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Hornbill poachers arrested

MIRI: The three men suspected of poaching hornbills, a totally protected bird in the state, at Piasau Garden here on Tuesday were arrested by police yesterday evening.

Although their arrest assuaged the anger and pain of people here, their prayers and hope that the captured bird affectionately named Faridah by frequent visitors to the park would be found alive were dashed, when the suspected thieves confessed it died on the day they caught it.

They led the police to recover the carcass of the bird from the rubbish bulk bin at Jalan Datuk Edward Jeli in Piasau.

Piasau Camp Nature Park Society (PCNPS)  pro tem chairman, Datuk Sebastian Ting and several other committee members were present when the carcass of the bird was recovered.

A distressed Ting said, “This should not have happened, we are trying hard to protect these birds and they hunted them at Piasau Garden. We appeal to the public not to kill or hunt the totally protected wildlife to prevent their extinction,” he said.

Ting said in memory of Faridah the society would organise the 5th Hornbill Walk at 2pm Sunday at the camp.

He urged the public to support the walk and called on the government to gazette the camp as permanent nature park for the conservation of the hornbills and wildlife.

A Sarawak Forestry Corporation spokesperson who was also present when the dead bird was recovered said the suspects would be placed under police custody until investigation had been completed.

“Once the investigation is completed we will forward it to the Forest Department. SFC is assisting because the case had been referred to us, and the Forest Department has a prosecuting officer to handle the case.

The IP (investigation papers) will be sent to the State Attorney General for further action and the case is punishable under the Wild Life Protection Ordinance (1998),” a spokesman told reporters.

Hornbills are totally protected under Ordinance and the penalties for keeping one as a pet, killing, hunting, capturing, selling, trading or disturbing them, or possessing any recognisable parts of these birds are severe – a RM25,000 fine and three years’ imprisonment.

Musa Musbah, the honorary wildlife ranger of the Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC) and one of the onlookers on the day of the incident at Piasau Garden, said the death of Faridah would not be in vain.

He noted the bird’s capture by poachers had stirred up interest on the hornbills and birds in Piasau Garden among the public here and raised awareness of the need to protect the state’s wildlife.

Hornbills have lifelong mates and Faridah’s mate Jimmy has been missing since she was captured.

The pair of hornbills played a big role in maintaining the population of the birds in the park having produced about 56 offspring.

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