop the jumbo killing rampage fuelled by a highly lucrative illegal wildlife trade.

Many nations like Kenya have seized tonnes of ivory and destroyed them in bonfires and places like Hong Kong continue to intercept shipments of ivory.

Containers have also been intercepted in Port Klang with ivory inside.

A post mortem by the Sabah Wildlife Department confirmed the cause of death in the latest case came from a single Shotgun shot, leaving behind an empty fixed shell from which probably a burst of spherical pellets were fired.

Whether the culprit can be tracked down would depend on factors but the Sabah Wildlife Department is investigating.

However, on the basis of many other cases of high profile jumbo killings, it is doubtful that the investigation would be able to identify the killer or killers. Only the input of the Sabah Forestry Department may make a breakthrough possible.

Maps of Ulu Segama Forest Reserve shows there are teeth-like excised titled lands along the Segama River inside the Forest but the killing occurred within the oil palm plantation near the edge of the Forest Reserve, Mannan said.

Source: Daily Express

Malaysia: 7 jumbos die in mud pool
15th September 2016;

Seven Pygmy Elephants (Elephas maximus borneensis) died after being stuck inside an abandoned quarry pit for over a week near a timber camp in Rinukut, Tawau.

The seven Elephants were part of a herd of nine, which could not come out of the nine to eleven foot deep mud pool.

Wildlife rangers were only able to rescue two of the Elephants as five were already dead when they arrived and two others had to be put down.

Sabah Wildlife Department Director Augustine Tuuga said they received a report from an individual passing the route on Sept. 10 on nine Elephants being unable to get out of a deep mud pool near Berkat Saga Timber Camp, there.

“Unfortunately when our team managed to reach the location, five (2 adult, 1 juvenile and 2 newborn) of the nine trapped Elephants were already dead.

With the use of heavy machinery from the timber camp, two of the stronger adult Elephants were pulled out to safety, and instantly, ran back into the forest,” he said.

Tuuga pointed out two others had to be euthanised as they were too weak, dehydrated and blind.

Elephants are listed under Part 1 of protected animals under the Sabah Wildlife Conservation Enactment.

It could not be ascertained as who or what created the mud pool in the area but Tuuga has ruled out foul play after investigating and reviewing the post-mortem reports.

“The Elephants probably went in the mud pool to cool themselves and bathe.

"Unfortunately they probably underestimated the depth and thickness of the mud which could have caused them to become trapped inside the pit,” said Tuuga.

He advised that excavation sites should be filled or fenced up to prevent any recurrence, especially in area frequented by Elephants.

State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun said the deaths of the Elephants in yet another case was a huge loss to the Pygmy Elephant population in Sabah that was already facing a tough time to survive.

“While the cause of death this time around is accidental, I hope that there are valuable lessons that we can learn from this incident.

"We need to minimise lurking danger within the area and environment where they normally move … they are our assets that help generate tourism revenue for Sabah,” he said.

Masidi said individuals and companies should take upon themselves the duty and responsibility to protect the iconic animal and contact the Wildlife Department whenever they see situations that could potentially endanger elephants.

Under Section 37 of the Sabah Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997 any person who does any act with such recklessness that causes injury or death of an animal could face a fine of RM20,000 or two years jail.

A few years ago, several Elephants were found dead in Lahad Datu from suspected poisioning.

Source: Daily Express

Malaysia: Mabul sharks likely not from our waters
20th July 2016;

ictures on the killing of several Sharks that went viral on Tuesday were taken about a week ago, according to Semporna District Officer Dr Chacho Bulah.

He said it was usual for fishermen to rip the flesh of the fish to make “siagol”, a local delicacy using Shark meat as base, mixed with pepper and tumeric.

“However Sharks are not the main target for fishing activities in the area. They are a bycatch along with commercial species,” he said. Dr Chacho denied there had been any Shark finning activities in the area, pointing out the marine life were landed in Mabul with body still intact, only to be gutted and chopped up on the island.

Dr Chacho also confirmed that Mabul is a fish landing area.

According to seasoned divers in the area Mabul barely had any Shark population over the last 50 years.

Scubajeff divemaster Nazmi Razali said Mabul is not a main habitat for Sharks so one would be lucky to spot the species when diving.

“We in Mabul are aware that the Sharks were not captured in Malaysian waters.” But many of those who have visited the area confirmed the presence of a “slaughter house” for Sharks on the island for years.

Pat Lingam who posted photos of the Sharks on Facebook said many of these fishes were caught by the local fishermen and brought to the village to be gutted and chopped up.

“Mabul is just a base where they cut up the Sharks and sell them. The fish are caught from waters in neighbouring countries like Indonesia and sold to visitors, mostly visiting China nationals in Sabah,” said Pat revealing that the photos were taken Monday afternoon.

Fisheries Department Director Dr Ahemad Sade also verified the photos were indeed taken on Mabul but denied allegations there had been any Shark finning activities on the island.

Instead, he said all the Sharks are caught and brought back one piece before being chopped up at Mabul island which is the base for fish landing. Dr Ahemad said the fish are then put into baskets before being sent to Semporna.

