KOTA KINABALU (Bernama) – Urgency over the future of the Sunda pangolin has prompted the setting up of the Sabah Pangolin Conservation Working Group.
Among others, the working group will look at several immediate steps, including preparing a cabinet paper to propose that the species be listed as Totally Protected under the Sabah Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997.
Sabah Wildlife Department assistant director Dr Sen Nathan said participants at a recent workshop to discuss the fate of pangolins had unanimously agreed that the matter should be brought to the state cabinet’s attention so that they were accorded full protection, given the rampant poaching.
The nocturnal animal is currently listed in Part One of Schedule Two, which means that it can be hunted with a licence, and upgrading its status to Schedule One will accord it full protection.
“The newly formed working group’s suggestion to elevate the status of the pangolin to that of a totally protected species will hopefully deter poachers. Maybe some are unaware of legislation to protect certain species, and we hope that if this cabinet paper goes through, poachers will stop their activities,” he said in a statement here, yesterday.
Meanwhile Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC) director Dr Benoit Goossens said other steps would include starting an awareness campaign and working closely with the soon to be established Wildlife Enforcement Unit, a joint initiative between DGFC and the Department.
“The long term goal which covers a period of between two to five years will be to decrease poaching and trade of pangolins, increase ecological and population studies and to look at the possibility of setting up a sanctuary to rehabilitate pangolins,” he said.
Goossens said according to a 2010 report by wildlife monitoring network Traffic, some 22,200 pangolins were killed between May 2007 and January 2009 to supply one syndicate, with most coming from the districts of Keningau, Kota Belud, Kota Marudu and Ranau.
“As a biologist, I find it hard to believe so many pangolins are killed in Sabah over less than two years. Pangolins must be coming from other places, with Sabah serving as a place for the animal to transit before being further distributed,” he said.
He said several workshop participants reported that there seemed to be less pangolins in plantations nowadays compared to five years ago, based on their observation as part of their regular wildlife monitoring work.