Malaysia: Sabah wants pangolin declared as totally protected species

OLIVIA MIWIL New Straits Times 18 Dec 16;

KINABATANGAN: A cabinet paper to revise the status of pangolin in Sabah has been prepared and expected to be tabled early next year.

Danau Girang Field Centre director Dr Benoit Goossens said Sunda pangolin was the only species found in Sabah but it was protected under Part 1 of Schedule 2 of the Sabah Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997 which they can be hunted with permits.

“Pangolins are the most trafficked mammal in the world, and are mainly threatened by poaching for international trade involving live animals, meat and scales.

“Another threat is the habitat loss and fragmentation, although the severity of this threat requires further research in Sabah,” he said in a statement following the success of the centre in fitting satellite unit on a Sunda pangolin which was rescued by a villager Nasri Manjah at a palm oil plantation.

Goosen added the heavy trade of the species had prompted Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun to push Sunda pangolin to become a totally protected species.

State Wildlife Department assistant director Dr Sen Nathan said about 22,000 pangolins were killed between May 2007 and Jan 2009 to supply a syndicate.

“Nasri, a full-time farmer, has lived in the Kinabatangan since 1976, and according to him pangolins were very common in his time but nowadays they are hard to spot.

“I am glad that he decided to save the pangolin by giving it to us and gave the animal a chance to survive, although several possible buyers were negotiating with him,” he added.

Meanwhile, the rescued adult female pangolin weighing at 7.72 kilogrammes has been named Asa, meaning “don’t give up” in Malay.

It was attached with a Global Positioning System unit weighing 80 grams on its scales, situated at its hind leg near to its tail to minimise interference with its movement.

The pangolin had been released and successfully tracked for already a week.

The centre’s lead researcher Elisa Panjang said it was difficult to study the species due to its elusive behavior and rarity.

“We want to understand how the pangolin responds to its environment, particularly in degraded and fragmented forest such as the Kinabatangan.”

Sabah team conducting study on Sunda pangolins
STEPHANIE LEE The Star 19 Dec 16;

KOTA KINABALU: Nasri Manjah saw an adult pangolin crossing the road near an oil palm estate in the Kinabatangan district and decided to bring it home.

He asked his son to share the find on his Facebook account and received offers from people wanting to buy the animal.

However, Nasri, who has lived in the district since 1976, refused to sell the female Sunda pangolin because he wanted it to be rescued after seeing its numbers declining due to hunting over the years.

His find gained the attention of Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC) researchers Elisa Panjang, a doctorate student registered at Cardiff University and Dr Laura Benedict, a veterinarian from the Sabah Wild­life Department (SWD) Rescue Unit.

They later brought the animal to the DGFC. It was fitted with a global positioning system (GPS) unit and released.

Elisa said the 7.72kg pangolin which has been named “Asa”, was tracked for a week after its release to help the team carry out a research on pangolins and their habitat.

She said pangolins were scaly mammals, making them unique.

“So few studies have been made on the pangolins due to their elusive behaviour and no detailed research has been carried out on them.

“We want to understand how pangolins respond to the environment, particularly in degraded and fragmented forests like Kinabatan­gan.”

The project is a long-term collaboration between DGFC and SWD and is financially supported by Houston Zoo and Ocean Park Conservation Foundation Hong Kong.

DGFC director Dr Benoit Goossens said pangolins were the most trafficked mammal in the world.

He said the Sunda pangolin was the only species found in Sabah and protected under the Sabah Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997, which meant that one must have a licence to hunt them.

However,state Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun had been seeking for the Sunda pangolin to become a totally-protected species, Dr Goos­sens said.

SWD assistant director Dr Sen Nathan said the department wanted to upgrade the status of pangolins to Schedule 1 (prohibiting hunting, possession, consumption and sale of pangolins, and any parts).

Sabah Wildlife Department found that more than 22,000 pangolins were killed in Sabah between May 2007 and January 2009 to supply one smuggling syndicate.

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