(File pix) Sabah Forestry Department has identified a plantation manager as a suspect behind the killing of one of the three Bornean Banteng last month. Pix courtesy of Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC)

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah Forestry Department has identified a plantation manager as a suspect behind the killing of one of the three Bornean Banteng last month.

Its chief forest conservator Datuk Sam Mannan in revealing this today said the man was also believed to be involved in the selling of the meat for the Peninsular Malaysia market.

He said with an estimate of less than 400 Bantengs left in Sabah, the species, also known as Tembadau, is the most endangered large mammal in this state and currently listed under the Totally Protected Species.

Authorities had recently revealed that the three killings in October happened at Maliau, Sipitang and Tabin conservation or forest reserve areas. It was learnt that the plantation manager has been identified in one of the photographs seized, where he posed with a Banteng carcass.

“It is no longer a suspicion because we have nabbed the individual...There will be a prosecution later… So this is still under investigation and we believe the person can provide more information,

"We expect more (individuals) from within this (oil palm) industry,” said Sam, after opening the Bornean Banteng international workshop to discuss the conservation of the species.

He described their actions as an “embarrassment” to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) initiative.

Sam added that the department was also looking for a foreigner, who acted as a ‘scout’ for the poachers.

Meanwhile, Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC) research and training facility director Dr Benoit Goossens said to shoot a Banteng, one would require a sophisticated firearm with special bullets.

He said this year, four Banteng killings have been identified, but cases were estimated to average around 12 annually including those that went unreported.

“As for transporting or sending it to the Peninsular market, it was easy because the culprits can just put the Banteng meat in cooler boxes and authorities, thinking it to be buffalo meat will just let them through,” he explained.

As for the setting up of a dedicated wildlife enforcement team to face poachers as announced by the department previously, Benoit said a crime analyst would beneficial for the squad.

“Information gathered needed to be analysed, so the enforcement team can go to places they can likely catch the poachers," he added.

Goossens said due to the limited population of Banteng in Sabah, a captive breeding programme is also being discussed in the workshop.

“We need to increase population for example at Sipitang or Sugut reserves areas where there are not enough individuals to survive there even without poaching.

“We need to start the captive breeding programme from now and the target is not to lose anymore numbers … or else the species will suffer the same fate like the Sumatran rhinos 20 years down the road.” he stressed.

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