Sabah, on Borneo island, borders the Malaysian state of Sarawak and Indonesia’s Kalimantan province. It is also home to many endemic wildlife species, such as orangutan and rhinoceros.
Last month, villagers said they discovered the skeletal remains of about 100 green turtles scattered on the beaches on Bum-Bum Island near Semporna, a small town in Sabah. Residents also found two decomposed adult Bornean Pygmy elephants in different locations.
Masidi Manjun, Sabah’s environment and tourism minister, said his department was considering amending the Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997, a regional law that aims to protect endangered species in Sabah by imposing severe penalties on poachers.
The amendment would give wildlife laws more bite by changing the way cases play out in court and placing the burden of proof on the accused to present evidence proving one’s innocence.
“With the amendment, it means the accused will have to prove he didn’t kill it [the endangered wildlife animal] because at this point of time, the prosecutors have to come up with evidence to prove a person is guilty and this is not easy,” Masidi told reporters.
Sabah’s Forestry Department said poaching in the state had reached “pandemic proportions” and armed poachers encountered at checkpoints were often masked “and willing and able to inflict harm” on forestry guards.
“Although Forestry Department staff are armed, this is purely for self-protection and they are reluctant to use their licensed firearms against the poachers,” the department said in a statement posted on the homepage of its website. “Besides that, it is to avoid a firefight with the poachers which may result in an ugly scene.”
“The seriousness of this menace needs a concerted effort in unison, starting with the prosecution of the known and big-time perpetrators,” the statement said.
Authorities have arrested and detained at least three people on suspicion of involvement in the multiple slaughter of protected turtles. Officials said poachers would often remove the turtle meat, eggs and soft under shell before leaving the bones and hard-top shell.
Two Indonesian men have also been detained to assist authorities in the killings of the two elephants, officials said.
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