1StopBrunei defends actions

National 3 minutes, 45 seconds

BELAIT

THE founder of 1StopBrunei Wildlife has responded to the media on several issues, including his recent postings of alleged illegal sale of wildlife, the online petition launched last week for official action against poaching, as well as on certain allegations against his organisation.

The online petition, launched on November 23 to collect 2,000 signatures to be sent to the authorities named as the Wildlife Division at the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources, among others, came on the back of recent reports of alleged illegal online sale of wildlife, some thought to be captured by poaching activities in the Sultanate.

“I’m in all these poaching groups (on Facebook) where they are selling all this wildlife. I know some of these poachers… However, about 70 per cent of the screenshots are from members of the public, mostly local Bruneians,” Shavez Chema said, explaining the source of the postings on his organisation’s Facebook page.

When asked to comment on why 1StopBrunei has resorted to the postings and resulting petition campaign instead of reporting to the relevant authorities, Chema defended his actions.

“Some of them I did report (such as the sales of) the eagle, the otter, the leopard cat, and the bear. I informed them (Wildlife Division) a few days before I contacted the sellers and made the petition.”

He believes that current enforcement is weak, pointing to the open and public selling of animals like slow lorises and hornbills.

“No action has been taken, or the public doesn’t know about it or what has been done… We don’t know if the authorities have been targeting them or not. Many times, I and my members have informed the authorities of the sale but there’s usually no follow-up at all.”

Chema further dismissed the notion that his postings could adversely affect investigations, saying that there was no indication of follow-ups taking place after reports were made.

Regarding the new hotline for reporting such activities to the authorities, he said that past attempts to contact did not seem very effective in dealing with cases, citing an example of a captured monitor lizard that his members eventually released on their own after unsuccessful attempts to get assistance from the hotline. He believes that such a hotline should be made available round the clock and should be “fast and efficient”.

In response, Liaw Lin Ji, President of BruWILD, a registered NGO co-managing the hotline with the Wildlife Division, e-mailed The Brunei Times the following statement.

“Upon discussing the matter with the authorities, and in consideration of the status of the animal at hand, the recommendation was to release the animal immediately at the shrubs by the lake, of which the reporter mentioned was found nearby. The monitor lizard is a reptile commonly sighted in residential areas by the riverside… and often do not pose a direct threat to the community.”

The statement added: “As the intention is to reduce as much stress as possible on the animal, cooperation of the reporter was sought and recommendation was given to untie and release the animal.”

With more than 700 signatories to date, the petition has since drawn a lot of attention, along with a backlash of online threats that Chema describes as “racist” and “insulting”.

“I have been receiving a lot of threats... even death threats, like they want to beat me up... from these poachers. It’s not nice to be targeted, physically or racially threatened.​”

On allegations from various Facebook groups whose members participate in informal sale of animals that 1StopBrunei has been stealing photographs and using them in misleading postings, Chema says that all postings are taken from public submissions and that submitters are credited.

A Wildlife Division spokesperson responding to the issue of recent illegal sales of wildlife in Brunei, told The Brunei Times that through its continuous monitoring of such activities, its enforcement officers have been notified and are currently investigating.

It was further clarified that such enforcement activities would remain anonymous as any public disclosure would interfere and jeopardise investigations.

As reported by local media, certain animals involved in recent trade are listed under the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List but not listed in the outdated Brunei Wildlife Protection Act 1974. The spokesperson, however, said that the trade of most of these animal species are indeed protected.

“The Wildlife Division has taken steps, amending and revising the Act with additional listing of protected species and also other provisions such as stiffer penalties for offences,” said the spokesperson.

The Brunei Times