KOTA KINABALU, Aug 4 — Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun said illegal wildlife traders willing to serve up the state’s animals for the exotic meat trade were betraying the country.
He said such people were not just abusing the state’s pride and blessings, but also contributing to wildlife extinction here.
“If there are Sabahans doing this, then they are traitors who are doing a great disservice to their own state and country,” he said.
He was commenting on reports that unscrupulous parties were serving exotic meat from creatures such as pangolins, which are believed to have medicinal to tourists, for a hefty profit.
Masidi said that Sabah was among the most privileged places in the world, and blessed with exotic and abundant flora and fauna that has become the state’s source of pride and resources.
“To do this to our wildlife shows that they are not patriotic and betraying their country and those who have worked so hard at conserving our natural treasures,” he said.
Sabah’s wildlife like pangolins, sun bears, rhinoceros, elephants and orangutan have been under heavy pressure from human wildlife conflict like development, hunting, and the illegal pet trade.
Most recently, Indonesian authorities seized a 2.7kg elephant tusk from an Indonesian migrant worker travelling from Tawau to Kalimantan at the Nunukan port last week in the second similar case this year.
Conservationists fear that the tusks belong to Sabah’s Bornean Pygmy Elephants, a rare and endangered species of elephants that is struggling to maintain its habitat among Sabah’s rapid growth rate and plantation industries.
The carrier of the tusks claimed that they were bought for RM1,500 from a seller in Kota Kinabalu and was being taken to his hometown in Kalimantan for a traditional ceremony as a dowry.
“I’ve actually heard of this custom, from Timorese people. Some women told me they came here to work and raise money for their brother’s dowry of an elephant’s tusk. So this could be true. But it could also be used for other purposes. The fact is we cannot be sure of anything unless we actually catch them red-handed,” he said.
Masidi said that the government was concerned over the recent incident and raised questions about the tusk’s origins.
“But it has never been established that it was from here. We know it is probable, but we need to prove it,” he said adding that he has instructed his department to meet their counterparts in Indonesia to investigate the matter and obtain DNA samples of the tusk.
“If it is true that the tusks from here, we’ll obviously need to increase our border security and figure out how they got pass Malaysian checkpoints,” he said.