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Sayang Sabah - The voice of Sabahans

Hollywood Celebrity; Michelle Yeoh to be Sabah Wildlife Conservation Ambassador

Michelle Yeoh; Sabah Wildlife Conservation Advocates. - Photo by Ille Tugimin/SayangSabah
Michelle Yeoh; Sabah Wildlife Conservation Advocates. – Photo by Ille Tugimin/SayangSabah

TUARAN – The public may start to listen when celebrities get involved with wildlife conservation.

In Sabah, the steps to promote the preservation of the state’s endangered species was given to the beautiful and talented Hollywood celebrity Tan Sri Michelle Yeoh.

This new creative approaches is a subject that is close to the Ipoh born actress heart.

As the Malaysia’s International Ambassador for Orangutan Conservation and the patron of the Save China’s Tigers project committed to protect of the endangered South China tiger, Yeoh is more than aware of the issue of wildlife trade.

“I want to voice my concern for Asian wildlife and to act as an ambassador for wildlife conservation in Asia. Despite the many conservation efforts of the last several decades – it is clear that new approaches and new technologies to combat wildlife trafficking are urgently needed.”

“The animals being slaughtered to fuel this unnecessary trade provide many benefits to humans, as well as to those other species that share their habitat,” she said in her speech during the ASEAN Regional Forum Workshop on Combating Wildlife Trafficking at Tuaran, here today.

The former Miss Malaysia said that it is extremely important to recognize that illegal wildlife trade is a serious crime that is not only decimating critically endangered species, but is also a pervasive instrument in destabilizing economic and political security.

Yeoh said it is unthinkable that the wildlife, which have roamed the planet for thousands, if not millions, of years, could disappear completely within a decade, or even less.

“I find it inconceivable that our children and grandchildren could live in a world bereft of these animals. Humanity is less than human without the rest of creation. Their destruction will diminish us all,” she said.

She stated that the world face one of the most serious threats to wildlife ever, and one must treat it as a battle.

“Organized bands of criminals are stealing and slaughtering elephants, rhinoceros and tigers, pangolins and sea turtles, as well as large numbers of other species, in a way that has never ever been seen before.”

“These criminals must kill the animals to profit from the black market sale of wildlife “products”, they are pushing many species towards extinction at an alarming and unprecedented rate,” she said.

Working hand in hand on combating wildlife trafficking. From right to left - Masidi, Anifah and Yeoh. - Photo by Ille Tugimin/SayangSabah
Working hand in hand on combating wildlife trafficking. From right to left – Masidi, Anifah and Yeoh. – Photo by Ille Tugimin/SayangSabah

According to Yeoh, experience shows that with the removal of such species it is only a short step to the subsequent removal of their habitat.

In Asia, skyrocketing demand for ivory, rhino horn, tiger parts, sun bear gall bladder, pangolin scales, shark fins as well as other products, is fuelling this astonishing explosion in poaching.

She stressed that it is vital to tackle the demand for such products amongst consumers by recruiting the help of every form of media to communicate more widely and effectively its disastrous consequences.

Wildlife crime alone yields profits of about ten billion U.S. Dollars per year, and often occurs with other crimes, such as corruption, money laundering, passport fraud, human trafficking and murder.

“The same routes used to smuggle wildlife and wildlife products through countries and across continents are often used to smuggle other contraband, most notably drugs.

“When the illegal trade in wildlife is coupled with crime involving timber, the illegal trade in flora and fauna is ranked as the fourth biggest transnational crime – with a value of seventeen billion U.S. Dollars – just behind trafficking in weapons, drugs and people,” she said.

She added that increasingly sophisticated, well-financed groups are now doing the poaching, which means it really has become a form of trafficking.

In her speech she also said that wildlife trafficking directly threatens economic security.

“Those who work in tourism depend on healthy populations of wildlife. Their livelihoods are now threatened directly by rampant poaching,” she said.

Yeoh reiterated that there is a need for stronger law enforcement, campaigns to discourage demand for wildlife and wildlife products, and support for programmes that provide alternatives to poaching.

“The governments need to develop an international strategy to combat trafficking and address the issue internally as one of national security.

“Most importantly, we need to reduce the demand from consumers in key countries, many of which are represented here today,” she said.

Yeoh will work with the Sabah Ministry Tourism, Culture and Environment on a documentary to highlight Sabah’s marine treasures including the turtles and coral reefs.  – SayangSabah

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