KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Wildlife Department is stepping up its crackdown against those dealing in wildlife meat amid criticisms that such action was adversely affecting some indigenous communities here.
The Wildlife Rangers would be conducting more surprise checks at tamu or weekly farmers markets and other places where wildlife meat was being sold, said Department director Datuk Dr Laurentius Ambu.
Some of the meat sold there were of totally protected species, he added, in noting that the meat of endangered animals such as the binturong (bearcat) had been found in such markets.
He said under the law, all wildlife belonged to the Government and special permits were required for the hunting, trading or possession of wildlife meat.
He added that three individuals were detained after Wildlife Rangers seized some 160kg of Sambar and barking deer meat at the tamu in the remote town of Nabawan on Nov 11.
Following the crackdown, United Murut Community Organisation president Datuk Alizulfakar Alexius said the action ran contrary to the tradition of the indigenous community who had been hunting wildlife for protein which they had done for centuries.
He added that indigenous communities would usually hunt wildlife that had wandered into their farms or orchards and destroyed their crops.
He said the villagers selling their wildlife meat in the tamu should thus not be considered as committing a crime.
Wildlife officer Benedict Jani said Nabawan had become a hotspot for the sale of illegal bushmeat in recent years due to the vast road networks all the way to Tawau and they were not surprised if the bushmeat was illegally hunted in Maliau Basin or as far as some protected Forest Reserves in Tawau and Lahad Datu.
State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said the war on illegal wildlife trade and poaching had just begun.
He said there would no compromise and offenders should be prepared to go to jail as well.