KOTA KINABALU: The recent discovery of RM8.4mil worth of protected pangolins and their body parts in a factory is a reality check for Sabah’s conservation efforts.
“I am devastated and saddened by the sheer volume of pangolins that have been mercilessly killed,” Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Christina Liew said on Monday (Feb 11).
On Saturday (Feb 9), The Star reported that a Feb 7 raid by police and Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) enforcement officers in Sepanggar and Tamparuli near here seized 61 live pangolins, 361kg of pangolin scales, 572 frozen pangolins, three containers filled with 1,860 boxes of frozen pangolins, two animal feet believed to be those of a bear, and four frozen bats.
“My ministry has taken many steps to stop this massacre, including upgrading the conservation status of this species to be fully protected. This means we can use the full weight of the law against these perpetrators,” said Liew.
“Almost all cases of pangolin poaching caught by the Sabah Wildlife Department have been successfully prosecuted and the culprits put behind bars.
“Unfortunately, the police discovery at the warehouse in Tamparuli only shows that, in reality, wildlife poaching in Sabah is happening at an unprecedented level and seems to be carrying on unabated.
“If this remains unchecked, it will certainly spell the extinction of yet another wildlife species in Sabah,” Liew, who is state Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister, added.
In thanking the officers for the successful arrest of the 35-year-old mastermind behind this wildlife crime, Liew said that “these heartless criminals should face the full extent of the law”.
“I hope that the police will continue to assist the Sabah Wildlife Department in combating wildlife crimes in Sabah,” she added.
Liew said that pangolins are listed in Part 1, Schedule 1 of the Sabah Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997, which forbids the hunting, consumption, possession and selling of pangolins or their parts.
Offenders face a minimum fine of RM50,000 and a maximum of RM250,000 or jail for between one and five years.
Liew said there is a need to increase awareness programmes about wildlife poaching hotspots in an effort to change the people’s perception of wildlife, as it has more value alive than dead.
She also suggested that people should develop ecotourism programmes to attract visitors “towards creating a sustainable income generator and stopping the environmentally unviable practice of wildlife poaching”.