landscape photo
Royal Belum State Park in Perak, Malaysia is one of the proposed protected areas in the transboundary collaboration between Malaysia and Thailand. Photo courtesy of ACB and EU-BCAMP

In the midst of global chaos, a bright light shines on ASEAN efforts to curb biodiversity loss

Transboundary collaboration and greater technical resources to tackle poaching and other illegal activities provide a boost to much-needed conservation efforts.

21. Apr 2020

Undeterred or perhaps even spurred on by current events, protected area management authorities from Malaysia and Thailand have joined forces to conserve a rainforest landscape of almost 260,000 hectares straddling the national border between the two ASEAN Member States.

The transboundary collaboration will enhance the conservation of iconic species like tigers, hornbills, elephants, gaur, tapirs, and gibbons, which depend on forest habitats on both sides of the border for their long-term survival. As poachers, illegal loggers, and forest product collectors move back and forth across the border, the joint action will also make law enforcement more effective and limit the potential for illegal wildlife trade, which has been implicated in the rise of the current pandemic.

At a meeting jointly organised by the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) and the Perak State Parks Corporation and supported by the EU’s Biodiversity Conservation and Management of Protected Areas (BCAMP) project, Malaysian and Thai authorities signed a draft Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and Action Plan and established a technical working group to enhance joint conservation efforts in the transboundary area encompassing the Royal Belum State Park in Perak, Malaysia, and Hala Bala Wildlife Sanctuary, Bang Lang National Park, and Halasah Non-Hunting Area in Southern Thailand. 

We share the same forest, we share the same wildlife, we share the same trees, and we share the same poachers. We need to protect our forests and wildlife together, for our children and their children, for the future.

Mohd Shah Redza Hussein, Director of the Perak State Parks Corporation in Malaysia

In recent weeks the ACB and NIRAS-implemented BCAMP project, has also ramped up efforts to employ technology in selected protected areas. Anti-poacher camera traps and other GPS-equipped devices, IT equipment, radios and binoculars, which are useful in boosting law enforcement and monitoring activities, have been purchased for rangers in Nam Poui and Phou Xieng Thong national protected areas in Lao PDR and Endau-Rompin Johor National Park and Krau Wildlife Reserve in Malaysia.

Rangers and protected area staff of Endau-Rompin Johor National Park and Krau Wildlife Reserve in Malaysia were trained how to use camera traps in one of the capacity enhancement activities under the ACB-EU BCAMP project in February this year.                                 

These are four of the ten protected sites that ACB-EU BCAMP project has been supporting since it commenced in 2017. In the coming months, similar equipment will be purchased for the other six sites - Virachey Natural Park and Southern Cardamoms in Cambodia; Mounts Iglit-Baco National Park and Pasonanca Natural Park in the Philippines; Tarutao National Park and the Eastern Forest Complex in Thailand. 

Rangers and managers of protected areas are front-liners, too. While most of us stay home, they need to be out to make sure that our forests, coral reefs, mangroves and other natural ecosystems, as well as the wildlife that inhabits these, remain healthy, intact and ready to provide us sustained and long-term protection as soon as this pandemic is over.

ACB Executive Director Theresa Mundita Lim

Efforts to fight poaching and keep illicit wildlife trafficking at bay are getting renewed attention thanks to COVID-19 and the need to prevent the emergence of zoonotic diseases in the future. Recent  headlines, such as forest fires and seizure of poached wildlife, show how indispensable the services of wildlife and protected area rangers are at this time despite lockdowns over COVID-19.

“With technology and protective gear, we are taking biodiversity conservation to another level. Our aim is to ensure that the managers and staff of protected sites are better equipped to effectively perform their duties, including enforcing laws and apprehending violators,” ACB Executive Director Theresa Mundita Lim said.