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SABAH FORESTRY DEPARTMENT AND YAYASAN SIME DARBY ON COMBATTING WILDLIFE POACHING AND TRAFFICKING IN SABAH


In line with the objective to protect and preserve the State’s biodiversity, the Sabah Forestry Department (SFD) is committed to enhance forest enforcement and laws, through increased surveillance and solidifying the enforcement capacities of relevant government agencies to combat forest and wildlife crimes. One of these efforts is the establishment of a special tactical enforcement team, namely the PROTECT Unit.

In 2016, the PROTECT Unit was established with the support of WWF-Malaysia. Under this programme, twenty-five (25) SFD officers and forest rangers undertook intensive paramilitary training and were exposed to difficult workplace environment and working conditions. The team had the capacity to counter and apprehend forest crime suspects with proper security measures, such as the proper usage of firearms and supporting surveillance equipment.

The increase of wildlife poaching incidences, especially within forest reserves and other Totally Protected Areas posed challenges to forests law enforcement. So as to combat wildlife poaching and trafficking in Sabah, SFD, with assistance from Danau Girang Field Centre Sdn. Bhd. (DGFCSB) received support from Yayasan Sime Darby (YSD).

In 2019, YSD had agreed to support the project, and subsequently, entered a sponsorship agreement with SFD and DGFCSB for the period of June 2019 to August 2021. The main objective of the project was to enhance SFD’s enforcement capacity in combatting wildlife poaching in Sabah by adding more boots on the ground. The amount of the sponsorship was RM4.0 million and it covered activities such as recruitment of additional rangers, procurement of logistics, purchasing field equipment and trainings.

The Chief Conservator of Forests, Datuk Frederick Kugan mentioned that the implementation of the project has strengthened SFD’s enforcement capacity. Clear evidence of the enhanced enforcement include: the recruitment of an additional 25 PROTECT Unit rangers and a crime analyst officer, procurement of 9 four-wheel drives and 5 boats, purchasing individual and team surveillance equipment, and, conducting regular training sessions for the rangers.

As result of PROTECT Unit deployment and operations from 2016 to date, there were 145 cases recorded, which comprised of 77 cases of forest offences (57%), 55 cases of wildlife offences (38%) and 13 cases of other offences (9%). The operations had arrested 53 suspects and confiscated exhibits, as follows: (1) 1,316 pieces of converted timber; (2) 900 mangrove poles; (3) 957 bundles of tangar bark; (4) 122 kg of gaharu; (5) 300 pieces of nibong; (6) 1,022 kg of mixed wildlife meat; (7) 4 pieces of elephant tusks; (8) 538 turtle eggs; (9) 60 pieces of bakakuk – home-made firearms; (10) 176 bullets; (11) 3 wooden barges; (12) 120 wooden canoes; (13) 11 units motorbike; (14) 10 units four-wheel drives; (15) 15 units of chainsaws; (16) 49 packs of methamphetamine; and (17) 1,226 cartons of illegal cigarettes.

“Under Yayasan Sime Darby’s Environment pillar, the highest total contribution amount has been to the State of Sabah; through the funding of various environment conservation projects that include forest rehabilitation, species conservation, as well as the development of the 3 State Action Plans for the proboscis monkey, banteng and clouded leopard. It is thus important to us to continue supporting these efforts through the funding for the PROTECT Team, to support the state’s anti-poaching efforts. We are grateful to the Danau Girang Field Centre, as they were instrumental in the establishment of the PROTECT Team by bringing YSD into the collaboration with Sabah Forestry Department. We also thank the Ministry of Finance for complementing this initiative by providing a matching grant of RM500,000. We are happy that the PROTECT Team initiative has also enabled local Sabahans to sustain their livelihood and build their skills and capacities, and we are proud to see their success in apprehending poachers and being the guardians of our precious forests,” said YSD Chief Executive Officer, Dr Hjh Yatela Zainal Abidin.

The PROTECT operations were not merely concentrated on inland forested area but was expanded to river and coastal hot spots. Sometimes, during the operations, the PROTECT Unit rangers experienced unprecedented cases, including violent actions by fully armed and aggressive offenders.

SFD has investigated and prosecuted cases relating to forest offences. Whereas cases related to wildlife offences were handed over to the Sabah Wildlife Department for further investigation and prosecution. Meanwhile, for cases relating to possession of illegal firearms, the cases were referred to the Royal Malaysia Police for further actions.

The Chief Conservator of Forests, Datuk Frederick Kugan mentioned that the project which was supported by YSD has contributed tremendously towards forest laws and enforcement, particularly in combatting forest crimes and wildlife poaching in Sabah. This exemplary programme, such as the PROTECT Team will be replicated by the department and with continuous capacity building to enhance tactical enforcement of the department, so as to support the State Government in protecting and preserving biodiversity to its best efforts.




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Last Updated:
05 Apr 2022
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