Geographical Index > United States > Malaysia (International) > Article # 504
Media Article # 504
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
[Johor Malaysia government grants bigfoots protected status]
By Sim Bak Heng
New Straits Times
JOHOR BARU, Tues: NO injury of any kind - including shooting - should be inflicted on Bigfoot (if it exists), which the Johor Government has classified as a totally-protected species.
The creature also cannot be brought out of the State should it be caught without the permission from the relevant State authorities.
The orders came following a report today that enforcement officers from the Wildlife Department in Kuala Lumpur were believed to have shot and caught a baby Bigfoot in Kota Tinggi two weeks ago.
State Environment and Tourism Committee chairman Freddie Long said:
"We are not sure if the department's officers had caught a baby Bigfoot. I only knew about it from newspapers today," he said after attending the weekly State Executive Council meeting here today.
It was reported ten men, believed to be from the Wildlife Department, entered the forests near the Tanjung Leman jetty area, about 70km from here, in three 4WD vehicles and camped there two weeks ago.
They were said to have encountered a family of Bigfoot and subsequently shot a young one using tranquiliser gun.
The New Straits Times was founded in 1845. The NST is the oldest newspaper in Asia. It was the first newspaper to report on the giant ape incidents in Malaysia in the 1960's. It was also the first paper to report on the more recent rash of incidents.
Update on protection issue from the New Straits Times, Malaysia.
This same article also appeared on the web site for Bernama -- the Malaysian National News Agency.
A brief overview of prior legislation regarding bigfoots:
In 1992 the officials of Whatcom County, Washington, approved a resolution declaring Whatcom County a "sasquatch protection and refuge area".
This was a "county resolution," and not a new law. It was about as serious as a resolution to declare the second Saturday of each month the "offical square dancing day" of the county. It was more of a gesture than anything else.
The only previous law specifically enacted to prohibit the killing of bigfoots is the 1969 ordinance in Skamania County, Washington (USA). This law makes punishable the killing of a bigfoot in Skamania County, but it does not declare bigfoots a "protected species".
There is an important distinction between prohibiting the killing of an animal species, and classifying a known or purported species as protected or endangered.
Skamania County probably would have given bigfoots protected or endangered species status if they could have, but a county jurisdiction does not have the authority to do this. Only a state, or the federal government, has that authority, under American law.
There surely would have been people in Skamania County in 1969 who would have objected to the county's apparent recognition of the species prior to a specimen being "collected" for study. Those types of objections were quieted by a unique public safety consideration that was relevant to every citizen of Skamania County :
The silhouette of a bigfoot looks similiar to the silhouette of a human. Hunters who may be trying to kill a bigfoot might easily kill another person by mistake. A section of the ordinance hints at this factor:
Whereas, the absence of specific laws covering the taking of specimens encourages laxity in the use of firearms and other deadly devices and poses a clear and present threat to the safety and well-being of persons living or traveling within the boundaries of Skamania County as well as to the creatures themselves,
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers indeed listed Bigfoot as a native species in one volume of the Environmental Atlas for Washington. They even included a surprisingly decent sketch of a bigfoot with the listing. But whenever they are questioned by reporters who seek clarification on the issue of whether the Corp or the state of Washington officially acknowledges the existence of bigfoots, they steadfastly claim that the listing in the Atlas was an "error" or a "joke" that was not corrected prior to the printing of the atlas.
The California Department of Fish and Game issued a memo at one point, addressing call blasting [the technique pioneered by the BFRO which employs amplified vocalizaton recordings to elicit vocal responses from sasquatches], calling it wildlife harassment, but when journalists sought clarification about this memo, the legal department of Fish & Game claimed the memo was "just a joke" and they still stand by that retraction.
Canada has a protected area named the "Sasquatch Provincial Park," which would appear to officially acknowledge the species. The park's administrators, however, have been asked on occassion if the Canadian government acknowledges or believes in, the existence of the sasquatch. Echoing the responses of the California Department of Fish and Game and the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, the adminstrators of Sasquatch Provincial Park claim the name came about as the result of an "error" or a "joke" and they consistently tell journalists that they do not believe that sasquatches actually exist.
At least one blogger wrongly claims that British Columbia's Wildlife Act contains a provision protecting "any previously undiscovered primate". The BC Wildlife Act contains no such provision.
