Sarawak to make the pangolin a totally protected species

The pangolin, a unique and protected species among Bornean mammals in Sarawak, is to have its classification upgraded to the “totally protected” category in the state. — NSTP Archive By Bernama – October 14, 2019 @ 10:00pm

KUCHING: The pangolin, a unique and protected species among Bornean mammals in Sarawak, is to have its classification upgraded to the “totally protected” category in the state.

The animal, which is also known as the “Scaly Anteater” or its scientific name Manis javanica, has been topping the chart as the most frequently seized mammal in Asia’s illegal wildlife trade and is currently facing extinction.

Naming the shy and quiet animal as his favourite, Sarawak Forestry Corporation Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Zolkipli Mohamad Aton said the corporation would conduct a study to find out its current population, before submitting a proposal to the government to upgrade its category.

This, he said, was a common procedure.

However, he added that if there were indicators, for instance from TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, saying that they had to do it immediately than the classification upgrade would be made a priority.

“For now, on our job list, we want to review our Wildlife Masterplan, after that the relevant laws, but if there are indicators by outsiders, if they say, look you must do it, if not they (species) will go extinct, then we have to put it as priority,” he said.

In Sarawak, species that are totally protected may not be kept as pets, hunted, captured, killed, sold, imported or exported or disturbed in any way, nor may anyone be in possession of any recognizable part of these animals.

Animals in the category include the proboscis monkey, the bornean gibbon, rhinoceros, naked bat, dugong and marine turtles.

Zolkipli said Sarawak still had quite a number of pangolin, but in other states, the numbers were declining.

“So, these smugglers now want to come over here (Sarawak). We have been warned by other people, better look after your pangolins.”

He said the animal, being a rare and hardly seen species, had numerous myths surrounded it, especially among traditional medicine practitioners, which contributed to demand, among others, for its scales.

“They say it has medicinal value, but I can quote an article by the World Conservation Society that says that pangolins scales are made of keratin, which is the same material as human fingernails, so in reality there is no medicinal value there, but because of tradition, people tend to go for these things.

“There are some who like its meat, but pangolin meat is not even fleshy,” he said.

Zolkipli said the SFC would also review its wildlife-related laws to increase the penalty for offenders.

Traffic Southeast Asia director Kanitha Krishnasamy, in an article earlierthis year, posed a rather intriguing question about the penalty involving offences related to wildlife smuggling in the country and wanted state governments to review their laws.

Citing a case on Feb 7 this year, where Sabah Police and the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) shut down a pangolin processing factory and warehouse after seizing 30 tonnes of pangolin and body parts.

She was quoted as saying that the maximum amount of fine under the state’s enactment was nowhere near the syndicate’s possible revenue.

“This is also important because the worst financial penalty the suspect in the Feb 7 case may get, if convicted under the Sabah’s Wildlife Conservation Enactment, is a fine of RM250,000.

“Meanwhile authorities have valued the seized items at RM8.4 million, making the syndicate’s revenue 33 times higher than the law’s heftiest fine,” she was quoted as saying.

The pangolin, with its prehensile tail and lacking teeth, normally eats ants and termites taken from nests in trees, on the ground or below ground with insect nests opened with their strongly clawed feet and the contents licked up with the long, sticky tongue.

Usually nocturnal, sleeping during the daytime in underground burrows, it is mostly seen on roads at night, where it is slow-moving and conspicuous, although the eyes reflect very little light. – Bernama

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