KUCHING: The status of pangolins in Sarawak should be uplisted into the totally protected animal category under the state's Wildlife Protection Ordinance, says WWF-Malaysia.
Its Sarawak conservation programme head Dr Jason Hon said this was necessary due to the seriousness of pangolin trafficking, which had harmed its population in the state.
"We believe the relevant agency is already studying this and WWF-Malaysia looks forward to the positive revision of the Ordinance to grant better protection for pangolins.
"A higher penalty could serve as a deterrent factor for future crimes, but this must be done with concerted efforts on the ground to ensure that enforcement is adequate to prevent perpetrators from slipping away from the grip of the law," he said in a statement on Wednesday (Jan 19).
Pangolins are currently listed as protected animals under the Ordinance. