KOTA KINABALU - The Sabah Wildlife Department will set up an enforcement unit following reports of illegal poaching activities at pristine conservation areas including the Maliau Basin and Tabin Wildlife Reserve.
Department director Datuk Dr Laurentius Ambu said the Wildlife Enforcement Unit would work in a similar way with the Wildlife Rescue Unit, but would focus on wildlife trade, illegal hunting and bush meat trade.
"Our aim is to deploy the best existing tools against wildlife smuggling and poaching and having a permanent presence in all protected areas in Sabah.
"We are looking for institutions interested to support this unit," he said yesterday.
State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said Sabah would use all means to stop illegal hunting and the sale of protected animal species' parts.
"We might seem to have lost many battles, but I can assure you, the buck stops here and the war for wildlife conservation is being fought hard by a very dedicated group of people in Sabah in whom I place all my trust,'' he added.
At the Fifth East and Southeast Asian Wild Animal Rescue Network (WARN) conference held in Tuaran on Nov 26 and Nov 27, wildlife researchers reported that there was ample evidence of illegal hunting in several forest reserves and national parks in Sabah.
These included iconic areas such as the Crocker Range National Park, Tawau Hills National Park, Maliau Basin Conservation Area and Tabin Wildlife Reserve.
Other affected conservation areas include the Malua Bio Bank and Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary.
"This is extremely serious and the state government, NGOs and research institutions need to tackle this issue as quickly as possible if we don't want to see our wildlife ending up in bowls and as medicinal products," said wildlife research NGO Danau Girang Field Centre director Dr Benoit Goosens.
Conference delegates were also briefed about recent data from surveys carried out by wildlife trade monitoring network Traffic on pangolin and sun bear bile trade.
"The results were astonishing. Out of 21 shops visited in December 2010 in Kota Kinabalu, eight were selling bear bile products," Goosens said.
In a survey carried out in Sabah last year, 10 out of 24 shops surveyed were found to be selling sun bear products.
Goosens said a Traffic report published in 2010 on pangolin trade in Sabah, including an analysis on trade syndicate's logbooks seized in 2009, showed that 22,200 pangolins were traded by the syndicate in 13 months.