Malaysia: Hornbill killer pleads guilty

Stephen Then The Star, 1 Oct 13;

MIRI: The man who captured and killed the rare hornbill in Piasau Camp last Monday has been sentenced to three months’ jail and fined RM2,000.

Michael Rabai, an employee of an electrical appliance store here, will have to serve additional three months in jail if he fails to pay the fine.

The Magistrate’s Court here yesterday jailed the offender, who is in his 20s, after he admitted to killing the totally-protected Oriental Pied Hornbill at about 12.30pm on Sept 24, an offence under Section 29(1) of the Wildlife Protection Ordinance 1998.

Rabai was last Monday arrested along with two of his colleagues after they were seen capturing the hornbill and forcing it into a box before driving off in a lorry.

Yesterday, he was brought to court and sentenced by Magistrate Mohamad Radza Azhar Rezeli.

Rabai’s accomplices, Eliry Seman and Benny Jaba, however, were not brought before the court despite the fact that the charge sheet said all three had admitted to capturing the hornbill named Faridah by animal-lovers here.

They had also admitted to killing the bird using a slingshot and then dumping the carcass into a rubbish dump at an industrial estate.

SUPP information chief Datuk Sebastian Ting, calling The Star from Kuala Lumpur yesterday, expressed his surprise, saying: “Only one of the three was sentenced. The other two were let off. I do not know why.”

He said he was also surprised that the case was brought to court “so soon” and described the sentence imposed as “rather light”.

“The maximum jail term for killing such a rare and protected animal is two years and the maximum fine is RM25,000.

“The offender was jailed three months and fined RM2,000, in default another three months’ jail.

“I was informed that he could not pay the fine, so he may have to serve another three months in jail, making it a total six months.

“To me, that is considered a lenient sentence. Maybe this is because such a case is new to Miri. We have never had such a crime (of killing hornbill) being brought to court before. The court may have considered the fact that Rabai was a first-time offender.

“Nevertheless, I hope the message is clear — such senseless cruelty against animals must stop.”

Ting, the pro tem chairman of Miri Piasau Nature Park committee, said he was not informed that the police or Sarawak Forestry would be bringing the offender to court yesterday.

He said he was also not informed by the investigating officers in the case why the three men had killed the hornbill.

“I would like to know why they must kill it. I am sure the people of Miri would also like to know the real reasons why the hornbill was killed. It is a senseless act,” Ting said.

Musa Masbah, the division’s Malaysian Nature Society chairman, could not be contacted.

Ting said that apparently, Musa also did not know that the hornbill killer was brought to court yesterday.

The Miri Piasau Camp, covering about 150 acres, is located along the beach fronting the South China Sea.

It is home to Shell expatriates but the area is being proposed to be turned into a nature park because the expatriates are moving out of the area into residential estates nearby.

Hundreds join 5th Hornbill Walk with tears shed for Faridah
Borneo Post, 1 Oct 13;

MIRI: Hundreds of nature lovers from all walks of life, including from Bintulu and neighbouring Brunei, joined Mirians on Sunday for the 5th Hornbill Walk at Piasau Camp in memory of Faridah, one of the totally protected hornbills at the camp that was found dead on Sept 26.

It was also in appreciation of the government’s decision to gazette the camp as a nature reserve by the year-end if there is no objection.

The announcement by Assistant Environment Minister Datu Len Talif Salleh on Friday in Kuching came a day after nature lovers were united in grief over the tragic death of Faridah at Piasau Garden just metres away from Piasau Camp.
The pro tem Piasau Camp Nature Park Society (PCNPS) chairman Datuk Sebastian Ting and his vice chairman and chairman of the Miri Chapter of Malaysian Nature Society, Musa Musbah, jointly addressed the crowd.

Ting, while thanking the government for the decision, urged the people to continue supporting all efforts to make the nature reserve a reality and a success.

“We thank everyone involved including Musa who is the prime mover and among those who dedicatedly carried out survey of the flora and fauna here and had given so much information on the study.

“The media, particularly newspaper reporters, had managed to gain the people’s attention, Shell, Petronas and the state government especially in highlighting the death of Faridah, which led the government to gazette this camp as nature reserve by December 2013,” said Ting. Meanwhile, when acknowledging the strong support of the authorities and the people, Musa reminded that there was much more to be done for the conservation of the flora and fauna in the camp.

