Malaysian State Of Sarawak Bans Commercial Hunting Of Wildlife

May 28, 1998

In a decision applauded by the Bronx Zoo-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the Malaysian state of Sarawak voted unanimously to ban commercial hunting earlier this month to prevent further depletion of its wildlife and protect the food source of local communities.

The new law ends all commercial sales of animals or animal products taken in the wild. Up to this point, the wild meat trade was considered one of the greatest factors contributing to the decline of Sarawak's wildlife. Other aspects of the new law will make it easier to establish sanctuaries, and to involve local people in their management.

Sarawak, one of two Malaysian States in northern Borneo, is home to spectacular wildlife species including orangutans, proboscis monkeys, and rhinoceros hornbills--the state bird.

"By facing the problems posed by habitat loss, hunting and the wildlife trade, and tackling it decisively under the new law, Sarawak is taking a highly laudable stride towards conserving its wildlife populations, as well as in promoting sustainable use of wildlife by rural people," said Dr. John Robinson, WCS vice president of international conservation.

Called the Wildlife Protection Bill of 1998, the new law was proposed by Minister of Environment and Public Health, Datuk Amar James Wong Kim Min. In a debate lasting more than two hours, both government and opposition sides eventually came out in strong support of the legislation, passing it on May 5.

According to Robinson, wildlife in Sarawak in enormously important for culture, tourism and food. A collaborative "Master Plan for Wildlife in Sarawak" drafted by WCS and the Sarawak Forest Department, reported that an average of 29 percent of all evening meals eaten in the rural interior contained wild meat. In more remote areas, this figure rose to almost 70 percent.

However, with the increased use of firearms and a growing cash economy, new markets for wild meat have decimated wildlife populations and threatened local people.

"Sarawak is becoming a world leader in the efforts to conserve wildlife in tropical forests," Robinson said.
-end-


Wildlife Conservation Society

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