JOHOR BARU (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The Johor ruler has issued a warning to wildlife poachers, saying they will be hunted down if they were to continue with the illegal activities.
In a statement on his official Facebook page on Saturday (Oct 26), Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar said the forests of Johor were rich in flora and fauna, and must always be preserved and taken care of.
The posting showed a picture of what appeared to be two white tigers drinking at a river bank.
Sultan Ibrahim said he was informed about the discovery of four tigers, two of them white, in the jungles of Sungai Sayong, Kota Tinggi, recently.
He told Malaysia's Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) and other relevant enforcement agencies to intensify operations and patrols to combat illegal wildlife hunting.
"This is my warning to all hunters, local or foreign, as well as to the Orang Asli - if they illegally hunt tigers or any other form of wildlife, then they in turn will be hunted."
"I want Perhilitan to increase their operations and patrols in Johor's forests to combat and even eradicate illegal hunting," he said.
It was reported in The Star that Perhilitan found 298 wire snares and 23 illegal camps set by poachers to trap animals, especially tigers, in Johor jungles from January to July this year.
The discovery was made during a boots-on-the-ground programme called Ops Belang (Operation Stripes), said state Perhilitan director Salman Saaban.
Ops Belang, which was started by the government to protect tigers and their habitat as well as to combat poachers, is carried out in collaboration with the Johor Forestry Department and Johor National Parks Corporation.
"We know where the hot spots are as we found many of the snares around the Panti Forest Reserve and Endau Rompin National Park during our patrols under Ops Belang," he said.
Mr Salman pointed out that the poachers would buy tools such as wire cables from hardware shops to make the snares.
He believed the poachers also received help from locals, who provided them with information.
The poachers, Salman said, would stay in the jungle for one to two weeks, hoping to trap animals in the snares.
Although the poachers did not rely on firearms to hunt the animals, they were usually armed with knives and axes, he added.
He said Perhilitan believed that the poachers targeted animals such as tigers, as enforcement officers would sometimes find carcasses of wild boars, mouse deer and serow - a kind of antelope - left untouched by poachers.
"The price of a tiger can reach up to RM100,000 (S$32,500) in the black market," said Mr Salman, adding that many of the poachers came from Indochina countries and worked in factories here.
Some of them have work permits while others entered the country illegally.
"They hunt here as many animals are extinct back in their home countries," he added.
He said Perhilitan could only take action against the poachers if they were found to be in possession of wildlife or animal parts under the Wildlife Conservation Act.
Mr Salman added that Perhilitan sends two teams of five enforcement personnel into the jungle twice a month.
He said the government's efforts in protecting wildlife would receive a major boost with the involvement of the police force, which is expected to be part of an enforcement operation in the near future.
"Having the police force in the wildlife enforcement operation in future is a good move," Mr Salman said.