“The Sharks brought to the island are cleaned and soaked for a while before the cutting process begins.

"Fishermen on the island use sea water instead of fresh water to clean the fish due to the lack of fresh water.

"The cutting can only be done during high tide,” he said.

“There had been no cases of protected fish being landed on Mabul.” There are 67 licensed fishermen on the island and they use hooks and long-lines to fish. Sharks are not the main catch but instead a bycatch along with other commercial fish caught unintentionally, he said.

Dr Ahemad also said from February 25 2014, the department had prohibited Shark fishing and finning on local fishing vessels and their bodies being thrown into the sea as additional requirements for licences.

Source: Daily Express

Malaysia: Cause of dead fishes to be known within month

19th February 2016;

The discovery of dead fish in the Papar River at Kg Kuala, Papar since Monday (Feb 15) is most likely due to poisoning, said incoming Sabah Fishery Department Director Dr Ahemad Sade.

Nonetheless, he said the department would disclose the actual cause as soon as results of post mortem and analysis of samples taken from the affected river are completed. The results could be made known within a month.

“Looking at the overall situation in regard to the dead fishes, they were of different sizes as well as the prawns mentioned in the discovery.

"I believe poisoning is the most probable cause in this incident because poison would just kill the marine species regardless of their size.

According to Dr Ahemad, the department received a report of a similar incident that happened at the Papar River near the fish market at the township at about 10am on Feb. 8.

He said samples of the fishes and water from the river at the affected area have been collected and sent to the Likas Fishery Research Centre to be analysed.

He said this to Daily Express when contacted, Thursday. On whether red tide could be another possible factor, he said the occasional natural phenomenon in the state may not be possible as population of plankton algae (dinoflagellates – Cochlodinium polykrikoides populations) at Papar is not high based on the department’s monitoring system.

This plankton caused another type of red tide when it undergoes population explosion and would deplete oxygen in the sea water that kills fish via suffocation.

"If this plankton was found growing in large numbers, then it would be very harmful to the fish but as of now, its number has not reached worrying level in Papar.

"Another reason is because I see the affected river in Kg Kuala has brackish water that would not be a preferred habitat for these dinoflagellates as they can be found naturally living in sea water.”

Whenever there is such an incident, Dr Ahemad said a task force comprising Sabah Fishery Department, Department of Environment (DOE) and Health Department would direct its respective officers to the exact location to collect samples from the affected river.

“Our officers from the department’s Fishery Research Centre in Likas have been directed to collect some fish samples while the DOE will take water samples from the river.

In the meantime, Dr Ahemad concurred with Pantai Manis Assemblyman Datuk Seri Abdul Rahim Ismail that Papar folks should not consume freshwater fish and few types of saltwater fish.

Among the types are Mullet (F. Mugilidae), Silver Catfish (Shark Catfish) (F. Pangasiidae), Catfish (Eeltail Catfish) (F. Plotosidae), red snapper (Lutjanus spp.) and Sea Bass (Barramundi) (Lates calcarifer).

DOE Sabah Director Datin Hanili binti Ghazali told Daily Express that the jurisdiction of the department was solely on the water quality at the affected river at Kg Kuala Papar.

"If analysis results of the samples show content of chemical pollutant from an industry, we can take action based on our provisions and Act where an industry found exceeding the standard that has been set, will face the law.

For example, Hanili said scores of fish found floating on the surface of a monsoon drain filled with water in Kolombong, last year, was actually caused by red tide and the fishes were already dead at sea.

She said the dead fishes actually flowed from the sea into a certain river, during high tide, that later ended up on the surface of the monsoon drain.

"If the actual cause of the dead fishes occurred because of natural phenomenon, then it would be a different matter,” she said.

Source: Daily Express

Malaysia: Cause of dead fishes to be known within month

Malaysia: Fish poisoning in Papar
18th February 2016;

Local residents here have been strongly advised to be wary of freshwater and one or two types of saltwater fish that may be on sale at the township’s wet market here following the discovery of scores of dead fish and prawns in the Papar River at Kg Kuala on Monday.

Pantai Manis Assemblyman Datuk Seri Abdul Rahim Ismail (pic) said among the types they must be extra cautious are Mullet (ikan kembura) (F. Mugilidae), Silver Catfish (ikan patin) (Shark Catfish) (F. Pangasiidae), Catfish (ikan sembilang) (Eeltail Catfish) (F. Plotosidae), Red Snapper (ikan merah) (Lutjanus spp.) and Sea Bass (ikan selungsung) (Barramundi) (Lates calcarifer).

He feared they could be sold to public at the wet market by irresponsible people who may have poisoned the river for personal gain without any regard for the negative impact to the socio-economy of the people and natural environment.

“I was surprised when the villagers of Kg Kuala, including the traditional fishermen, told me that dead fish were found in the river and riverbanks including some prawns on Monday (Feb 15).

"I have long been the elected representative here and this is a first such incident ever in the village,” he said.

Rahim who is also Umno Papar Divisional Chief said poison was suspected to have been used to catch fish in the river.

