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  • Wartawan Nabalu News

Rapid Response Teams established to combat wildlife crimes in Sabah

15 March 2023

By Wartawan Nabalu News

KOTA KINABALU: In an effort to reduce wildlife crimes in Sabah, Yayasan Sime Darby (YSD) has allocated RM3.8 million to the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) and the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC) to set up Rapid Response Teams (RRT) in Sabah.

These teams consist of rangers trained to enhance their effectiveness in combating wildlife crimes. This contribution has also facilitated an additional RM250,000 in matching funds from the Finance Ministry for the initiative.

Last year, DGFC and SWD began their sponsorship commitment and set up three RRTs comprising 16 rangers and one commander recruited across Sabah, including Semporna, Ranau, Lahad Datu, Kinabatangan, and Tenom districts.

These teams were trained to respond to alerts received in real-time, perform ad-hoc operations, and support the development of any case investigations.

The initiative aims to achieve the objectives of the Sabah State Action Plan for the conservation of the Bornean banteng, Sunda clouded leopard, proboscis monkey, and Bornean elephant, among others.

The 17 successful candidates at the end of the intensive training in Tabin Wildlife Reserve.

Professor Benoit Goossens, Director of DGFC, stated, "For the past three years, DGFC has been committed to the implementation of the State Action Plans that were launched in 2019 and 2020 by the State Government.

“We started in 2020 with the creation of an Intelligence Unit and a Forensic Unit for the SWD, funded by the US Department of State. Now, the idea of the RRT is to increase the capacity and effectiveness of SWD in rapidly responding to wildlife poaching, trafficking, and illegal wildlife trade in Sabah."

He added that, the RRTs will primarily focus on tackling online-related modus operandi and protecting key areas in Sabah, such as the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary and Tabin Wildlife Reserve. The responses will be dictated by the crime analytical products developed by the SWD's Intelligence Unit and other monitoring systems.

SWD Director Augustine Tuuga explained that a commander and an assistant commander were hired last August, followed by a two-day intensive selection course organized in Ranau for 39 Sabahans.

“19 were selected to take part in a three-month intensive training in Tabin Wildlife Reserve that included several modules, such as Honorary Wildlife Warden, first aid and forest rescue, tree climbing, self-defence/combative fight, and counter-poaching operations.

“Following the intensive training that ended mid-November 2022, 15 rangers were hired by SWD, with 12 starting patrolling in and around Tabin Wildlife Reserve and three based in Kota Kinabalu to support their intelligence unit and respond to wildlife crime offences. Six rangers from the 12 currently based in Tabin will move to the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary next month,” he explained.

Tuuga hopes that the 17 rangers will become civil servants at the end of this three-year programme and will be permanently incorporated within his department.

Dr Yatela Zainal Abidin, CEO of Yayasan Sime Darby, stated, "Following our support for the expansion of the Sabah Forestry Department's PROTECT team, Yayasan Sime Darby is now working with the Sabah Wildlife Department and Danau Girang Field Centre to further combat wildlife poaching and trafficking by complementing the existing 60 rangers from SWD with additional boots on the ground for improved intelligence and response activities."

She continued, "With the imminent increase of poaching and wildlife trafficking, our most treasured yet endangered flora and fauna are threatened to the brink of extinction. We do not want a repeat of the tragedy that befell our Sumatran rhinoceros, which was driven to extinction due to the demand for its horn.

“Through this important government-led initiative with a renowned wildlife research and conservation centre like DGFC, we hope to finally eradicate poaching activities to ensure the survival of our national treasures in Sabah.”

“I was present at Tabin Wildlife Reserve when the trainees received their certificates following the 3-month intensive training. I felt extremely proud of these young Sabahans who were entrusted with the heavy job of protecting their forests and wildlife. It makes me very happy to see that my team at DGFC is playing a substantial role in boosting wildlife conservation in the State,” said Goossens.

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