Sarawak WWF-Malaysia banks on youth for sustainable Gawai campaign

Sulok Tawie
A poster of protected animals species asking people not to eat them, May 24, 2019. ― Picture courtesy of Sarawak WWF-Malaysia

KUCHING, May 24 ― The Sarawak chapter of environmental advocacy group WWF-Malaysia is hoping the younger generation of local tribes can help push its campaign for sustainability this coming Gawai.

Its head of conservation Jason Hon wants the youths to take to social media to send out a strong message to their indigenuous community to stop their traditional hunt and consumption of protected animals.

“The change can go both ways, good or bad. A simple, yet impactful, post on conservation can go ‘viral’ and spread faster and further than expected,” he said in a statement in conjunction with the coming Gawai celebration on June 1 and 2 and World Environment Day on June 5.

Hon cited a recent Facebook post showing a group of men posing with a dead clouded leopard in Alor Gajah, Melaka that went viral and was widely condemned by Malaysians.

“This showed how social media, when wrongly applied, can backfire. However, if we use social media collectively, we can help spread messages about conservation and the need to protect wildlife,” he said.

He said that by highlighting the importance of Malaysia’s biodiversity and how people can help, platform such as #PowerShiftMsia promotes youth conversation and actions on climate change and conservation.

Hon said the death of a pied hornbills at Piasau Nature Reserves in Miri in 2013 also similarly drew widespread backlash on social media, with people expressing their shock, anger, and sadness and called for greater efforts by the authorities to step up conservation measures.

He said the helmeted hornbill is now listed as critically endangered because they are poached for their feathers and casques which are used in traditional costumes and traded illegally.

“Although these feathers have now been substituted with non-hornbill materials, we must have in the past over-hunted hornbills that they have now become rare.

“If we are not careful with other wildlife species such as bearded pigs or sambar deer, which may still occur in abundance now, their fate may go the same direction as many of our wildlife species which has now become rare,” Hon said.

He said it is understandable that people residing in rural areas depend on the forests for food. however, it is also important for them to be aware and refrain from hunting protected species, and practise sustainable consumption at all times.

He added that youths who are aware of the need to keep wildlife alive and forest healthy, can influence the attitudes of their families and friends.

“Hence, family gatherings during festive seasons like Gawai are a good chance for these committed youths to speak out to encourage their families to consume responsibly and sustainably.

“In time, families and friends will understand and consequently change their eating habits,” Hon said.

He said the public can report suspicious activities concerning wildlife trade to the Forest Department Sarawak’s hotline at 1800-88-7777, or Sarawak Forestry Corporation’s (SFC) hotline at 019-8859996 (Kuching), 019-8290994 (Miri), 019-8266096 (Bintulu) and 019-8290992 (Sibu).

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