“I really hope that the relevant authorities will thoroughly investigate the cause and take immediate action.

I am also calling on the authorities to do a regular inspection at the wet market and check whether any of those affected fishes are being sold there.

"If there are any, confiscate them and find out the source of the sellers so that action can be taken against the culprit/s,” he said.

Meanwhile, Village Development and Security Committee (JKKK) Chairman for Kg Kuala here, Saibun bin Mudin told Daily Express the incident has directly affected the income of traditional fishermen and avid anglers in the village.

“The exact location is at the river mouth of Sungai Papar between 250 and 300 metres from the Kg Kuala housing.

Some villagers and fishermen were surprised and puzzled seeing many dead fish, especially medium and large-sized ones floating at the riverbank and surface of the river on Monday afternoon.

"The most disappointing part is that the daily income of traditional fishermen will be affected for about two to three months as they cannot catch fish at the river which they suspect has been poisoned,” he said, adding that the income of each traditional fisherman is between RM80 and RM120 per day.

Saibun said the river mouth at Kg Kuala along Sungai Papar has been a good source of freshwater and several types of saltwater fish as the seawater flows into the area. He recalled a similar incident in Kg Sapat a few months ago.

“The fishermen suspect that the culprits used a strong poison because even the catfish that live inside the riverbed were also killed. The classic way of poisoning the fish which is called ‘menuba ikan’ would not even kill the medium and big sized fishes as the poison would only leave them in a daze,” he said.

Source: Daily Express

Malaysia: No end to the killings

20th January 2016;

There seem to be no end to Turtle massacres in Sabah with another six found dead in Semporna, last Friday – all tied up with nylon ropes and badly decomposed – floating between Laut Silapag and Laut Sanggaban within the Priority Conservation Area.

A concerned individual who posted the pictures in Facebook urged all friends to share it and to draw the attention of the Sabah Wildlife Department, demanding that the culprit be found and jailed, bearing in mind similar massacres near Pom Pom island on 16 April 2014 and 9 August 2014.

In that double tragedy as well as the poisoning of Pygmy Elephants (Elephas maximus borneensis) on several occasions, the culprits got away scot free.

Turtle expert Dr Juanita Joseph of the University of Malaysia Trengganu said they were most likely Green Sea Turtles (Chelonia mydas) – a Totally Protected Species, after looking at the pictures. UMS lecturer Dr James Alin alerted Daily Express.

Anyone convicted of killing a Totally Protected Species goes straight to jail without option for fines, under Schedule 1 of the Sabah Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997.

That they were tied up suggests one person or a group killed and tied them up for easy towing away without being noticed.

Suspicion usually falls on the Sea Gypsies (Palaus) – illegals who poached, dug meat out to take home to the Philippines, then tied and discarded the shells.

But Dr James dismissed this since the Palau have no means to refrigerate meat for an extended home trip. Besides, most Sea Gypsies take shelter within the Tun Sakaran Dandai Marine Park.

A more likely possibility are traditional fishermen who cast drift nets in shallow waters where the Turtles may have come to feed on sea grass and got caught.

Some of the turtles had broken carapaces, which suggest someone may have deliberately beaten them to death for attacking farmed seaweeds, pointing out there is no sign that the perpetrators had gone for the meat, nor the shells, although the carcasses were found quite a distance away from the seaweed farming area – Kerindingan Island.

Or they could be part of a big catch in seine nets of a commercial fishing boat that may have crushed and broken the carapaces under its heavy weight. But why tie them up rather than just dump the dead Turtles back to sea?

We don’t know for sure but these are possibilities, based on experience in the Philippines,“ Dr James said.

As to whether the culprits would be caught, brought to justice and jailed? Probably not because this is Sabah where wildlife offences keep recurring without anyone being caught.

"No one was arrested when dead Turtles were found floating near Si Ambil Island on 9 August 2014,” Dr James noted.

In all three cases, the fuming public vented their anger in the social media rather than report them to the Department, Dr James noted.

“We also discovered a killing field of some 50 or more Turtles in Pulau Tiga in early 2014 but no one was arrested and jailed,” he said.

“Both print media and an online news portal published a report on the four Turtles killed on 16 April 2014, entitled "Another Merciless Killing of Sea Turtles in Sabah”

The usual suspects ranged from seaweed farmers some of whom were aggravated by pests; artisan fishermen who landed Turtles in drift nets as by-catch and opportunistic poaching from commercial fishing vessels, Dr James recalled.

“A week later, the Seaweed Farmers Association Semporna clarified that the association’s members never harmed, what more killed Turtles even if Turtles are annoying pests.”

But the association did acknowledge that Sea Turtles caused devastation to seaweed farms, so did diseases, Rabbitfish (Siganus spp.) and bad weather.

“WWF-Malaysia had said its Kudat team was working closely with SWD to investigate allegations that seaweed farmers are killing Turtles and the Sabah Tourism Minister said: "We will wait for the conclusion of the investigation first,” Dr James said his email.

Source: Daily Express

Malaysia: No end to the killings