Malaysia: Animal accidents are avoidable

BERNAMA New Straits Times 22 Jul 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: Recent reports have indicated that there are more than 1,914 animal deaths on our roads and highways since 2011.

According to the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS), in the last 15 years, Malaysia has lost around 60,000 species of animal life forms a year as a result of natural areas being cleared to make way for development-logging, plantations, housing and various other human exploits.

The rapid development is a major cause of concern for the habitat protection in our country. Almost every other day, monkeys, monitor lizards and iguanas are victims of vehicles on the highways, with their carcasses being repeatedly flattened on the roads.

Development has encroached into the livelihoods of our primates. Such animals who have lived for eons in the deep forests are coming out to urban areas in search of food since development has stolen their homes and sources of food for their livelihood.

The Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) Conservation and Biodiversity confirmed that 378 foxes, 170 wild boars, 65 leopards and 33 tapirs were also fatal victims of such incidents, with many more unaccounted for as their numbers are unknown.

Our tigers, hornbills, elephants, tapirs, foxes, whales, dolphins and even insects must be protected and nurtured.

NGO’s like MNS and WWF have tirelessly put in great effort on a wide range of issues like the Kuala Muda coast in Penang to national issues in the Belum -Temengor Forest Complex, Endau-Rompin and Taman Negara as some examples of where our policy and advocacy have succeeded in ensuring effective conservation of our wildlife.

They are also working closely with the Federal and State agencies on Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs), such as the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), Ramsar Convention on Wetlands and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Over 750 bird species have been recorded within the country’s political boundaries in various habitat types or ecosystems ranging from the lush, evergreen tropical rainforests to even man-made environments such as urban parks and fruits orchards. There are about 37 species which are highly vulnerable to be extinct.

Insects, or rather commonly known as bugs, are also aplenty. Most people hate bugs. They bite or sting, cause allergic reactions, transmit germs, and perhaps leave a little hole here and there among our belongings.

They may be small and insignificant, and nice to squish. However, human culture is largely connected or influenced by insects as thousands of years ago they were greatly associated in aspects of symbolisms, religion and philosophy, right up to literature, medical and therapeutic value, art and entertainment; all unmatched by any other group of animals on the planet.

Insects plays a major role for life on Earth. They are cleaners and decomposers, pollinators, food producers and food themselves, amongst others, whilst humans use them for medicine and food, art, dye and jewellery.

The Kuala Selangor Fireflies Protected Area (Restricted Activities) may be the country’s first insect habitat protection programme. We need more gazetted of such protected areas to show our commitment towards nature.

I was made to understand that there are massive plans for development within the restricted area along the coastal area which will have a direct impact on the “Berembang” trees - the home of the fireflies.

Though there are several detailed environmental impact assessment (DEIA) studies for almost all development projects, very few are being enforced today.

These reports must be studied immediately and carefully, and implemented to avoid abuse and neglect of the ideas, plans and locations for such areas.

There should be more road signs to highlight wild animal crossings; transverse bars to reduce the crossing of the animals on our highways; well-maintained high quality fencing to prevent animals from getting onto the roads; viaducts on the highway which are hot spots for wild animals and speed breakers at strategic locations to reduce the collision between vehicles and wildlife.

The Malaysian Highway Authorities is tasked with improving and maintaining the laws in the area of road safety.

It must involve the cooperation of state governments, local authorities, government agencies and stakeholders with the ultimate aim of reducing vehicle-animal crashes through several approaches such as more underpasses and overpasses, better fencing, plantings and combinations of all.

A sustainable action plan must be devised by the government with the concerted support of the NGO’s and all related agencies to produce affirmative plans what will ensure that we will not lose the wonderful natural habitats which is our national asset.

Malaysia is the twelfth richest mega-centre for biodiversity in the world and we have over 185,000 types of animal species and 15,000 of flowering plants.

Unfortunately, our biodiversity is under threat and we are listed under the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red Data list.

Malaysia tops the list under the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. To address this, I think the government, the NGOs and every citizen of our nation must embark on initiatives that preserve the flora and fauna species as per the IUCN guidelines.

Environmental awareness must be made as syllabus in all our schools curriculum, to educate especially our future generations.

The Malaysian mind set, attitude and commitment towards using our natural resources must be done wisely. It is not just the government’s role to protect the habitats. It is the responsibility of everyone.

NGO’s are struggling to fulfill the increasing demands of development without any sustainability in the road map of development. Species protection is the key to advocating the conservation of these habitats as it will allow for flora and fauna to thrive in their natural environment. -- Bernama

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