Spate of rare animal deaths in Malaysia sparks alarm

A sun bear and tapir were killed in road accidents in north-east Malaysia on Christmas Eve.
A sun bear and tapir were killed in road accidents in north-east Malaysia on Christmas Eve. PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK
A sun bear and tapir were killed in road accidents in north-east Malaysia on Christmas Eve. The tapir was skinned by villagers after its carcass was discovered.
A sun bear and tapir were killed in road accidents in north-east Malaysia on Christmas Eve. The tapir was skinned by villagers after its carcass was discovered. PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) - The deaths of two sun bears and a tapir in Malaysia sparked fresh alarm among activists on Thursday (Dec 28) over the growing number of exotic animals perishing in the biodiverse country.

A sun bear and tapir were killed in road accidents in the north-east of the country on Christmas Eve, with the tapir skinned by villagers after its carcass was discovered, environmental group WWF said.

A second sun bear was killed and cut up, with its parts spotted on the same day sold openly at a market in Sarawak state on Borneo island, local media reported.

"Despite all efforts from various organisations and government bodies, yet again, we, as a nation, have failed to stand up for our Malaysian wildlife," said WWF-Malaysia executive director Dionysius Sharma.

"If we do not take drastic measures to protect our wildlife now, we may lose them to extinction in the near future."

Tropical, jungle-clad Malaysia is home to a dizzying array of wildlife, from orang utans to pangolins. But their numbers have been dwindling.

They are targeted by poachers and their natural habitat has been shrinking due to the expansion of plantations. Hundreds have also been killed on busy roads as the highway network has rapidly expanded.

Two elephants were killed in the space of three months earlier this year after being hit by vehicles on the same stretch of highway in northern Malaysia.

Sun bears are the smallest of the bear species, and are classified as vulnerable by protection group International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Tapirs are known for their long, drooping noses, which they use to forage for leaves. The variety of tapirs in Malaysia is listed as endangered.