By Ruben Sario
June 22nd, 2002
From the Star
KOTA KINABALU: Sabah is not happy about the way a group of Singaporeans had raised the issue of illegal logging at the Tabin Wildlife Reserve, near here.
"How do they expect us to nab the illegal loggers if they leak it (the matter) out to everyone?" asked Chief Minister Datuk Chong Kah Kiat.
If the Singaporeans, who included the island republic's Zoological Gardens curator Tan Kit Sun, were serious about wanting to stop the illegal logging at Tabin, they should have reported the matter quietly to the state Forestry Department rather than talking about it in their media, he said.
On Monday, Tan had reportedly said that the Singaporeans had spotted felled trees, tractors and tracks made by heavy machinery during a 10-day stay in the wildlife reserve.
Noting that the wildlife reserve was surrounded by oil palm plantations, he said there were many approaches for loggers to enter the area.
Tan reportedly said they were involved in a research project, supposedly being carried out jointly by the SOS Rhino, the Singapore Zoo and the Sabah Wildlife Department to determine the actual number of Sumatran rhinos in the state.
He had reportedly said that it was estimated that there were 50 rhinos at Taman Negara in the peninsula, about 80 in Sumatra and some 30 in Sabah, adding that the Sumatran rhino was a critically endangered species which could end up extinct in the next decade.
"What they have done is only to alert the illegal loggers who would have fled by now," said Chong of the Singaporeans' report.
"So it appears that they (the Singaporeans) are not genuine and were going for cheap publicity," Chong told reporters upon his return here yesterday after attending the opening of the Umno general assembly in Kuala Lumpur.
Chong said reports about the illegal logging at the 120,000ha wildlife reserve were "nothing new'' as the Forestry Department was already carrying out investigations into the matter.