August 31, 2017

Will Sabah’s Pangolins be ‘Totally Protected’ at Last? Here’s Hoping

Will Sabah’s Pangolins be ‘Totally Protected’ at Last? Here’s Hoping

Pangolins are the world's most trafficked mammals. They are being hunted into extinction at an alarming rate. Photo Credit: Flickr

Time to celebrate: Pangolins in Sabah may soon be “totally protected.” At last.

Currently, the placid animals, which are prime targets for poachers, can still be hunted with a license. Yet if the state’s Tourism, Culture and Environment minister Masidi Manjun finally has his way, no more such permits will ever be issued again. Those found guilty of poaching pangolins illegally will also face harsher penalties.

“Enough is enough,” the minister stressed. “It’s been a long time coming now, but Sabah Wildlife Department will be sending in the papers for Cabinet approval as soon as possible.”

Sacks filled with the scales of pangolims are displayed for sale. Photo Credit: TRAFFIC

You can say that again. The much-needed upgrade in the beleaguered mammals’ conservation status has indeed been a long time coming. Back in February last year Masidi was already pledging to outlaw the hunting of pangolins under any circumstances. “It is high time for us to look into the status of the pangolin in the state and within the wildlife enactment,” he said at the time.

If it was high time then, it’s even higher time now. In mid-August officials in Sepanggar Bay port discovered a staggering 8 tons of pangolin scales packed into 226 gunny sacks. The vast amount of scales came from an estimated 16,000 animals and were destined for the Chinese market. Masidi said he was shocked that so many more pangolins had just been butchered. While not all scales came from locally poached pangolins, many of them may well have done so.

Along with the seven other subspecies of these scaly mammals, Malaysia’s Sunda pangolin (manis javanica) has been poached relentlessly so as to meet unceasing demand for the animals scales and meat with the former sought in traditional Chinese medicine and the latter as an ingredient in “exotic” dishes. At this rate, pangolins will be extinct in the wild from Africa to Southeast Asia within a few short years.

Here’s hoping officials in Sabah will do the right thing and step up efforts to save the state’s remaining pangolins at all cost.




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