Malaysia: Make our roads safe for wildlife too

By M. Veera Pandiyan, 10th January 2018;

It’s a frantic fight for survival and they are losing badly. They are killed by illegal hunting in the forests, and at the fringes, they face the wrath of farmers or planters.

As if that’s not tragic enough, Malaysia’s endangered wildlife species are now also ending up as roadkill.

On Christmas Eve, a Sun Bear (Helarctos malayanus) died after being knocked down by a motorcyclist on the East Coast Expressway 2 (LPT2) near Kuala Dungun.

Earlier the same day, a Tapir (Tapirus indicus) was hit by a car on the Gua Musang-Kuala Krai trunk road. Appallingly, a group of men who found the carcass skinned and mutilated it.

Two days earlier, another Tapir died after being struck by a car along the Seremban-Kuala Pilah road.

According to Deputy Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Dr Hamim Samuri, 2,130 animals, mostly endangered species, have been killed in road accidents over the past five years.

Tapirs were at the top of the roadkill list last year, but the slaughter also included Elephants (Elephas maximus), Sun Bears, Tigers (Panthera tigris), Binturong (Arctictis binturong), Leopard Cats (Prionailurus bengalensis), and the Sumatran Serow (Capricornis sumatraensis).

Based on the files of the Department of Wildlife and Parks (Perhilitan), most of the deaths have been recorded on 61 road and highway networks in the peninsula.

Five routes are the deadliest for these poor creatures – the Kuala Lipis-Gua Musang road, the Kulai-Kota Tinggi stretch, the Gua Musang-Kuala Krai highway, LPT2 and the Taiping-Selama trunk road.

There are fears that the East Klang Valley Expressway (EKVE), which will cut through 106ha of degazetted Ampang forest reserve, will imperil the movement of wildlife, especially foraging mammals.

Already there have been sightings of the Sumatran Serow near Ukay Perdana, indicating that construction of the new highway has disturbed the habitat of this rare species.

Wildlife conservationists are worried that the construction of the Malaysia-Singapore High-Speed Rail project and the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) will similarly impact endangered animals.

What can be done to prevent the accidents and needless deaths of threatened species?

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar has proposed a meeting involving several ministries, the Public Works Department, the Road Transport Department and the police to discuss the issue.

According to a report in a local daily, he said drivers who disregarded wildlife crossing signs should be fined heavily, adding that there were 236 signboards and 113 hotspots.

But then, who in the right mind would want to collide with any animal on the road?

Accidents involving wildlife not only threaten endangered species but also jeopardise drivers and passengers in the vehicles.

Instead of just more signs, a more effective animal detection system is needed to prevent such collisions.

Perhaps the minister and his officials should consider what a Brazilian biologist and two of her friends have created to prevent wildlife-vehicle crashes.

Fernanda Delborgo Abra set up ViaFauna, an electronic animal detection system for roads and highways, with two partners – Mariane Rodrigues Biz Silva and Paula Ribeiro Prist.

The system, powered by solar panels, was developed with support from the São Paulo Research Foundation.

It comprises a pair of motion sensors (transmitter and receiver) fixed on short poles just like those used for speed traps and installed 100m apart. Each pair of sensors covers a road kill hotspot.

The transmitter sends the receiver a beam of infrared light invisible to humans and other vertebrates.

When the beam is interrupted by an animal, the sensor transmits a signal to the pole, which in turn conveys the information via radio, activating an electronic message panel or a revolving beacon on top of an animal crossing sign.

The system, which has reportedly reduced the number of collisions by 90%, warns drivers hundreds of metres or even a kilometre ahead of an actual animal crossing, giving them time to take precautions.

It is more effective than a mere sign warning that wildlife may cross the road.

ViaFauna’s system targets wild and domestic animals over 3kg because of their detectability and impact on road safety and shows how many creatures cross the road successfully, contributing to studies of animal movement dynamics.

Let’s hope that a comparable system can be implemented in Malaysia.

