Wildlife Dept has joined in the game

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It is deeply disturbing to learn that a breeding project of wildlife species for their meats has been initiated by the Wildlife and National Parks Department. Listed for the breeding projects are the Malayan porcupines along with several species including pangolins, mouse deer and barking deer.

It is unimaginable that wildlife species, some of which are endangered, will soon end on the dinner table. Eating the meat of endangered animal species goes against the concept of protecting them. In terms of the impact on both ecology and animal welfare, SAM is questioning the ethics of eating protected and totally protected wildlife.

The Wildlife Department should put its priorities straight that of conservation not the production of wildlife meats. These dishes might be regarded as delicacies, ordering them may display wealth and it might be falsely assumed that wild animals are more nutritious than farmed ones. But do bear in mind that eating one of these rare species is adding to a loss in the biodiversity.

From a conservation perspective, creating a larger commercial market for wild species is just inviting poaching to extirpate species from the wild, because one can easily poach an animal at less expense than one can raise the animal. Wildlife ranching advocates may argue that raising animals in captivity will lower the incentive to poach. They have yet to point to a species that is saved from extinction in this manner.

The Wildlife Department may consider farm breeding preferable to illegal hunting. Animal farming standards are highly vulnerable to abuse especially as Malaysia's animal welfare law is totally inadequate.

Then again if we can breed our wildlife species for the slaughter, why do we need national parks and forest reserves? Parks and wildlife habitats are meaningless if they are empty of the species. Protecting a habitat means nothing without its wildlife.

The money of RM1.5 million for the breeding programme should be put to better use in wildlife conservation and in beefing up law enforcement.

If law enforcers are overworked, under resourced or have insufficient knowledge about or interest in wildlife conservation, they will turn a blind eye to the sale of endangered species. Under such circumstances, animals may be seen simply as commodities to be exploited whose value increases as they become more endangered. There is little general acceptance of the idea of species becoming endangered or dying out, especially if the product in question is seen as 'traditional' or has been extracted and sold for many years.

The department should stick to its role as the conservator and guardian of the country's wildlife instead of exploiting the country's fauna to the fullest.

The writer is president, Sahabat Alam Malaysia

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