Although, technically, it would be illegal to hunt any species in BC that is not specifically listed as a game species, that is a far cry from the status of "protected" or "endangered" in BC.
Some environmentalists incorrectly assert that the Himalayan nation of Bhutan created a wildlife preserve in 2003 -- the Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary -- specifically for the protection of the Yeti.
This wildlife sanctuary in Bhutan was not specifically created as a refuge for the Yeti, but rather for the protection of all the rare, bio-diverse, undiscovered species that *might* reside there.
When Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary was being defined and funded by the MacArthur Foundation in 2002 there was no mention of Yetis, or similar creatures of a different name, in their official documentation or releases. That spin came from other quarters.
An unofficial environmentalist press release which stated that this sanctuary was specifically set aside as habitat for Yetis was in error according to the MacArthur Foundation.
In October 2005, Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal contacted both the MacArthur Foundation *and* the World Wildlife Fund, to ask them if Bhutan's Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary was specifically set aside for Yetis.
"I called the MacArthur Foundation to ask if this was money well-spent ; a spokeswoman assured me that the story was in error and the foundation did not, in fact, subscribe to the legend of Bigfoot. But Lee Poston, a WWF spokesman in Washington, had a more easy-going view. After extolling the virtues of Sakteng as a sanctuary for snow leopards, red pandas and barking deer, he added: "Hey, if the yeti is there and it helps create awareness of the place, then we're all for it."
In 1961 Nepal "officially" declared the Yeti to exist, but this declaration had the same level of import as the "county resolution" mentioned above. It did not classify Yetis as officially protected, with penalties upon anyone who would harm them. It was a gesture designed for tourism purposes.
Some say that Nepal enacted a law against killing Yetis in 1957, but none have been able to cite the law properly, with the references showing where it can be found in the Nepalese legal code.
It is not "splitting hairs" to make a distinction between laws against the killing an animal, from laws related to "protected" or "endangered" species. The later has a much different legal import, affecting the potential habitats as well as the animals themselves, and often triggering mandatory environmental impact studies.
The governments of Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan, India, China, Russia, America or Canada do not collect sighting information from their citizens for the purpose of government-sponsored scientific research. Sightings in all of those countries do not get documented by any government agency, and are usually dismissed when they are reported.
In the US and Canada, sightings reported to police and forest rangers are ignored and denied, even when the witnesses are the police and rangers themselves. The exception is native reservations. Tribal authorities occassionally collect and investigate sighting reports from their jurisdictions, especially when the witnesses are tribal police or forest rangers.
Malaysia is the only country that currently attempts to collect sighting information from its citizens. Although sightings and track finds are not frequent in Malaysia, the Malaysian government is still the only government in the world that will not hesitate to disclose any sighting information to the media.
It is the most recent country to make news with respect to bigfoot-like figures, but it is the only country that officially regards them as real animals.
There are important cultural factors for why Malaysia treats the subject so differently.
The bigfoots in Malaysia were not part of any spiritual tradition there. Because bigfoot-like animals did not play a role in spiritual traditions there, the most recent rash of sightings and track finds were not automatically dismissed as religious invention when they were first reported. Bigfoot-like figures were not prominent figures in national folklore either. There are no famous stories or legends about them in Malaysia, like those in the US, Canada, Russia, and China, so the recent stories were not summarily dismissed as legends when the sightings began occuring again in 2005.
The relative lack of prior awareness of these animals in Malaysia meant that sighting reports and track finds could be discussed rationally there, without the myth stigma that tends to marginalize the subject everywhere else.
Today's announcement from Malaysia declares that bigfoots are now a "totally protected species" in the state of Johor. The declaration does not create a new law, but it does not need to create a new law. There are already laws in Malaysia dealing with protected or endangered species.
The state government in Johor has the authority to quickly classify a species as protected (which would mean that existing laws would now apply to the species) without having to go through the long process of passing new legislation.
Laws regarding endangered species are typically set this way to provide for situations where a newly discovered species with a very limited habitat is in need of immediate legal protection to prevent its extinction.
This pro-active step by the Johor government, to declare the species totally protected, defies the previously held assumption that no government body would ever declare the species protected until at least one specimen was obtained by a hunter.
Given the obvious rarity of the species, it would have been a sadly ironic event if the world's first declaration of protection would have required the death of one of these rare animals.
Johor, Malaysia, has taken another bold, historical step that other countries can only follow.
See the article "Introducing Malaysia"