Out to get poachers: Sabah wildlife, forests now protected by special ranger unit

Borneo pygmy elephants are seen drinking water from Kinabatangan river in Sabah in this file pic. The Maliau Basin Conservation Area in Sabah is being threatened by poachers and gaharu collectors who intrude into the protected area. — Reuters pic
Borneo pygmy elephants are seen drinking water from Kinabatangan river in Sabah in this file pic. The Maliau Basin Conservation Area in Sabah is being threatened by poachers and gaharu collectors who intrude into the protected area. — Reuters pic

KOTA KINABALU, Aug 28 — A specially-trained ranger unit is now ready for deployment into Sabah’s forests as the state battles against increased wildlife poaching worries.

Sabah chief conservator of forests Datuk Mashor Mohd Jaini said that the department has trained 70 local people, of which 30 were selected for the anti-poaching Protect Unit of the department, following an RM4 million grant from the Sime Darby Foundation for the purpose.

“The selectees were put through written, physical and mental aptitude testing, followed by an interview. That ensured that the best people for the demanding job of a Protect Unit member are selected and are able to absorb the instruction and ultimately carry on the tasks assigned to the highest level,” added Datuk Mashor.

Some 900 hopefuls applied for the job in early July and a strict selection process whittled numbers down to 70 candidates. The

“A special unit training was then carried out for 21 days from  July 18 to August 8 by Frontline Ltd, an organisation based in Labuan specialising in anti-poaching training,” said project partner and Danau Girang Field Centre(DGFC) director Benoit Goossens.

“The idea was to train the participants to confidently and safely conduct counter-poaching patrolling in a tropical forest environment and to conduct, under supervision, basic intelligence gathering, investigations, raids and takedowns in both the forest and urban environment by foot and vehicle.

“This course was physically and mentally demanding for the 30 selected trainees and an additional four rangers from Sabah Parks and one ranger from Sabah Wildlife Department, specially selected, to enhance inter-agency cooperation,” said Goossens.

 Training — including forest survival and endurance, river crossing, patrolling, ambushing, and tactical knowledge was carried out at Institut Perhutanan Sabah (IPS) in Telupid.

Following the training, 25 of the 30 trainees were selected to be part of the Protect Unit. They will be appointed as contract staff of Sabah Forestry Department, focus on anti-poaching and start operations on September 1, 2019. The remaining five are on reserve.

“They will boost the enforcement capacity of the State Government to reduce the number of poaching cases in Sabah,” said Mashor.

Goossens said that it was a proud moment to have Sabahan youths be trained as guardians of the forests and wildlife in Sabah.

“It makes me very happy to have played a little role in providing job opportunities for those young Sabahans and a fantastic boost to wildlife conservation in the State,” he said.

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