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SOS Rhino : In the News : 212 to be honorary wildlife wardens

212 to be honorary wildlife wardens

  12 July, 2006
Kota Kinabalu: A total of 212 men and women representing the private sector, government agencies, non-governmental organisations, villages and individuals will be appointed honorary wildlife wardens in Sabah.

They include officers and staff of the Sabah Foundation, Sabah Softwoods, WWF-Malaysia, Kinabatangan Orang-Utan Conservation Project (Hutan), Sabah Forest Industries, plantation estates, clubs and tourism operators, as well as villages and individuals.

They are among 360 people who attended a series of 13 courses conducted by the State Wildlife Department in Kota Kinabalu, Kota Kinabatangan, Sandakan, Lahad Datu and Tawau since 2001 until June this year.

Disclosing this at a press conference held at the department headquarters at Wisma Muis here Tuesday, its Deputy Director Laurentius N. Ambu said they will receive their letters of appointment in a ceremony to be held at Sabah Hotel in Sandakan this Thursday (July 13).

It will be presented by Assistant Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Karim Bujang.

Besides the 212, five VIPs including a member of the State Cabinet would also be appointed honorary wildlife wardens in honour of their contribution to wildlife conservation in the State.

Laurentius said the appointment of honorary wildlife wardens is provided for under Section 7 of the Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997.

This is either to assist in carrying into effect the provisions of this Enactment or as a mark of recognition of valuable services rendered to wildlife and wildlife habitat conservation in the State.

The appointment of an honorary wildlife warden shall, unless made in recognition of valuable services, be made for a period of three years but may be renewable.

Before any person is appointed a honorary wildlife warden, he or she (except for those individuals who have rendered valuable services to wildlife conservation) will have to attend a 21/2-day course.

This is to familiarise the participant with the offences and penalties provided for in the Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997; with the enforcement procedures in accordance to the requirements of the Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997, Penal Code and Evidence Act; and understand the roles and responsibilities of honorary wildlife wardens.

A honorary wildlife warden is empowered with the power of arrest and supplied with a warrant card and vest to be used in carrying out duties in their respective area.

Laurentius said the 212 who would be receiving their appointment letters in Sandakan include those appointed in 2002 and 2003 but whose appointments have been renewed.

He said the appointments of honorary wildlife wardens among the private sector like those in the plantations as well as villages has been effective in assisting the department to monitor especially poaching activities in their respective area.

"The appointments of people of the plantation and forestry-based companies actually follows complaints received from them that they cannot control poachers from entering their land to hunt for wild animals┼o by appointing some of their staff as honorary wildlife wardens, equipped with the power of arrest, they managed to reduce such activity," he said.

But the department will monitor the activity of every honorary wildlife warden to prevent any abuse of power, said Laurentius, adding this is done by requiring each of them to submit a report to the department on their activities, their suggestions and so on once every three months.

"Based on this, the department will see whether the honorary wildlife warden has been active or not, and determine whether his or her service should continue or not," he said.

To another question, Laurentius said there were previously reports received by the department about honorary wildlife wardens abusing their power but after investigating they found this was not the case.

"But we cannot discount there is abuse of power but we will strictly monitor all of them. If proven, we will not hesitate to hand over the case to the police to take further action and strip them of their power," he said.

Laurentius revealed there was a case where even a cap bearing the department's logo was used by a villager to impersonate its staff to confiscate killed animal meat from a poacher.

But then the villager involved sold the meat at the tamu, he said, adding the department staff on receiving a public tip-off managed to catch the impersonator. "But so far there is no serious case relating to the public impersonating as wildlife staff."

Laurentius, however, said villagers appointed as honorary wildlife wardens had also assisted the department staff in putting to an end illegal poaching activities in their respective area.

"These villagers help us to monitor others in their village who have hunting permits. If they abuse their permit like by hunting more from the quota and animals different from that stated in their permit, these honorary wildlife wardens will at least report it to us to take action," he said.

Meanwhile, Laurentius said the department also has plans to form a federation of honorary wildlife wardens in Sabah to further boost its performance.

He said the empowerment of the people practised in Sabah, like through the appointment of honorary wildlife wardens, is well known in other countries, some of which had expressed interest to learn from the State.

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