Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 15th June 2012—Over a thousand residents in a poaching hotspot near an important protected area were reached during a three-day exhibition by TRAFFIC aimed at raising awareness of the threats illegal hunting and wildlife trade poses to endangered species.
The outreach programme saw TRAFFIC set up booths at the night and morning markets in towns fringing the Belum-Temengor Forest Complex in northern Peninsular Malaysia, home to Tigers, Sun Bears, Asian Elephants and Gaur, all prime targets of poachers and illegal wildlife traders.
The forest complex shares an international border with Thailand, and is one of the three Tiger priority sites in Malaysia.
TRAFFIC staff and volunteers spoke to residents about provisions and penalties under Malaysia’s new Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 for poaching, illegal possession and trade of protected species and the use of snares.
They also addressed the prohibition on hunting Sambar and Barking Deer, both important Tiger prey species and among the most commonly poached animals in the area. As a result of poaching, Sambar populations in Malaysia are in serious decline.
The team promoted the Wildlife Crime Hotline, managed by the Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers (MYCAT), of which TRAFFIC Southeast Asia is a member. Residents were encouraged to contact the 24-hour hotline and report any information on poaching, the use of snares or illegal trade.
Gerik, the largest town closest to these protected forests has long made headlines as a poaching and trafficking hotspot. In March, the Perak State Wildlife Department arrested two men attempting to smuggle 18 pangolins out of the area while in November last year, they rescued another 12 pangolins.
In recent years, the Belum-Temengor Forest Complex has also become a favoured target of Agarwood poachers from other Southeast Asian countries. Last December, police arrested 10 Vietnamese nationals in the area and seized 180 kilogrammes of Agarwood.
The programme, funded by WWF-Malaysia, provided a useful and non-intrusive method to reach out to residents as they went about their daily business at markets local communities frequented every day.
“Approaching local peole directly also allowed us a means to assess just how entrenched poaching and illegal trade is within a forest fringe community and understand what drives it,” said TRAFFIC Southeast Asia Senior Programme Officer Kanitha Krishnasamy.
“It was surprising to note that many were unaware of the threats faced by wildlife and the forests that surround their town. But, it was equally encouraging that many took an interest to learn more.
“We hope to continue carrying out such programmes and that it will inspire and empower local communities to be the voice for endangered wildlife that live amongst them,” she added.