Malaysia: Ulu Muda wildlife under threat

SIM LEOI LEOI The Star 8 May 17;

PETALING JAYA: The Ulu Muda Reserve in Kedah, which is already facing risk as a water catchment area, is in danger of having its wildlife poached.

Poachers and hunters from as far as Laos and Myanmar have been detected in the forest, which is one of two places in Peninsular Malaysia where the spotted leo­pard is found.

Researchers from the Wildlife Con­­servation Research Unit (WildCRU) from Oxford University have found evidence of poaching during their recent 18-month study on the population of clouded leo­pards in the area.

In an open letter urging the Kedah government to accord official protection to the area, WildCRU said its researchers had encountered multiple signs of illegal poaching and harvesting activities.

“In total, we found 20 gun shells and probably, six to seven felled agarwood trees.

“Our camera traps have revealed multiple detections of people from Vietnam, Myanmar, Thailand and Laos, armed with harvesting and hunting tools,” it said.

Pictures of poachers caught in WildCRU’s camera traps were also attached with the letter.

The destruction of salt licks, on which animals depended for their essential mineral nutrients, would also negatively disrupt their population, said WildCRU.

“Opening up logging roads will increase accessibility for the already existing illegal activity,” it said, adding that this would further decimate the wildlife population and jeopardise the ecosystem as well as ecotourism activities in the Ulu Muda area.

It was recently reported in The Star that almost a year after rampant logging near the Ulu Muda Re­­serve that affected the water catchment area and left the dam there exposed, a new trail for timber lorries had been found.

The new trail at the catchment area in the forest reserve near Sik is believed to have been used by loggers since early this year.

Stretching from the Malaysian border with Thailand at Yala to Baling in the north of Perak and about twice the size of Singapore, it is said to be a paradise for nature and wildlife lovers.

However, logging is legal.

The 163,000ha Ulu Muda forest complex, covering seven forest re­serves, is an important water catchment forest for Perlis, Kedah and Penang.

WildCRU is part of the Zoology Department in Oxford University, founded in 1986 with members from more than 30 countries.

Asked how they knew that the poachers were foreigners, its main researcher Dr Cedric Tan said they had found packages of instant noddles with Thai language as well as based on personal communication with local villagers.

“There was no report lodged,” he said to a question whether WildCRU had reported such intrusions to the authorities.

An e-mail of the letter was sent to the Department of Town and Country Planning in Kedah on April 20, added Dr Tan.

Hymeir Kamarudin, operator of Earth Lodge in Ulu Muda, said he had bumped into poachers several times and even cornered a few, in the presence of his guests.

“They tried to run away. I’ve cornered them before but they kept mum. We also had pictures of poachers in our camera traps,” Hymeir said, adding that it had some 10 cameras within 3km from the lodge.

He said he could understand it if the local people were to harvest agarwood, bamboo, rotan and herbs from the forest for their own use.

“It’s when people harvest for commercial use for sale in the fo­reign market that they take more than they need,” he said, adding that he had reported to the Forestry Department as well as Perhilitan about the poachers.


WildCRU: Conserve area for spotted leopards’ sake
The Star 8 May 17;

PETALING JAYA: The Ulu Muda Forest Area is only one of the two known places in Peninsular Malay­sia where the spotted leopard can be found, said the Wildlife Conser­vation Research Unit (WildCRU).

In an open letter to the Kedah government, the research team from Oxford University in England said the area has the potential of becoming one of the major players as Malaysia’s flagship protected areas.

The Endau Rompin National Park is the other one.

“Camera traps at other forest sites have only detected the me­­lanistic leopard (commonly known as the black panther),” said WildCRU.

The rarity of the spotted leopard in areas south of the isthmus of Kra – the narrowest part of the Malay Peninsula in southern Thailand and Myanmar – increased the importance of the Ulu Muda forest reserve as a valuable conservation area, it said.

Both the spotted and the melanistic leopards are of the same species (Panthera pardus), which has been listed as vulnerable by International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Besides acting as an important wildlife corridor connecting the fo­rests in Thailand to the Pedu Forest Reserve in Kedah, resear­chers have also found Ulu Muda to be a highly suitable habitat for the clouded leopards due to its good forest cover and high elevation.

“Yet, the density of the population is estimated to be at one individual per 100km sq, lower than that of any other intensively studied sites in Malaysia.

“This could be attributed to illegal hunting and ongoing logging,” it said.

The clouded leopard is also categorised as vulnerable under IUCN.

During the research, scientists came across 54 species within just 120km sq of their camera grid, in­­clu­ding 37 mammals, 15 birds and two reptiles.

Forty-three per cent of the mammals detected (16 species), four bird species and one species of reptiles are considered as near threatened, vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered.

On April 21, a group of 10 non-governmental bodies including WWF Malaysia, the Malaysia Na­­ture Society from Penang, Kedah and Langkawi and Water Watch Penang, said the area was also home to species such as the Asian elephant, the Malayan tapir, the Malayan sun bear and the serow as well as more than 300 species of birds.

“It is one of the only two areas in Malaysia where all 10 species of Malaysian hornbills are found, including the rare and endangered plain-pouched hornbill,” it said.

Group warns against poaching activities in Ulu Muda Reserve
The Star 11 May 17;

PETALING JAYA: A group of 11 conservation bodies are voicing concern over the future of the Ulu Muda Reserve in Kedah as a wildlife refuge following the recent discovery of poaching activities.

The group said it was clear that poaching and encroachment activities were present in the area, one of only two places in peninsular Malaysia where the spotted leopard could be found.

“Based on studies, poaching can be facilitated by easy access into forests via roads, including logging roads, and this needs to be curbed by immediate attention and intensifying enforcement efforts.

“Failure to do so can lead to localised extinction of many rare and endemic species, the loss of wildlife based eco-tourism and ultimately may result in disrupting the whole balance of the ecosystem services these forests provide,” it said in a joint statement yesterday.

The group, which included WWF-Malaysia, the Malaysian Nature Society from Kedah, Penang and Langkawi, Water Watch Penang, Pertubuhan Pelindung Khazanah Alam (Peka) and Treat Every Environment Special (TrEES), is responding to poaching activities discovered by the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) from Oxford University.

WildCRU had come across evidence of poaching during their recent 18-month study on clouded leopards in the reserve.

“It is also a water catchment area of national significance,” the group said, adding that it also supplied water to industries and rice fields.

It was recently reported in The Star that a new trail of timber lorries had been found, believed to be in use since early this year. Logging is legal.

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