Thursday, April 7, 2011

Hornbill’s killing by army personnel deplorable

April 7, 2011

FMT LETTER: From S M Mohd Idris, via e-mail

Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) deplores the action of slitting the throat of a Great Hornbill by men believed to be members of the Malaysian army. In a Facebook photo, the men appear to be brimming with pride as they hold up their “loot,” showing off the large wingspan of the bird.

Their actions are not only deplorable but are also seriously reprehensible. Such blatant irresponsibility and unethical behaviour casts a negative light on the reputation of the army as a whole.

How did the bird, a protected species, come to be killed by these men? The army’s role is not only to protect Malaysia and her citizens from foreign threats but also to protect the flora and fauna within the boundaries of the country.

The army is taught to kill exotic wildlife for food during its camp training, which is detrimental to our wildlife, especially considering that many species are on the verge of extinction. Will this practice turn into an acceptable norm and lead to further massacre of wildlife despite that the Malaysian army feeds its soldiers well?

In 2006, the Wildlife and National Parks department conducted programmes designed to increase awareness in the armed services of the need to prevent poaching and encroachment.

An NGO even conducted a seminar on endangered and protected wildlife for army officers. These efforts seem to have had no effect as heinous acts against Malaysia’s wildlife continue.

No doubt the five men have been suspended from duty, SAM still calls for action to be taken under the full extent of the law against these men for their deplorable action.

In two other related incidents, it was reported that a senior police officer accidentally shot a man during a hunting trip. This case could be investigated under Section 39 of the Firearms Act 1960 for negligence, but the officer has been allowed to resume duty, because the shooting occurred during a hunting trip.

The officer’s conduct is highly questionable! Does the police officer have the right to use his gun to shoot wildlife? Does he have a hunting permit?

The second incident involved a Rela member who killed a stray tiger in Selama, Perak, a crime his director general defended. The Perak Wildlife department stated that action would be taken against the Rela member, but so far no action has been taken.

There is no excuse or justification for the behaviour of the army troop, the police officer or the Rela member. There must be respect for the rule of law. A country that has respect for the rule of law cannot give excuses or justification under any circumstances when abuses like the above occur.

The Ministry of Defense, the Home Ministry and the Department of Wildlife and National Parks must act swiftly to punish those responsible in order to demonstrate that they are serious about protecting wildlife. Action against offenders by these agencies will prove an effective deterrent to those who wish to further endanger or harm our already endangered wildlife.

The writer is president of Sahabat Alam Malaysia

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