KOTA KINABALU: A Sabahan wildlife conservationist focused on preserving the highly endangered pangolins has been named a recipient of the Houston Zoo Wildlife Warrior Award.
Elisa Panjang, 33, was among five wildlife conservationists from Africa, Asia and South America named for the award.
According to the Houston Zoo website, the award is to honour outstanding conservationists from developing countries instrumental in protecting their local wildlife.
The zoo, the second most visited in the United States with 2.55 million visitors, supports over a dozen conservation projects around the world.
Elisa, who is the pangolin conservation officer at the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC) in Kinabatangan, said she would use the fund from the award to support her training at a rescue centre in Vietnam or any other place.
“The award will definitely raise the profile of the pangolin locally as well as internationally. The zoo recognised the importance of pangolin research in our country. Malaysia should do the same by supporting local researchers,” said Elisa, thanking DGFC director Dr Benoit Goossens for nominating her.
“I hope that this international recognition will inspire our youths to get involved in science and conservation issues,” she said.
Dr Goossens said the visit to the rescue centre would enable the Sandakan-born Elisa to learn more about its captive breeding programme.
“I believe that a captive breeding programme of pangolins in Sabah will be one of the solutions to save them from extinction,” he said of the animal, widely known as the most trafficked mammal in the world.
“We don’t have data to show their decline but the reality is that it is almost impossible to survey pangolins in the wild.
“They rarely appear in our camera traps,” said Dr Goossens.