KOTA KINABALU: The endangered but highly sought after Sunda pangolin is now a totally protected species.
Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said the state cabinet had approved for a proposal to elevate the status of the animal.
Previously, the Sunda pangolins which are only found in Sabah were protected under Part 1 Schedule 2 of the Sabah Wildlife Conservation Enactment, allowing for them to be hunted with permits.
Now, this new status would see pangolins being listed under Schedule 1 of the Enactment, which means the hunting this animal is prohibited.
"Pangolins are being hunted and are sold as meat and medicine although there is no proof of health benefits from the consumption of this meat," Masidi said in his speech when launching a replica of the Sunda Pangolin at the Sandakan airport on Tuesday (Feb 13).
His speech was delivered by Tourism, Culture and Environment Assistant Minister Datuk Kamarlin Ombi.
He said though pangolins were under the protected species list, the selling of these meat was still rampant, even in local markets known as Tamu.
Speaking on the launching of the Sunda pangolin replica, Masidi said it was a good effort taken by various organisations including the Future Alam Borneo, Danau Girang Field Centre and Malaysia Airports Holding Berhad to raise awareness on this critically endangered species.
He said the replica made using recycled items such as advertisement boards, plastic bottles and plastic was a fun way to let visitors and locals know the need to protect this species.
The programme was held in conjunction with the World Pangolin Day which falls on the third Saturday of February every year.
In the global context, Masidi said the numbers of pangolins were declining in Asia and Africa, due to the increasing demands as exotic food and medicine or supplements especially from China nationals.
"Here in Sabah, we are also told of restaurants secretly serving the meat to rich guests and tourists," he said.