The following article is submitted to the Editorial of Malaysia Gazette by Dr Henry Chan, Conservation Director of WWF-Malaysia.
The recent win by the Operasi Bersepadu Khazanah taskforce at the 5th Asia Environmental Enforcement Awards presented by the United Nations Environment Programme has put Malaysia’s tiger conservation efforts in the global spotlight.
For this, WWF-Malaysia congratulates the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (PERHILITAN) and the Royal Malaysia Police for this well-deserved recognition of their efforts through the Operasi Bersepadu Khazanah initiative to curb trespassing, wildlife poaching and other illegal activities related to our natural heritage.
The Operasi Bersepadu Khazanah initiative, which began in 2019 as part of PERHILITAN’s “Save Our Malaysian Tiger Campaign” resulted in the arrest of 87 wildlife criminals and involved seizure worth RM2.7mil and destruction of 460 wire snares. In 2020, 140 wildlife criminals were arrested, with seizure worth RM1.85mil and destruction of 672 snares. These numbers are a grim reminder that the critically endangered Malayan tiger and other wildlife are still under immense threat from rampant poaching.
A WWF report published in 2020, Silence of the snares: Southeast Asia’s Snaring Crisis, reveals that an estimated 12 million snares are set every year throughout protected areas in Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Vietnam, while an average of 53,000 snares were removed annually from 11 protected areas in five Southeast Asian countries, including Malaysia.
This is why WWF-Malaysia is also encouraged by the recent boost of RM20mil allocated by the government for the Biodiversity Protection and Patrolling Programme of the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (PERHILITAN) under the 2021 National Budget, another major initiative which aims to put more than 500 personnel on ground to curb poaching in the largest forest complexes in Peninsular Malaysia. This is indeed critically needed to halt the decline of a multitude of wild animals which face extinction if nothing drastic is carried out.
Drawing parallels with WWF-Malaysia’s experience in Belum-Temengor, after a period of intensive patrolling the poaching threats appeared to have dropped. Patrolling presence in Belum-Temengor has vastly increased in recent years through efforts by both WWF-Malaysia and Perak State Parks Corporation in putting more boots on the ground. This has resulted in a 99% drop in active snares found, an encouraging indicator that these efforts are working. The camera trap images of a tigress and three cubs in mid-2020 are a sign of hope that we are on the right track.
Given time and consolidation of efforts by both government agencies and NGOs, we hope to be able to ‘bend the curve’ in conserving tigers and other wildlife.
This is why initiatives such as Operasi Bersepadu Khazanah and the Biodiversity Protection and Patrolling Programme need to continue and be expanded upon over the long-term, by being institutionalized so that there is continuous funding for implementation.
WWF-Malaysia’s tiger conservation work on the ground, which includes research of tigers and their prey, engagement with local communities and supporting enforcement agencies such as PERHILITAN would not be where it is today without the full support of the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources, the Perak State Government, PERHILITAN, the Royal Malaysia Police and corporate entities like Maybank. We look forward to fostering closer collaboration to conserve our natural heritage.
As conservationists around the world focus on World Wildlife Day, we also stand with the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources to call for greater cooperation in efforts to combat forest encroachment, illegal logging and wildlife hunting.
Dr Henry Chan
Conservation Director, WWF-Malaysia