‘Let’s try pangolin tourism’

Critically endangered: A pangolin found in Sabah. — SHAVEZ CHEEMA

KOTA KINABALU: A conservationist is proposing that the government explore “pangolin tourism” to better protect this arguably most poached and trafficked species in the world.

Shavez Cheema, who is the founder of 1StopBorneo Wildlife, said the same was being done with some of Sabah’s most endangered species, including Bornean Pygmy elephants, and there was no reason why the authorities could not try it with pangolins.

1StopBorneo Wildlife is a non-profit organisation aimed at conserving the rainforest through education programmes, wildlife rescue services and developing new economic models to save animals.

“Better awareness and enforcement will ultimately lead to saving the pangolins.

“But pangolin tourism is perhaps another avenue which could lead to further protection of this species, ” Cheema said in conjunction with World Pangolin Day on Feb 20.

He said the effort might see tags put on rescued pangolins before they were released, then allowing tourists to view these animals without any physical interaction.

He added that the same effort was being made with select animals in Africa.

He also urged the community to report any illegal sale of pangolins to local authorities.

Cheema said people should not disturb pangolins if they stumbled across them, whether while driving on the road or when visiting the jungle.

Pangolins play a role in keeping a balance in the ecosystem. This means that the loss of a type of species could lead to an ecological imbalance, causing havoc from the bottom of the food chain right to the top.

It is believed that the pangolin population in Sabah is about 1,000 in the wild.

The Sunda pangolin, the only species found in Sabah, is listed as “critically endangered” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List.

Prior to this, there was a pangolin sanctuary planned to be set up within the protected Tawau Hills National Park.

Funded by Arizona Sabah Pangolin Sanctuary and Research Institute (Sapsari) with an initial start-up investment of RM1mil planned in 2019, the sanctuary was an effort by the then state government to protect this species.

However, the latest status of this sanctuary is not known due to the change of government and Covid-19 pandemic that have seen a lot of plans and projects halted or delayed.

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pangolin , tourism , wildlife


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