Bandar Seri Begawan – The killing of endangered species, such as the Bornean Clouded Leopard, will be detrimental to Brunei’s tourism industry if the unlawful act is not curbed by educating people in remote areas who hunt the cats for survival.
“To have our people killing it is really sad. But I can’t really blame them because they are not educated. For them, it is just another cat,” the Brunei Tourism Board Chief Executive Officer said in a recent interview.
Sheikh Jamaluddin Sheikh Mohamed said the illegal poaching of such protected animals would adversely affect the tourism sector here, especially as the Sultanate is a member of the tri-nation Heart of Borneo initiative, which portrays the country as a major advocate and protector of the environment and the organisms living in it.
“We take pride in being able to say that the clouded leopard is on this island (and that) it can be found in Brunei,” he said.
The Brunei Times published an undated photo of a skinned clouded leopard being hung out to dry in Merangking, Labi, Belait District, on December 19 which was contributed by a reader. The Brunei Tourism CEO believed that the picture alone has already had a negative impact on his industry.
He explained that such animals were among the unique attractions which lured tourists to the country. If these animals became extinct as a result of being hunted down, then nature tour guides and other industry players who depend on such attractions would be out of the job, he said.
In taking action to prevent this from happening, Sheikh Jamaluddin ruled out the feasibility of having people manning specific areas of Brunei’s vast forests on a daily basis as it was unpredictable when the poachers would strike.
Instead, the Brunei Tourism chief called on authorities to hold roadshows to raise awareness, which could target those living in the remote areas of the country.
“If they are told, ‘the thing that you are killing, the clouded leopard, having that alive would be better for you financially,’ I bet you they would stop,” he said.
He acknowledged that hunting such creatures may have been their way of life, just as a fisherman brings home whatever lands in his net, whether it was a shark or tuna.
He reiterated the importance of educating the poachers to realise what they were doing was wrong, in terms of the law as well as upsetting the balance of nature, and in turn, their own livelihoods.
“The best way is education,” he stressed.
He suggested that this could be done by holding talks, disseminating leaflets and posters, explaining to village chiefs and residents in remote areas, why such acts should not be allowed and how having these animals alive could benefit them.
“If we don’t do that, then people will not know that there is actually a problem because it has been their way of life, just like head-hunting was before in Borneo. It was a way of life until the government told them that it was not a good idea,” he said.
However, educating the people would serve as an immediate measure in response to the illegal poaching incidents which came to light in the media recently, and the Brunei Tourism CEO said he would wait to learn more of further action planned by the relevant authority.
“I am trying to protect my (tourism) industry here.”
Sightings of the elusive clouded leopard have been made recently in the day time in a populated area, despite the species being a nocturnal animal. Scholars have interpreted this as a sign that the spotted feline is facing habitat loss or disturbance.
Under Brunei’s Wild Life Protection Act, the clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa) is considered a protected species and hunting, killing or capture of this animal can result in a year imprisonment and a fine of $2,000. — Courtesy of The Brunei Times