The road towards diplomacy of protecting life, as stated in the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 15 in Malaysia, is long and arduous.
Nevertheless, we need immediate efforts to address the plight of the critically endangered animals in Malaysia.
There is no magic wand to restore and stabilise biodiversity in Malaysian forests overnight. While short- and mid-term strategies could address an immediate halt to further decline in biodiversity, a long-term approach would be necessary to sustain the stability of biodiversity in Malaysia.
With immediate effect, affected states should get more autonomy to adopt and execute short-term measures in driving wildlife, particularly endangered ones, conservation efforts. If necessary, they must receive Federal funding.
For example, Terengganu could be entrusted to protect the endangered Malayan tiger as it is mostly indigenous in Terengganu, could be entrusted to the state. The relevant state authorities must devise a comprehensive strategic plan from mapping the feeding and roaming grounds of the Malayan tiger to ensuring adequate on-the-ground manpower to patrol for illegal activities.
Should there be any possibility that the Malayan tiger’s feeding and roaming grounds cross into neighbouring States such as Kedah and Pahang, Terengganu can act as the key state to cooperate and collaborate with the neighbouring states on measures to save them.
It may be more conducive for states to negotiate among themselves, as they are of the same coordinate status and understand each other’s economic, political, and social standing.
Simultaneously, as a mid-term measure, the legal framework on wildlife conservation at Federal and state government levels must be strengthened. There must be a holistic approach to wildlife conservation, which means we need to amend all laws relating to wildlife so that they are read together.
For example, a law enforcement officer (whether from the Environment Department, Wildlife and National Parks Department, Forestry Department, police, etc) should be empowered to track down and arrest poachers or any person carrying out illegal activities about wildlife or its surrounding habitat.
The country should amend the relevant legislation to provide stiffer penalties for wildlife-related crimes.
Finally, we need a long-term solution involving all stakeholders, including the Natural Resources, Environment, and Climate Change Ministry, Wildlife and National Parks Department, Economic Planning Unit, national and state Forestry Departments, relevant departments from Sabah and Sarawak, state governments, non-governmental organisations and experts from public universities or international organisations.
The idea is to come up with a master blueprint of binding policies, legislation, or action plans to accommodate the following considerations:
- Provide stricter penalties for illegal activities involving wildlife to weed out systemic corruption, especially those involved in the illegal wildlife trade;
- Mapping of routes frequented by endangered animals for either gazetting the same as protected areas or ensuring that the development undertaken in those areas has little impact on the wildlife roaming those areas;
- Ensuring stricter enforcement of wildlife laws by increasing the number of on-the-ground enforcement officers and patrol guards, including local indigenous communities.
While financial implications for the proposed mid-term solution are minimal as it only involves amending the relevant legislation, the expenses for the long-term solution could be substantial. For a long-term solution, we must periodically allocate funds following the national five-year plans or annual budget allocations.
However, an immediate budget is to be allocated by the Federal government to each of the state governments, to conserve their chosen wildlife to protect for the short-term solution.
The budget must consider the size of protected areas within a state, including proposed protected areas, the state’s plan of action on conservation efforts, and the quantity of increased personnel required.
For a short-term solution, personnel consisting of ecology experts, scientists, enforcement personnel, and patrol guards on the ground to monitor poaching and other illegal activities may be contracted for any short-term project to save the wildlife chosen by a state.
The proposed amendments for a long-term solution can be undertaken by the Drafting Division within the Attorney-General’s Chambers, involving ecology experts, scientists, enforcement personnel and patrol guards on the ground to monitor poaching and other illegal activities.
These personnel must be employed on a long-term basis to ensure the survival of all wildlife in Malaysia.
Although there are laws in place to protect wildlife in Malaysia, these laws have restricted application, implementation, and enforcement for various reasons, including the absence of an integrative approach across the sectors, systemic corruption, and the areas of jurisdiction of the Federal and state governments as defined in the Federal Constitution that lead to non-uniform implementation between states.
To fulfil its SDG Goal 15, Malaysia must introduce a strategic and workable plan to protect its wildlife before they are gone forever.
Dr Sheila Ramalingam is a senior lecturer at UM’s Faculty of Law. Prof. Dr. Mohammad Tariqur Rahman is the Associate Dean (continuing education) at the Faculty of Dentistry, Universiti Malaya (UM). Datuk Dr Anis Yusal Yusoff is the director of UM LEAD (Centre for Leadership and Professional Development), former president and chief executive officer of the Malaysian Institute of Integrity, director-general of the National Department for Good Governance and Integrity, and deputy director-general of the National Centre for Governance, Integrity and Anti-Corruption in the Prime Minister’s Department.
The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the writer and do not necessarily represent that of Twentytwo13.