“The people too must understand the respective roles of the relevant agencies, the police, Sarawak Forestry Corporation and the government. Let them do their work and we do our roles as citizens,” he said.

During the gathering, eulogies for Faridah were read by Robiah Tani, Polycarp and Zainuddin Ibrahim, which touched the hearts of many, with several people seen shading tears for the doting mama bird.

The moment was both solemn and happy although most of those who came either donned the specially-designed T-shirt in memory of Faridah or Save Piasau Camp T-shirt, while Piasau Animal Welfare Support (Paws) distributed black ribbons with a portrait of Faridah and gave away free limited edition of photographs of the hornbills.

Others came with banners applauding the government’s decision as well as condemning poachers.

To further enlighten the participants on hornbills, there was a quiz session where six lucky winners received special cut-out hornbills besides a tree planting event and visit to the artificial nests.

At the same time, there were sales of t-shirts and collection of petitions. Several others later joined in the walk to watch the hornbills and other wild birds.

Meanwhile, the 6th Hornbill Walk at the camp will be held on October 19 at 4pm, with the starting point at the car park fronting the former Tenby International School.

All are welcome and entrance is free.

Nature lovers united in grief over Faridah
Cecilia Sman Borneo Post, 28 Sep 13;

MIRI: The death of Faridah, the hornbill which made Piasau Garden its home, has touched the hearts of people here and through social media those throughout the state.

Nature lovers here are united in grief as they mourn the death of a bird which had been so familiar with them that they called her and her mate, Jimmy, by name.

A cross section of the society interviewed as well as Facebook (FB) users expressed anger and grief that the poachers, who were arrested on Thursday, killed the mother bird in their attempt to capture it.

Most of them called for stiff penalties for the three men who were seen catching the bird and subsequently arrested by the police.

Miri MP Dr Michael Teo said the punishment should be significant and widely reported to deter potential offenders and raise more awareness.

“The Department of Wildlife and National Park must come up with preventive measures to stop repeat of this crime in future,” Teo said.

He added that those who killed or capture protected species did so because they felt they could get away with it.

Yii Shi Yiing, a butcher, suggested that NGOs, schools and religious bodies take a leading role in increasing awareness on the need to protect and conserve the state’s protected wildlife.

Naturalist Lucas Johny said he was shocked to hear of Faridah’s death despite intensified public awareness programmes being held to help save the hornbills at Piasau Camp.

In the social media, FB users went ‘ballistic’ over the death of the hornbill.

Among those who posted their opinions was Sue Abdullah who said, “The poachers and the “murderers” deserve both punishment, RM25,000 and 3 months imprisonment, and perhaps, 3 strokes of rotan. Let them feel how Faridah felt when she was tortured by them….some people have no compassion for nature.!

SFC deputy general manager, (Protected Areas and Biodiversity Conservation Division) Oswald Braken Tisen said poaching cases in the state were worrying.

He cited the sale of turtle eggs and wild boar meat in cities and towns as examples of rampant poaching.

“Some people think that turtle eggs bought from neighbouring Indonesia especially at the border town Serikin is not against the law. They are mistaken, as long as it is brought into Sarawak the penalty is under the Wildlife Ordinance,” said Braken.

He added that the capture and death of Faridah, was the first major poaching of hornbills reported in the division.

Meanwhile, Musa Musbah, SFC honorary forest ranger while thanking the police and the SFC on the success in detaining the three suspects and the mass media for highlight the case, hoped that the people would join in the effort to get the authorities to turn Piasau Camp into a nature park.

He said Faridah and her mate Jimmy had produced an estimated 56 chicks since 2005 but regretfully only five hornbills including Jimmy were currently spotted at Piasau Camp.

The other four which split into pairs like their parents are so familiar with visitors to the camp they too have been given individual names – Nong and Utet, and Ahkaw and Ahmoi.

“The youngest one – Ahkaw and Ahmoi will survive without Faridah. They can feed themselves but they are too human friendly and the risk being poached is high.

Jimmy on the other hand being partners for life, and might gotten fed up of searching for Faridah and become sad and will not eat and die of hunger,” said Musa.

Call for full brunt of law on Faridah’s killers
Borneo Post, 28 Sep 13;

SIBU: The full weight of the law should be imposed with maximum penalty meted out to the poachers for killing of the people’s hornbill ‘Faridah’.

Assistant Minister of Youth Development Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah, who made the unequivocal call yesterday, said only tough uncompromising action could deter an atrocious act such as this.

