@Green January/February 2022 - Page 29

Authorities made ignorant remarks regarding wildlife conservation to fight criticism against Malaysia ’ s timber and palm oil industry
January-February , 2022 | @ Forest



A laughing stock

Authorities made ignorant remarks regarding wildlife conservation to fight criticism against Malaysia ’ s timber and palm oil industry

MALAYSIA HAS been blessed with rich biological diversity . It has many natural resources and is home to various species of flora and fauna . However , with countless blessings comes many challenges in its biodiversity preservation .

In the name of progress and development , the importance of preserving the country ’ s flora and fauna is often being overlooked .
Recently , several incidents involving Malaysia ’ s timber and palm oil industry made people question if the country was serious about protecting its environment and wildlife species . Several remarks made by the authorities about wildlife conservation left the nation in shock .
Bizarre and ignorant
In an event , Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities Datuk Zuraida Kamaruddin was seen to make a statement regarding orangutans which was described by the President of Ecotourism and Conservation of Malaysia Andrew Sebastian as “ bizarre and ignorant ”.
Zuraida , in her speech , said : “ In Malaysia , if you see an orangutan , the orangutan will kill you first , not you kill the orangutan first , am I right ?”
She said the wildlife and national parks department ( Perhilitan ) had its policy and procedure and did not simply kill orangutans . She made the statement in response to the criticism that the palm oil industry was killing the mammal .
According to the report by Free Malaysia Today , Sebastian said Zuraida failed to recognise the well-documented decline in the population of orangutans .
“ From 1973 , it was estimated that there were 288,500 orangutans in Borneo and by 2025 , it is estimated to drop to 47,000 only ,” he told the news outlet , adding that the statement made by Zuraida did little to help the palm oil industry in refuting the criticism it received regarding its effects on the species population .
Stable number of orangutans
According to WWF-Malaysia , sustainable palm oil and orangutan conservation can go hand-in-hand . The organisation explained that orangutans were not hunters and did not possess a ‘ predatory ’ attack mode .
It shared that the Bornean orangutan had been listed as critically endangered in the International Union for Conservation of Nature ( IUCN ) status since 2016 . It means that the species faces a very high risk of extinction in the wild if its population continues to drop .
“ The orangutan face threats in the form of conversion of forests for agriculture , mining and settlement , fragmentation , and are vulnerable to threats of forest fires . Over the last two decades , population surveys have shown that orangutan numbers have stabilised . This is done through multi-stakeholder collaborations between WWF-Malaysia , the Sabah Forestry Department , the Sabah Wildlife Department and the Forest
Department Sarawak .
“ To date , there is an estimated number of 13,000 orangutans in the wild in Sabah and Sarawak , collectively . These numbers are considered stable and are believed to remain , provided good forest and conservation management practices continue to be implemented . This is in line with the government ’ s policy of maintaining 50 per cent forest cover that provides the habitat for orangutan conservation .”
Sustainable palm oil is the way to go
For palm oil , WWF-Malaysia stated that the massive demand for its products and massive expansion in the tropics makes it a significant deforestation driver and a great threat to wildlife , such as orangutans , elephants and tigers . It said palm oil cultivation and production threatened the natural habitat of wildlife and posed risks to fragile environments and biodiversity if done unsustainably .
“ However , WWF-Malaysia believes that the palm oil industry can develop sustainably without further damaging rainforests , harming communities , and endangering wildlife ,” it stated , saying that the organisation was working with various stakeholders and government agencies to develop standards and

Selective logging , not indiscriminate logging

WHILE THE people ’ s rage on the country ’ s continuous logging activities has not subsided , another claim saying logging was good for tiger habitat and population added more fuel to the fire .
The remark was made by Abdul Khalim Abu Samah , the Director of Kelantan Forestry Department , at a press conference in Relai Forest Reserve Gua Musang . As reported by MalaysiaKini , Abdul Khalim claimed that logging was actually “ beneficial for the tiger population ”.
He stated that once an area had been deforested , new vegetation would grow , encouraging the existence of new animal species that would become the source of food for the tiger .
He said based on research by experts , areas that had been deforested were good for the tiger population .
“ The tiger population will increase when small trees grow in the deforested area . The area will see the presence of animals such as mouse deers which is food for tigers . It will be easier for tigers to hunt their prey ,” Abdul Khalim reportedly said .
He further clarified that Kelantan always complied with the annual felling ration ( CTT ) determined by the National Land Council ( NLC ).
“ Here in Kelantan , ( we ) always comply with the CTT determined by NLC . We do not exceed the annual felling ration permitted , which is 3,900ha per year , as reported in the 12th Malaysia Plan . In fact , logging activities are only done in production forest reserves , not protected forest
Datuk Zuraida Kamaruddin
Andrew Sebastian
Abdul Khalim Abu Samah
reserves ,” said Abdul Khalim .
Pristine forests are the most ideal for tiger habitat
It was believed that Abdul Khalim quoted the research done by WWF- Malaysia in 2009 . In response to the news , WWF-Malaysia issued a statement to clarify its stance on the matter .
“ As a research-based organisation , we believe in learning and understanding conservation science and its methods . Our study published in 2009 entitled ‘ The importance of selectively logged forests for tiger Panthera tigris conservation : a population density estimate in Peninsular Malaysia ’ by D . Mark Rayan and Shariff Wan Mohamad was done to obtain information on the density of tigers specifically in selectively logged forests .
“ It is important to note that the study refers to selective logging , not indiscriminate logging . Selective logging is a forestry practice that only cuts a select number of trees annually in a forest compartment instead of the whole forest at once , in line with Sustainable Forest Management ( SFM )
Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre at Sepilok Sandakan , Sabah .
planting procedures that ensure the sustainability of palm oil production .
“ We would like to state that it is not a human versus primate issue , where the ultimatum is to kill or be killed . Rather , it is about tolerance , acceptance and co-existence . The now stable orangutan numbers show that both humans and wildlife can live in harmony with nature .” — @ Forest
SOURCE ; MALAYSIAKIN practises ,” it said .
The organisation further stated that the 2009 study concluded that further research was urgently needed to understand the ecology of tigers and their prey in selectively logged forests . WWF-Malaysia emphasised that it was essential to differentiate SFM that complies with the principles of sustainability from conventional logging where indiscriminate logging takes place .
“ It is this indiscriminate logging that leads to forest degradation and eventually deforestation when the forest has lost its functions and values and therefore converted into other land use . While SFM retains the integrity and functions of a forest , a degraded forest is bad for biodiversity and only generalist species that have adapted to it .”
The organisation expressed its stance that the pristine , undisturbed forests would remain the ideal habitat for tigers .
Logging affects not only tigers
According to Free Malaysia Today , the President of the Association for the Protection of the Natural Heritage of Malaysia ( PEKA ), Puan Sri Shariffa Sabrina Syed Akil , urged Abdul Khalim to stop issuing any statements or risk becoming a laughing stock .
She told the news outlet that Abdul Khalim ’ s remark was “ very irresponsible ” and that logging activities affected tigers and other wildlife species and the Orang Asli communities .