October 29, 2017

Dozens of new Rangers ‘will be on Patrol’ in Sabah

Dozens of new Rangers ‘will be on Patrol’ in Sabah

Wildlife rangers play a vital role in protecting endangered species. Photo Credit: WWF

Across Malaysia’s wildlife reserves and national parks rangers and officers are invariably undermanned and underfunded. Yet in the Danum Valley, Maliau Basin and Imbak Canyon this will change. Teams of 50 wildlife rangers, armed and alert, will be taking turns to hunt down poachers in the areas falling within the uniquely biodiverse Heart of Borneo. The patrols will focus on several key biodiverse areas with high risks of poaching, while 19 new field outposts will be set up for better monitoring.

“Everybody is an enforcement officer in the department. Maybe we have 1,000 people out in the field, but they are also looking after conservation works,” the Sabah Forestry Department’s Chief Conservator of Forests Sam Mannan explained. “This is not enough [however] because this involves a special problem: a real problem in Sabah which is poaching.”

A foreign poacher nabbed in Sabah. Photo Credit: Sabah Forestry Department

In other words, dedicated teams of rangers are needed to keep better tabs on poachers and stop them in their tracks. That is certainly true. Increased vigilance and enhanced enforcement are especially vital in Sabah as the state’s world-renowned biodiversity has been attracting scores of foreign poachers, adding to local officials’ woes.

“We are finding the money (for the initiative, which will cost an estimated RM2 million),” Mannan said. “Once we find the money, then we’ll talk to our partners and see how we [can] do it. Do we use guns and start shooting people or what?” he wondered. “Thus, we have to sort it out, the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), on how to handle guns, on how to go out into the field.”

Newly recruited rangers will likely receive training in Thailand, a country that has boasted considerable success in reining in wildlife poachers. Conservationist groups like the World Wide Fund for Nature-Malaysia are also expected to lend support to training and logistics. “These are raw people, start them right, clean heads, get them right the first time, make them understand this is their job for perhaps the rest of their lives, but with an avenue for improvements and as time passes maybe they can be promoted to do other things,” Mannan explained apropos the new recruits. “We need help for that because we are foresters, we are not wildlife managers in that sense, and [lack] enforcement [experience] using guns.”

Similar initiatives have borne tangible results elsewhere from Tanzania to Nepal. Stepped-up surveillance and enforcement are the way to go if we are to roll back endemic poaching in Sabah and elsewhere in Borneo.

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