“I read The Borneo Post article about the Hornbill ‘murder’ at Piasau Garden, Miri, with anger and sadness and I know I am not alone when feeling this way.

“The Hornbill which is the pride of all Sarawakians and synonymous with Sarawak should not have been hunted and killed this way.

“The act of the three poachers is despicable and has aroused much anger from the public. The full weight of the law should be imposed on the guilty parties and I hope the court gives them the maximum of penalty!” Abdul Karim, who is Asajaya assemblyman, told The Borneo Post, unequivocally.

According to the report, police arrested three men suspected of poaching the hornbills, a totally protected bird in the state at Piasau Garden, on Tuesday.

The captured bird, affectionately known as ‘Faridah’ by frequent visitors to the park, was reported to have died on the same day it was caught.

The suspects later led the police to recover the carcass of the bird from a rubbish bulk bin at Jalan Datuk Edward Jeli in Piasau.

It was also reported that Sarawak Forestry Corporation spokesperson who was also present when the dead bird was recovered, said the suspects would be placed under police custody until investigation had been completed.

Hornbills are totally protected under Ordinance and the penalties for keeping one as a pet, killing, hunting, capturing, selling, trading or disturbing them, or possessing any recognisable parts of these birds, are severe – a RM25,000 fine and three years’ imprisonment.

The killing of hornbill Faridah comes as a strange twist to the lobbying of many naturalists and Mirians alike for the government gazette of Piasau Camp as a nature park.

Hornbill poachers arrested
Protected bird found dead in rubbish bin, 3 men suspected of capturing it in police custody
Cecilia Sman Borneo Post, 27 Sep 13;

MIRI: The three men suspected of poaching hornbills, a totally protected bird in the state, at Piasau Garden here on Tuesday were arrested by police yesterday evening.

Although their arrest assuaged the anger and pain of people here, their prayers and hope that the captured bird affectionately named Faridah by frequent visitors to the park would be found alive were dashed, when the suspected thieves confessed it died on the day they caught it.

They led the police to recover the carcass of the bird from the rubbish bulk bin at Jalan Datuk Edward Jeli in Piasau.

Piasau Camp Nature Park Society (PCNPS) pro tem chairman, Datuk Sebastian Ting and several other committee members were present when the carcass of the bird was recovered.

A distressed Ting said, “This should not have happened, we are trying hard to protect these birds and they hunted them at Piasau Garden. We appeal to the public not to kill or hunt the totally protected wildlife to prevent their extinction,” he said.

Ting said in memory of Faridah the society would organise the 5th Hornbill Walk at 2pm Sunday at the camp.

He urged the public to support the walk and called on the government to gazette the camp as permanent nature park for the conservation of the hornbills and wildlife.

A Sarawak Forestry Corporation spokesperson who was also present when the dead bird was recovered said the suspects would be placed under police custody until investigation had been completed.

“Once the investigation is completed we will forward it to the Forest Department. SFC is assisting because the case had been referred to us, and the Forest Department has a prosecuting officer to handle the case.

The IP (investigation papers) will be sent to the State Attorney General for further action and the case is punishable under the Wild Life Protection Ordinance (1998),” a spokesman told reporters.

Hornbills are totally protected under Ordinance and the penalties for keeping one as a pet, killing, hunting, capturing, selling, trading or disturbing them, or possessing any recognisable parts of these birds are severe – a RM25,000 fine and three years’ imprisonment.

Musa Musbah, the honorary wildlife ranger of the Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC) and one of the onlookers on the day of the incident at Piasau Garden, said the death of Faridah would not be in vain.

He noted the bird’s capture by poachers had stirred up interest on the hornbills and birds in Piasau Garden among the public here and raised awareness of the need to protect the state’s wildlife.

Hornbills have lifelong mates and Faridah’s mate Jimmy has been missing since she was captured.

The pair of hornbills played a big role in maintaining the population of the birds in the park having produced about 56 offspring.

Everybody condemns hornbill hunters
Borneo Post, 26 Sep 13;

MIRI: An all round condemnation is directed at the alleged hunters of hornbills at Piasau Garden here Tuesday.

Miri MP Dr Michael Teo even urged the police to intensify their efforts to catch the culprits and bring them to the book.

“This is very sad, sad after every effort is taken to protect and conserve the iconic bird species,” he said through SMS yesterday.

He also urged the public to be more aware of the need not to harm or compromise the lives of totally protected and protected animals.