The bigger problem, of course, is the flourishing illegal wildlife trade, which is driving many species towards extinction along with the widespread perception that Malaysia is a major hub for illegal trafficking of animal parts, especially ivory.

On Aug 29 last year, the Sabah Customs Department seized three tonnes of Elephant (African Elephant) (Loxodonta sp.) tusks and five tons of Pangolin (African Pangolin) (Phataginus or Smutsia sp.) scales at the Sepanggar Port. The China-bound shipments were traced to Nigeria.

The department seized eight tonnes of Pangolin scales at the same port, exactly a month earlier.

At about the same time in the peninsula, Perhilitan found 2,000 reptiles and dozens of wildlife parts in separate operations conducted in Kelantan and Perak.

Enforcement officers arrested a Vietnamese man with more than 200 parts of protected species, comprising Sun Bear claws and teeth, Tiger claws and teeth and Sambar Deer (Rusa unicolor) horn, among other things.

According to WWF-Malaysia’s executive director and CEO Datuk Dr Dionysius Sharma, poaching and wildlife trafficking are threatening the survival of many distinctive species in Malaysia, including the critically endangered Malayan Tiger.

The battle between poachers and conservationists continues daily, even in the Belum-Temenggor Forest Complex, a key tiger conservation priority site.

Source: The Star

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

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: Investigation ongoing into last week’s slaughter of Bornean Banteng
By Olivia Miwil, 1st December 2017;

The Sabah Wildlife Department has carried out an investigation into the shocking killing last week of three endangered Bornean Banteng (Bos javanicus.

Its director Augustine Tuuga said the investigation team went to the ground to collect evidence on the case.

On Thursday, the Sabah Forestry Department disclosed that a plantation manager may be the culprit behind the poaching of one of the animals in October.

The manager was identified in a seized photograph in which he is seen posing with a Banteng carcass.

The three killings occurred in the Maliau basin, Sipitang and the Tabin conservation and forest reserve areas.

“The Maliau basin is a restricted area and not anyone can go there.

"It could (also) be that some villagers had gone into the forest… but there is no evidence of poaching or meat when we conducted checks at their houses,” he said when contacted.

So far this year, four Banteng have been killed. It is estimated that around 12 Banteng are slaughtered every year.

To date, no Banteng poacher has been prosecuted due to lack of evidence, Augustine said.

The Banteng is a “totally protected species” and there are fewer than 400 left in Sabah.

Source: New Straits Times

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: Estate Manager in Lahad Datu chief suspect in Sabah poaching incident
1st December 2017;

A senior manager of a plantation company based in Lahad Datu is believed to be key suspect of a poaching syndicate operating in the east coast of Sabah.

The man’s latest conquest was the killing of a Banteng (Bos javanicus) in the protected Tabin Wildlife Reserve in Lahad Datu last month, and his dastardly act also proved to be his undoing as he has since been transferred out to Sarawak.

That is not all, as the authorities are looking at legal action against the culprit, said to be from a certain ethnic group that most would not expect to be involved in poaching.

Sam Mannan, the Chief Conservator of Forests, Sabah, said he could not reveal more as the case was still under investigation.

“There will be a prosecution,” was all he said at the Bornean Banteng International Workshop and Conference held here on Thursday.

Mannan did not mince his words when he rebuked the actions of poachers and said it was an “embarrassment” to the people with the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).

“We had warned them that this was happening. The people in peninsular Malaysia like beef, and there is an emerging market of exotic meat; therefore, these Banteng meat and payau (Sambar) (Rusa unicolor) or local deer, are in demand,” he said.

The poaching of the endangered and totally protected species of wild cattle, also known as as tembadau locally, was ironically carried out during the recent Heart of Borneo (HoB) conference.

It was one of three Banteng poaching cases that were recorded over three days in three different areas – the other two being the Maliau Basin and Sipitang Forest Reserve.

All three cases are unrelated.

