SANDAKAN The threats from poachers and illegal loggers who encroached on forest reserves were the main driving factors for the setting up of the Sabah Forestry Department’s armed squad.
Its director Datuk Sam Mannan said the use of firearms was required to protect the forest reserves’ resources and treasures.
He said it was also important for the officers and men of the department to protect themselves against criminals, especially poachers, illegal loggers and illegal immigrants stealing agarwood.
“Previously, there were forestry officers who were seriously injured in enforcing the forestry law and we don’t want such incidents to recur,” he said
at the launching of the department’s armed squad and canine unit (K9), here, today.
He recalled one of the incidents where 20 men armed with knives, samurai swords and other dangerous weapons broke into the Ulu Segama Malua District Forestry Office and Housing Complex in April, 2009.
He said the department’s building and vehicles there were damaged while a forestry officer was seriously injured.
Following the incident, he decided to apply for approval to acquire firearms from the police for the protection of government assets and personnel.
He said the approval to purchase and use firearms was obtained one year later, with the department receiving 20 guns and five pistols.
The number of weapons acquired was then increased and the armed squad formed which now had 40 officers and staff, he added.
Mannan said to further boost enforcement, the K9 Unit was set up this year to focus on combating theft and smuggling of agarwood in the forest reserves.
He said the establishment of the unit cost RM350,000 including the purchase of two dogs and staff training, adding that two more dogs would be acquired to boost enforcement against poaching.- BERNAMA