AS someone who is interested in wildlife protection, I urge the authorities to take action to tackle wildlife roadkill and smuggling, which have affected protected animals, such as elephants and tapirs.
I support the Malaysian Nature Society’s call to focus on human behavioural change to tackle the wildlife trade and roadkill problem.
For laws to be effective, effort must be made to educate the public so that they will appreciate wildlife and fight against their exploitation.
Wildlife and vehicles just don’t mix, and the construction of roads across wildlife habitats means that more animals may be hit by vehicles.
The latest incident was on Aug 25 when two tapirs were killed by a car while crossing the Gebeng bypass, near Kuantan.
On Aug 23, a 10-year-old bull elephant died after it was hit by a bus in the Gerik-Jeli Highway.
The incident took place two months after an elephant calf was run over and killed when a car collided with it in the same area.
It was reported that the collisions had occurred even though signboards had been put up to warn motorists about elephants and other wildlife crossing in the area, which is not far from the Royal Belum State Park.
More animal crossings should be built in highways and roads that pass through animal habitats or migration routes.
I believe that the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) has statistics on roadkill, which could help the authorities build animal crossings in suitable locations.
A Perak Perhilitan report said more than 60 elephants roamed near the Gerik-Jeli Highway, which is equivalent to about 70 per cent of the population in Perak.
We are facing the same problem in other roads and highways, especially the East Coast Expressway, where many animals are killed crossing the road.
It pains me to read about roadkills, especially when it involves gentle creatures like tapirs.
The authorities should implement measures adopted in other countries to reduce roadkill. These including installing wildlife detectors that trigger flashing signs when an animal is near a road.
In South America, reflective stickers are placed on global positioning system collars that are worn by tapirs so that the animals are easier seen in the dark.
Tapirs are at risk of becoming roadkill as the nocturnal creatures look for food by roadsides.
The authorities should install speed bumps and speed cameras, and introduce light-co-loured roads in areas that are rich in wildlife to reduce roadkill.
With the help of information technology experts, the authorities could develop apps that synchronise with other apps, such as Waze and Google Maps, to warn drivers about the presence of wildlife.
Drivers should be more cautious when driving in stretches that traverse the forests.
The animals may not know that they are at risk, but we as human beings should be more considerate and place greater value on them as they are a part of our ecosystem.
Human behavioural change is crucial to avoid collisions as not all wildlife will use viaducts or special crossings.
Like humans, wild animals have the right to live.
With regard to the smuggling of wildlife, the authorities should enforce the International Trade in Endangered Species Act 2008 (Intesa) to meet the country’s obligations under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites).
Malaysia and other countries, which are party to Cites, agreed to include all eight known pangolin species in Appendix I at its 17th meeting last year.
It lists species threatened with extinction and prohibits commercial trade in these species, including their parts and derivatives.
Intesa is one of the best wildlife trade laws as it provides stricter penalties and applies to native and non-native animals.
Malaysia is a popular wildlife smuggling transit point.
This is shown by the Customs Department’s successes, which included the seizure of 8,000 tonnes of pangolin scales at Sepangar port in Sabah and the seizure of ivory at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in July.
The Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 should be amended to impose harsher penalties on poachers and wildlife traffickers.
Although the law, which was passed in 2010 to replace the Wildlife Protection Act 1972, is tough on lawbreakers, some quarters have claimed that it is not deterrent enough.
Wildlife species have been declining, even in protected areas, due to poaching and illegal deforestation.
The rise of social media and trading portals makes the situation worse.
We need to have a more comprehensive and stricter law to deter culprits.
TAN SRI LEE LAM THYE, Kuala Lumpur