‘Education, enforcement vital to eliminate illegal wildlife trade’

National 2 minutes, 57 seconds

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

EDUCATION and enforcement needs to be ramped up to help eliminate the threat of illegal wildlife trade even though the problem is still manageable in the country.

This was the statement put forth by the head of the Animal Rescues, Rehabilitation and Release Team at local NGO 1stopBrunei ahead of World Environment Day 2016.

The anti-poaching advocate, who declined to be identified for privacy reasons, said those were the two factors which posed the biggest challenge to eliminating the illegal wildlife trade in Brunei.

“Educating people is still a problem because many Bruneians still don’t fully understand the implications that their actions have when they buy or take part in wildlife trade,” he said.

“In addition, enforcement also needs to be stepped up because at the moment, there is still quite a lot of illegal trade that is being allowed to go on publicly on sites such as Facebook and Instagram,” he said.

The environment also has a major impact on illegal poaching activities, with the recent forest fires that raged through over 800 hectares in Belait alone earlier this year brought about by unusually hot and dry weather, which in turn was brought about by the El Nino weather phenomenon, a prime example.

“The massive forest fires were the problem because what happened was that a lot of the destroyed trees are the homes of slow lorises and pangolins, but since their habitat forest was destroyed, these animals are coming out or escaping those places to human settlements, which has made it easier for poachers to find them.”

The Wildlife Division previously warned that any offender caught poaching protected animals would face up to one year in prison with a maximum $2,000 fine while offenders caught possessing or selling protected animals would face up to six months’ imprisonment and a $1,000 fine.

Under the Wildlife Protection Act 1978 (Revised 1984), Chapter 102 which governs the wildlife trade in Brunei, 34 animals are protected under the law. But the minister of primary resources and tourism revealed during the 12th Legislative Council session last March that the Act is currently in the process of being amended, with no timeline given for its completion date.

The anti-poaching advocate said that changing the law could also help deter Bruneians from catching, buying or selling protected animals.

“What would really help is that the updated Wildlife Protection Act would cover more types of animals and species. Just the past week, we picked up on the sale of six animals from the small-cat family on social media,” he said.

“However, it was legal because these animals aren’t covered by the wildlife act at the moment, even if I consider those animals to be currently under threat. So if the new amended Act can be out in time, then it would help in the protection of these animals,” he said.

The official theme for this year’s United Nations Environment Programme-sanctioned World Environment Day is ‘Go Wild for Life: Zero Tolerance for the Illegal Wildlife Trade’, which aims to bring attention to the disastrous effects of the illegal wildlife trade on the planet’s biodiversity.

According to the official website for World Environment Day, the “booming illegal trade in wildlife products robs us of our natural heritage and is driving whole species to the brink of extinction while also undermining economies and ecosystems, fuelling organised crime and feeding corruption and insecurity across the globe”.

The Department of Environment, Parks and Recreation marked World Environment Day with a doa tahlil and tree-planting ceremony at the Ministry of Development building yesterday.

The Brunei Times