Virus may be pangolins’ saving grace


  • Nation
  • Wednesday, 26 Feb 2020

KUCHING: The identification of pangolins as a potential intermediate host of Covid-19 can assist wildlife conservation and awareness efforts, says the Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC).

Its chief executive officer Zolkipli Mohamad Aton said the corporation would capitalise on this information to promote conservation.

“In a way, it provides more input for public awareness on not harming pangolins.

“We also would like to advise the public not to consume exotic meat, ” he added.

Zolkipli was responding to a news report that the South China Agricultural University had named pangolins as a potential intermediate host of the virus.

Scientists at the university found that the genome sequences of viruses in pangolins were 99% identical to those in Covid-19 patients, China’s Xinhua news agency reported.

Zolkipli said SFC would continue its efforts on enforcement and awareness to address pangolin smuggling and other illegal wildlife trade in Sarawak.

He said enforcement cooperation would be increased between SFC and the Sabah Wildlife Department to monitor and control trans-boundary wildlife trade.

“We also carry out Ops Bersepadu Khazanah, or joint operations between SFC and other enforcement agencies such as the General Operations Force, the Customs department and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission to prevent wildlife smuggling, ” he said.He added that SFC would conduct a study to determine the pangolin population in Sarawak before submitting a proposal to the state government to upgrade it to a totally protected species in the state.

Pangolins are currently listed as protected animals under the state’s Wildlife Protection Ordinance.

Totally protected species cannot be hunted, killed, sold, imported, exported or kept as pets.

Offenders can be jailed two years and fined RM25,000 upon conviction, or face a maximum RM30,000 fine in the case of orang utans and proboscis monkeys.

Protected animals, meanwhile, cannot be hunted, sold or possessed without a licence issued under the Ordinance.

The penalty for illegal possession of protected animals is one-year imprisonment and a fine of RM10,000 per animal.

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