According to Mannan, the suspect was identified through photographs with a carcass of the Banteng that he downed with a high powered rifle at Tabin.

“We have focused in on one person, but this one person could lead us to so much more information,” he said, adding the hunters were not local villagers but outsiders who either killed for sport or trade.

According to Mannan, the rising demand for Banteng meat in Peninsular Malaysia is one reason for the high incidence of poaching the Banteng.

He said the initial investigation has led them to believe that the meat was not meant for own consumption but to meet demand for exotic meat in Peninsular Malaysia.

Earlier, Benoit Goossens, the Danau Girang field centre director told the conference there were three Banteng poaching incidents at the three different protected areas here were carried out by poachers carrying sophisticated guns and were wearing proper gear.

He said since an estimated 70 per cent of poaching went unrecorded, this meant that as many as a dozen Banteng may be killed each year.

“With only a population of fewer than 400, this (12) is a massive number. Many herds live in small pockets of isolation and they cannot afford to lose a single individual.

"At that rate of poaching, the species will not survive another 20 years and we will lose it like we lost our Sumatran Rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatraensis,” he said.

The Banteng is the second most endangered animal in Sabah after the Rhinos and the Wildlife Department has classified it as a totally protected animal.

Source: Borneo Today

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: Plantation manager behind one of Banteng shootings, says Sabah Forestry Department
By Kristy Inus, 30th November 2017;

Sabah Forestry Department has identified a plantation manager as a suspect behind the killing of one of the three Bornean Banteng (Bos javanicus last month.

Its chief forest conservator Datuk Sam Mannan in revealing this today said the man was also believed to be involved in the selling of the meat for the Peninsular Malaysia market.

He said with an estimate of less than 400 Bantengs left in Sabah, the species, also known as Tembadau, is the most endangered large mammal in this state and currently listed under the Totally Protected Species.

Authorities had recently revealed that the three killings in October happened at Maliau, Sipitang and Tabin conservation or forest reserve areas. It was learnt that the plantation manager has been identified in one of the photographs seized, where he posed with a Banteng carcass.

“It is no longer a suspicion because we have nabbed the individual… There will be a prosecution later… So this is still under investigation and we believe the person can provide more information,

"We expect more (individuals) from within this (oil palm) industry,” said Sam, after opening the Bornean Banteng international workshop to discuss the conservation of the species.

He described their actions as an “embarrassment” to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) initiative.

Sam added that the department was also looking for a foreigner, who acted as a ‘scout’ for the poachers.

Meanwhile, Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC) research and training facility director Dr Benoit Goossens said to shoot a Banteng, one would require a sophisticated firearm with special bullets.

He said this year, four Banteng killings have been identified, but cases were estimated to average around 12 annually including those that went unreported.

“As for transporting or sending it to the Peninsular market, it was easy because the culprits can just put the Banteng meat in cooler boxes and authorities, thinking it to be buffalo meat will just let them through,” he explained.

As for the setting up of a dedicated wildlife enforcement team to face poachers as announced by the department previously, Benoit said a crime analyst would beneficial for the squad.

"Information gathered needed to be analysed, so the enforcement team can go to places they can likely catch the poachers,” he added.

Goossens said due to the limited population of Banteng in Sabah, a captive breeding programme is also being discussed in the workshop.

“We need to increase population for example at Sipitang or Sugut reserves areas where there are not enough individuals to survive there even without poaching.

"We need to start the captive breeding programme from now and the target is not to lose anymore numbers… or else the species will suffer the same fate like the Sumatran Rhinos (Dicerorhinus sumatraensis) 20 years down the road.” he stressed.

Source: New Straits Times

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: Plantation manager in Sabah unmasked as poacher
30th November 2017;

A senior plantation manager has been identified as a suspect behind one of three Banteng (Bos javanicus) killings last month, and of selling the meat for consumption in peninsular Malaysia.

Sabah Forestry Department director Datuk Sam Mannan said that the suspect was identified through photographs with a carcass of the wild cattle that is known locally as tembadau, an endangered and totally protected species in Sabah.

