As of late, there has been a spike in the number of our precious animals like tapirs, wild boars, foxes and leopard cats being killed throughout the country. These senseless killings are of no fault of the animals and purely that of man no thanks to habitat fragmentation.
What is habitat fragmentation? This is where human-made barriers such as canals, roads, railroads and pipelines penetrate and divide wildlife. We tar right through habitats destroying the homes of animals in the wild.
The Malaysian Natural Resources and Environment Ministry back in 2016 identified 5 highways and stretches as ‘roadkill hotspots’, namely Kuala Lipis to Gua Musang stretch, Kulai to Kota Tinggi, Gua Musang to Kuala Krai, Taiping to Selama and the East Coast Expressway 2.
Its minister, Datuk Seri Wan Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, was reported back in 2016 as saying that 1914 animals were killed throughout the country since 2011. The minister went on notably to say that human wildlife conflict could be avoided if developers understood the importance of conserving wildlife.
It is therefore incumbent on developers, town planners and other relevant stakeholders to plan and build responsibly. Environmental Impact Assessment or EIA Report must be firm in identifying projects that greatly lead to habitat fragmentation of animals that are vulnerable or at the brink of extinction.
Animal bridges, viaducts and special pathways need to be constructed at key hotspots which are to be identified by the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry, Perhilitan and others in consultation with relevant NGOs that are experienced in this field. NGOs such as WWF or the World Wildlife Fund, Malaysia Nature Society and FRIM should be consulted when constructing such pathways.
Malaysia is blessed with a wide array of flora and fauna. It saddens me to see Tapirs lying motionless by the highway or a monkey getting knocked by a speeding truck. This can all be avoided if clear guidelines and firm commitments from all relevant stakeholders are in place.
Alex Anton Netto is an Advocate and Solicitor at Messrs Dee, Netto Fatimah & Ng in Malaysia and is the former Chairperson for the Kuala Lumpur Bar Environment Committee.
Disclaimer: All opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the ASEAN Economic Forum.