Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) notes with grave concern and strongly opposes the lifting of an eight year ban on the capture of wild birds by the Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan).
The key question is whether Perhilitan has seriously considered the five factors to determine if delisting the birds is appropriate namely: threats to or actual destruction of the habitat needed by the bird species; threats from the over-use of these songbird species for commercial trade and pet purposes; threats from disease and predation; the amount of protection of the species or its habitat provided by other laws and regulations; and any other man made factors affecting the continued existence of these bird species.
It would be disastrous if there were no re-evaluation of the species in terms of these five factors.
This re-evaluation should include an assessment of whether these factors are likely to increase or re-endanger the species that are being delisted.
This matter must be addressed seriously by Perhilitan, as birds are endangered on all fronts by our use of pesticides, overhunting, overdeveloping, filling in wetlands, and the introduction of invasive exotic species, just to name a few.
As the defender of the country's wildlife, Perhilitan should place priority on the enforcement and protection of birds rather than pandering to the demands of bird lovers for the ban to be lifted.
With the ban no longer enforced, there is a strong possibility that the birds will quickly become endangered, as people will assume the ban to be a license for irresponsible behavior.
Every attempt will be made to trap these birds and sell them for a song, placing them at great risk.
Will Perhilitan monitor the songbird population for five years after delisting? If circumstances should change such that the birds become threatened or endangered again, will the species be relisted again if the situation calls for urgent action?
Currently, the existing laws and regulations to protect birds should be more effectively enforced to ensure that the demand of birds for the pet trade does not wipe out the species.
Captive breeding is also not possible, as some species do not breed in captivity. In addition, captive breeding does nothing to increase the wild population.
Commerce in wild species harms the wild populations since it is far less expensive to capture a bird from the wild than to run a breeding operation.
SAM is strongly opposed to the delisting because there is no gain. Current decisions on conservation management are inconsistent and are often based on the popularity of a specific species, not the level or evidence of the threat posed by poaching activities.
The practice of trapping and poaching birds should be discouraged at all times. Our societal acceptance of keeping birds in cages as pets provides a clear example of generational thinking.
Rather than acknowledging the obvious cruelty of keeping a living being destined to fly free in the sky confined in a cage, the masses have been conditioned to think that this practice is acceptable.
People have scant regard for a caged bird's well-being as it awaits sale in a pet shop.
People also fail to acknowledge the tragedy in which this living being, that nature intended to soar free in the sky, will never feel the wind beneath its wings.
S M MOHD IDRIS is president of Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM).