Clamping down on illegal trading of bearded pigs

KUCHING: The Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC) is planning to clamp down on the illegal trading of bearded pigs in markets in Sarawak to prevent the spread of the African Swine Fever (ASF).

This came following the state’s ban on import of pigs, pork and pork products from Sabah after the detection of ASF in pigs at Pitas, Sabah.

SFC chief executive officer (CEO) and Controller of Wild Life Zolkipli Mohamad Aton in a statement today (Feb 23) said they will scale up its field enforcement at wet markets, illegal wild meat sale hotspots, and logging areas.

“The illegal trade market is a potential conduit for the virus to head into the wild population, such as through the ‘illegal market, illegal trader or hunter’ route,” he said in support of the decision of the Ministry of Modernisation of Agriculture, Native land and Regional Development (Manred) to protect the domestic pig industry due to its economic importance to Sarawak. 

In discussions with the Department of Veterinary Services Sarawak (DVSS), he said it became clear that SFC had to help DVSS in terms of any reported bearded pig deaths.

“Thankfully, to date, we have not had any reported mass deaths of bearded pigs in Sarawak. 

“However, we will maintain our vigilance as ASF has been reported in northern Sabah,” he added.

On the potential spread of ASF into the state, Zolkipli reiterated that SFC will play its part to ensure that the disease will not spread and affect the commercial pig industry in Sarawak especially via illegal wildlife trade.

He noted that the Sabah Wildlife Department had issued a statement on zero hunting of wild bearded pigs on account of the fear of it spreading towards the commercial pig industry.

“Similarly like Sabah, one of the ways to prevent ASF from heading into the wild is to clamp down on illegal trading of bearded pigs in markets in Sarawak,” he said.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation, Zolkipli noted that in uncontrolled situations in Europe and various places around the world, the presence of ASF virus in a ‘wild boar habitat cycle’ presented a serious challenge for the pig production sector and wildlife management authorities.

“ASF has become resident in wild pigs over a large area and now pose a major threat to the European pig production sector,” he added.

Zolkipli warned that it was illegal to conduct commercial sale of wildlife under Section 33 of the Wild Life Protection Ordinance (WLPO) 1998,

Any person found to have contravened this section is liable for a fine of RM5,000 and any person who abets the illegal sale by purchasing the wildlife is also liable for a fine of RM2,000 (under Section 34 of the WLPO).