Sabah to tighten wildlife protection laws

Sabah is known as the home to many endemic wildlife such as orangutan, Bornean elephants and Rhinoceros, sun bears, wild cats and other animals which carry value in the wildlife trafficking industry. — Picture courtesy of Sabah Wildlife department
Sabah is known as the home to many endemic wildlife such as orangutan, Bornean elephants and Rhinoceros, sun bears, wild cats and other animals which carry value in the wildlife trafficking industry. — Picture courtesy of Sabah Wildlife department

KOTA KINABALU, Aug 10 ― Riddled with wildlife and environmental protection issues, Sabah today approved a motion to increase penalties for wildlife poaching in the resource-rich state known for its eco-tourism.

Members of the state assembly unanimously supported the bill for several amendments to the Sabah’s Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997 which, among others, sets a higher minimum and maximum penalties for various offences including wildlife poaching and trafficking.

“The enactment has been enforced for almost 20 years but the penalties have never been reviewed. It is time for the amendments to take place in order to better prevent wildlife poachers from disrespecting and not fearing our laws,” said Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun.

Sabah is known as the home to many endemic wildlife such as orangutan, Bornean elephants and Rhinoceros, sun bears, wild cats and other animals which carry value in the wildlife trafficking industry. Reports have emerged of dwindling numbers of wildlife in general, due to habitat loss and wildlife poaching.

Wildlife authorities have had trouble carrying out enforcement activities and the low penalties have not helped deter would-be offenders.

The amendments, among others, seeks to impose higher fines by as much as two to five times more, and mandatory jail time for several offences including hunting of protected species, being in possession of animal or animal products that are protected, transporting of protected species of plant and animals, and collection and possession of turtle eggs.

For example, for the offence under Section 16 of the Enactment for hunting wildlife and harvesting plants within wildlife sanctuary areas, the proposed amendments is to set a minimum RM50,000 and maximum RM100,000 fine, or minimum six-month imprisonment and maximum five-year imprisonment, or both.

The current penalty is RM50,000 fine or a five-year imprisonment, or both.

Masidi also said the amendments are for the inclusion of the Olive Ridley Turtle as a new fully-protected species while the the White-browed Shama bird, popular as pets, is to be listed as a protected animal.

The laws will be enforced starting next month.