Stolen riches

Stolen riches

Tuesday December 15, 2009
Stolen riches


Poachers are plundering the forests of Belum and Temengor.

WILDLIFE at the 3,000sqkm Belum-Temengor Forest Complex in the upper reaches of Perak is fast vanishing due to rampant poaching. Even the gazetted 1,175sqkm Royal Belum State Park within the complex has not been spared, despite it being a protected forest.

The poaching problem has been highlighted over the past year by nature groups but in October, received “royal” attention during a conference to develop an Integrated Master Plan for Belum-Temengor in Ipoh.

Orang asli collecting bamboo at the Belum-Temengor forest. They fear confronting poachers who were normally armed

The Raja Muda of Perak, Raja Dr Nazrin Shah, when opening the conference, noted the problem of poaching in the area and attributed it to inadequate laws and ineffective enforcement.

Rangers of the WWF Wildlife Protection Unit (WPU) and the Wildlife and National Parks Department who patrol the jungle along the Grik-Jeli highway, have nabbed 10 poachers and removed 102 snares since January, according to WWF senior programme officer Ahmad Zafir Abdul Wahab.

He said the WPU, comprising orang asli youths, also discovered 37 access points into the forest on both sides of the highway.

“A camp used by poachers, seladang bones, pangolin scales, bags of gaharu, an elephant carcass and a snared wild boar left to die by poachers were found 20m to 100m away from the highway. The unit also helped rescue a tiger caught in a snare,” he told reporters during a media visit to the forest in early November.

Ahmad Zafir said several bags of rice and weapons have also been recovered from the camps and from the arrested poachers.

“The poachers are armed. Imagine what can happen if some innocent trekkers stumbled on their camp,” he said.
Vanishing: WWF Malaysia senior programme officer Ahmad Zafir inspecting the skull and bones of an elephant killed by poachers in a forested area near the Grik-Jeli highway.

“The Belum-Temengor forest complex is the second largest remaining block of natural forest in Peninsular Malaysia, after the greater Taman Negara landscape and yet, only Royal Belum has been gazetted a state park but not the other areas in Temengor lake,” said Ahmad Zafir.
He added that an increase in logging activities on the shore of the lake south of the highway has resulted in the opening of more trails for timber lorries. These trails are conveniently used by poachers to move into the jungle with their vehicles.

“The many forested islands in the lake provide easy landing and exit points for those involved in illegal activities,” he said, adding that poachers are known to use the Trojan jetty near the TNB station.

Resort operator Steve Kong said rare flowers, orchids, medicinal plants and fish have been plundered.
“There are all sorts of nets in the lake, especially at the river mouths. You can hardly find a decent-sized kelah or toman nowadays,” he said.

The orang asli who reside on islands in the lake fear harassment by poachers and have been slighted by the authorities when they made reports.
“The orang asli have reported poaching activities to the various authorities but to no avail. Instead, they are branded as trouble makers,” said one orang asli.

WWF species conservation manager Reuben Clements said Belum-Temengor, together with Taman Negara and Endau Rompin, are priority areas for tiger conservation due to their large forested areas.
But his team has found numerous sites with signs of poaching in Temengor last year.

The trapped tiger found in the Royal Belum Forest Reserve in Grik.

“The rescue of the Malayan tiger with its front right paw caught in a snare in October shows the severity of the problem. The tiger later died at the Malacca Zoo of infection and extreme stress after undergoing surgery to have its right fore leg amputated. This incident clearly demonstrates the need for a stronger enforcement presence in the Belum-Temengor forest.”
Hopefully, the adoption of the National Tiger Action Plan by the National Biodiversity-Biotechnology Council on Nov 5 will spell better things for the tiger. Malaysia currently has an estimated 500 wild tigers, down from about 3,000 in the 1950s. Deputy Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who chairs the Council, said the Government would take concrete efforts to protect the tiger and widen wildlife protection areas, in order to achieve the Plan’s goal of doubling tiger numbers by 2020.

Meanwhile, the Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers (Mycat) is promoting public awareness on tiger conservation in areas close to tiger habitats, particularly because many people there are either directly involved or closely connected to wildlife crimes.

Mycat held such programmes at SK Felda Lawin Utar, SMK Kenering and at markets in Kampong Bandariang, Kampong Lawin and Grik in early November.

“Our volunteers approached individuals, business owners, operators of bus and taxis stands, and asked them to assist in distributing awareness materials to their customers,” said Mycat programme co-ordinator Loretta Ann Shepherd. “Provocative posters of snared animals were used to emphasise the cruelty and illegality of using snares to trap wild animals.”

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