“We have identified more suspects within this industry. It cannot be anyone else, they belong to a certain ethnic group that we would not expect to be involved in this kind of hunting,” he said.

“We have focused in on one person, but this one person could lead us to so much more information. We will know soon, there will be a prosecution, he said.

Mannan said he could not reveal more as the case was still under investigation.

However, he rebuked the actions of poachers and said it was an "embarrassment” to the people with the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).

“We had warned them that this was happening. The people in peninsular Malaysia like beef, and there is an emerging market of exotic meat; therefore, these Banteng meat and payau (Sambar) (Rusa unicolor) or local deer, are in demand,” he said.

He was speaking at the Bornean Banteng International Workshop and Conference.

Mannan said they knew the hunters were not villagers who did so as part of their local customs, but outsiders who either killed for sport or trade. He also did not know if the guns used were licensed and registered.

Earlier, Danau Girang field centre director Benoit Goossens told the conference there were three Banteng poaching incidents in three different protected areas here — Maliau Basin, Sipitang forest reserve and Tabin Wildlife reserve — in just three days.

"They were carrying sophisticated guns and were wearing proper gear, so you know they are city people,” he said.

He said since an estimated 70 per cent of poaching went unrecorded, this meant that as many as a dozen Banteng may be killed each year.

“With only a population of fewer than 400, this (12) is a massive number. Many herds live in small pockets of isolation and they cannot afford to lose a single individual.

"At that rate of poaching, the species will not survive another 20 years and we will lose it like we lost our Sumatran Rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatraensis),” he said.

Source: Malay Mail

Thailand: Source links state officials to Gaur killings
Plans mooted to move herd to another area
14th November 2017;

State officials may have been complicit in the poaching of two Gaurs (Bos gaurus) found dead in a forest in Wang Nam Khieo district of Nakhon Ratchasima at the weekend, according to a police source.

The source said district police were collecting evidence and questioning witnesses for clues in order identify the poachers responsible for the killing of the two Gaurs.

Police believe a group of hunters may have killed the animals, as one was found stripped of its meat with its head missing, on the order of black market traders in wild meats and organs.

The source said government officials may be involved in the illegal trade of Gaur meat and involved in the killing of the two animals.

About 300 Gaurs are believed to be roaming the 5,000-rai forest in the protected zone of the Khao Phang Ma mountain where the two Gaurs were found dead.

On Nov 8, another Gaur was shot dead in the middle of a tapioca farm near Wat Pa Wang Sai, also in Wang Nam Khieo district, leading to the arrest of a tapioca farmer, who allegedly shot and killed the animal when it raided the farm in search of food.

According to officials, the two mature Gaurs appeared to have been shot by poachers, and one of them, a female, was stripped of its meat and innards and its head was missing.

Their carcasses were found by residents near the foot of the Khao Phang Ma mountain. The body of the second, a male Gaur, was left untouched.

The female bovine weighed more than 500 kilogrammes and the bull more than a tonne, according to officials.

On Monday, a forensic test showed the bull, about 10 years old, sustained a single fatal shot through its lungs, which exited through its back.

Experts from the Khao Yai National Park said the male Gaur, after having been shot, had tried to run away before it collapsed and died. It had been dead for at least seven days before its body was discovered along with the female Gaur on Saturday.

Nakhon Ratchasima governor Wichian Chantharanothai chaired an urgent meeting Monday with national park and wildlife sanctuary officials. Authorities are now working on immediate measures to stop the poaching of wild animals in national forests.

Emerging from the meeting, Mr Wichian said in the past the wild animals had sometimes been shot by farmers after straying onto their land and causing damage.

One solution suggested at the meeting was relocating the 300 Gaurs from Khao Phang Ma and moving them eight kilometres to the nearby Phu Luang forest which borders the Pak Chong and Pak Thong Chai districts.

Source: Bangkok Post