“Everybody and Mirians in particular are all shocked by the incident. Spread the news around so that the perpetrators will return the birds.”

Nature lover Dr Teo was among the many people who took part at the 4th Hornbill Walk at Piasau Camp as part of activities marking Malaysia Day celebrations here last Saturday.

The walk was also part of efforts to call on the state government to gazette Piasau Camp as a permanent nature park smack in the city centre.

In the incident on Tuesday, three men brazenly defied the law by hunting the totally protected hornbills at Piasau Garden in full view of horrified onlookers.

Police hot on trail of hornbill hunters
Philip Kiew Borneo Post, 26 Sep 13;

MIRI: The police are hot on the trail of three men who hunted down a relatively tame hornbill at Piasau Garden, defying even an honorary wildlife ranger, the conservation and the state wildlife protection law.

Senadin assemblyman Datuk Lee Kim Shin said the police were working closely with Sarawak Forestry Corporation on the case, and the book would be thrown at the culprits whose brazen act horrified onlookers and nature lovers.

“The police are taking action. There is no excuse of people not to know that hornbills are protected species,” he said when met yesterday after officiating at the opening of Curtin University’s Petroleum Week.

He said that Miri police chief ACP Mun Kock Keong had briefed him on the case following a report made soon after the (shocking) incident.

“I have also spoken to Petronas vice-president who was here recently and Shell MD and chairman on a few occasions and both have indicated their corporate social responsibility commitment to develop and fund the nature park.”

Lee also said he would take up the proposal to have Piasau Camp turned into a park to the state government and wildlife authorities.

“Piasau Camp will make an excellent heritage and nature park and Miri needs more parks and green areas.

“There is no other place in this country where you find hornbills in their natural environment, and not in cages, in the middle of a city. Hornbills are indeed gems for tourists,” he said.

Hornbill hunters disregard law
3 men hunt totally protected hornbills at Piasau Garden, ignore calls by wildlife ranger to return the birds
Cecilia Sman Borneo Post, 25 Sep 13;

MIRI: Three men brazenly defied the law by hunting the totally protected hornbills at Piasau Garden in full view of horrified onlookers.

Even the presence of Musa Musbah the honorary wildlife ranger of the Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC) did not deter them from catching at least one of the birds.

Musa told The Borneo Post yesterday he rushed to the camp after former Pujut assemblyman, Andy Chia called him about the trio hunting the hornbills there.

“I went there and they were still there. According to a couple they saw one of them holding the head and tying the leg of a hornbill before putting it in a van.

“I confronted them and asked them to give me the bird but they refused and drove off in the van,” he said.

Musa added that he had made a police report against the three men for catching the hornbills.

It should be easy for the police to nab the hunters because they did not bother to cover their faces and were photographed near their van.

Musa, also the chairman of the Malaysian Nature Society, (MNS) Miri Chapter and the pro tem vice chairman of the Piasau Camp Nature Park Society (PCNPS) said that because the hornbills were human friendly it was easy for the men to catch them.

Meanwhile deputy general manager, (Protected Areas and Biodiversity Conservation Division) of Sarawak Foresty Corporation (SFC), Oswald Braken Tisen said there would be no compromise on those defying the State’s Wildlife Protection Ordinance (1998).

He also warned that ignorance of the law was no excuse for the people who caught the hornbills at Piasau Camp.

“Ignorance of the law does not mean you can be above the law,” said Braken when contacted by The Borneo Post to comment on the alleged hunting of the hornbills yesterday.

He said his staff here had been directed to investigate the case and to take the necessary legal actions against the culprits.

Datuk Sebastian Ting (pro tem Chairman of PCNPS) and Andy Chia ( pro tem Secretary of PCNPS) voiced their anger on those hunting the hornbills.

“It is terrible and unacceptable act and I hoped that SFC and the police will catch the culprits,” said Ting.

Chia commented “it is very sad that these guys hunt our state’s totally protected birds, in our own backyard in Piasau Garden.”
Hornbills are totally protected in the state under the Wild Life Protection Ordinance (1998).

Penalties for keeping one as a pet, killing, hunting, capturing, selling, trading or disturbing them, or possessing any recognisable parts of these birds are severe – a RM25,000 fine and three years’ imprisonment.

The Piasau Camp, a forested area cleared in the 1950’s to build 175 wooden houses for Shell’s employees is home to a flock of Oriental Pied Hornbill which had made the area their homes.