KUALA LUMPUR: Animal rights activist Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye has once again called for all parties to step up efforts to protect the Malayan tapir.
This follows the death of a tapir in Hulu Langat which is widely believed to have been the result of a botched rescue attempt.
Lee, who is patron of the Selangor Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) told the New Straits Times that this had to be done through a more comprehensive and effective awareness campaign.
Drawing on the incident on Oct 26 where a tapir wandered into Taman Desa Saujana, Batu 14, Hulu Langat and fell into a drain, he said rapid development would continue to push wildlife into wandering into human settlements.
However, he stressed that those without knowledge about rescuing the endangered species, or any other animal for that matter, should not attempt to do so.
Lee said they should, instead, call the Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan), as its officers were the experts in the matter.
“We do not want the same thing to recur where members of the public and those from agencies who do not know how to handle animals that are lost, injured or trapped in a human settlement or near the road (botch a rescue attempt). At the same time, we do not want wildlife carcasses to be mutilated and its parts stolen for its supposed medicinal properties,” said Lee, drawing on a separate incident in April where a dead tapir was found in Simpang Slow Temiang near Kuala Krai in Kelantan with its skin and nose removed.
In the Oct 26 incident, Perhilitan officers had found that some parts of the adult male tapir, such as its ears, front leg, trunk and skin were mutilated.
Their initial observations suggested that a possible cause of death was stress and inappropriate rescue methods used in the operation.
The Civil Defence Force has since denied that its personnel or firemen present had mishandled the tapir and instead claimed the animal was strangled and tied with ropes by the public before their arrival.
Lee called on members of parliament to raise the matter in the Dewan Rakyat so a special allocation can be included in the 2018 Budget to address the issue.
He said funds should be made available to organise a massive awareness campaign and implement plans such as building habitats and special routes for animals in high-risk areas.
“More animal viaducts need to be built with the help of Perhilitan along the highways and roads that cut through animal habitats or their migration routes,” said Lee.
He said 40 tapirs have been killed in road accidents since 2010, with the latest incident some two months ago involving a pair of tapirs at the Gebeng bypass in Kuantan.
“Perhilitan’s records show that there are 61 road and highway networks that have incidents of roadkill. And the five with the highest number of cases are Jalan Kuala Lipis-Gua Musang, Jalan Kulai-Kota Tinggi, Jalan Gua Musang-Kuala Krai; East Coast Expressway 2 and Jalan Taiping-Selama,” said Lee.
He said that new land transport routes, including the High Speed Rail (HSR) project between Malaysia and Singapore and the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) that will connect Kuala Lumpur and the east coast states, must also take animal habitats and migration routes into account.
Lee said that the conflict between man and wildlife was deplorable, based on media reports, and he believes that many are also unaware that Malayan tapirs are on the verge of extinction, with only 1,200 to 1,500 left in the wild in the peninsula.
“Although the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010, which replaces the Wildlife Protection Act 1972, provides higher penalties to those who kill wild animals, lack of awareness among the community has caused this problem to persist.”
Under the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010, individuals who take body parts of protected animals can be charged under Section 68 and fined up to RM100,000 or jailed up to three years or both.
Ill treatment of wildlife is also punishable under Section 86 o
f the act, with anyone found guilty liable to a fine of up to RM50,000 or imprisonment of up to a year, or both.