Wildlife sold in market?

NABAWAN - A TEAM of Wildlife Rescue Unit is investigating claims that protected species are being sold in a market in this remote district.

Today, a Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) enforcement team will make its inspection following evidence given by individuals.

The species involved include the binturong (bearcat), common palm civet, banded palm civet, Malay civet, sambar deer, porcupine and blood python.

Its director, Datuk Dr Laurentius Ambu, said these wild animals were slaughtered at the open market which operates every Wednesdays.

"Those species are definitely hunted from forest reserves and national parks, where hunting is totally forbidden.

"This is unacceptable and we need the support from the public to tackle this," he said in a press statement.

There was a clear and present danger to Sabah wildlife, he said, adding illegal hunting and poaching were happening at an unprecedented rate now.

This was not only fuelled by local consumption but also international illegal trade in wildlife, he said.

Danau Girang Field Centre director Dr Benoit Goossens said those who hunted, handled and consumed bushmeat put their lives at risk due to diseases.

"Take the example of ebola, a zoonotic and deadly disease transmitted by bushmeat handling and consumption in central Africa, especially of chimpanzees and gorillas.

"Ebola has killed thousands of people. More close to us, the nipah virus carried by flying foxes (fruit bats) and transmitted to pigs, then to people who handled and consumed bats and pork, killed thousands of people in Peninsular Malaysia."

On Monday, SWD announced the setting up of the Wildlife Health Genetic and Forensic Laboratory together with EcoHealth Alliance (EHA).

State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun had said the facility would help counteract the threat of diseases from wildlife to humans.

"However, it cannot stop people going to the forests and slaughtering our wildlife.

"I want this to stop immediately and I will put all efforts and means into place to tackle this issue.

"Sabah will not be a place where our beautiful wildlife and national treasures will be decimated by heartless people."