Poaching threatens clouded leopards

This undated photo of a skinned Bornean Clouded Leopard was taken in Merangking, Labi, Kuala Belait. Picture: Courtesy of Hand Dols

Sunday, December 19, 2010

SCHOLARS are calling for a stop to the poaching and hunting of the endangered Bornean Clouded Leopard for illegal trade as it is a serious offence under Brunei's Wildlife Protection Act.

There have been reports of hunting and killing of the endangered animal in Kg Merangking in Belait District where locals are selling leopard pelts at a lucrative price, researchers told The Brunei Times recently.

Dr Ang Bee Bian, a project administrator of the Sg Ingei expedition, a faunal biodiversity survey in the forests of Sg Ingei in Belait District, said the nocturnal wildcat species is known worldwide for being endangered.

"All over the world, people are trying to protect what they have," Dr Ang said, adding that Bruneians should equally protect their wildlife, especially those that are endangered.

"I was told by some local hunters that they would kill them and sell their skin for several thousand US dollars," said Dr Ang.

The researcher said it would be good if people were aware of the conservation status and the Wildlife Protection Act as this would help them to understand the importance of preserving the clouded leopards.

The project leader of the Sg Ingei expedition, Dr Joseph Charles, senior lecturer at Universiti Brunei Darussalam's (UBD) Biology Department, said the practice of hunting and killing the animal needed to be stopped.

The researchers said the slain wildcat in Kg Merangking was believed to be a female leopard.

"This is really bad, it could be pregnant and this (the hunting) would stop reproduction (of the wildcats)," said Dr Charles, who added that hunting down clouded leopards, a protected animal under the Brunei Wildlife Protection Act, is a serious offence.

Under the Brunei Wildlife Protection Act (July 19, 1978, revised in 1984), the clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa) is a protected species.

A provision of the Act states that no person shall sell or offer for sale or have in his possession any protected animal or any trophy or flesh thereof unless the same has been lawfully acquired.

The penalty is imprisonment for a year and a fine of $2,000.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in its website states that the clouded leopard is widely hunted for its teeth and decorative pelt, and its bones for the traditional Asian medicinal trade.

Clouded leopard pelts have been reported on sale in the markets of China, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Nepal and Thailand.

Its meat has also been featured on the menu of restaurants in Thailand and China, that cater to wealthy Asian tourists. The Brunei Times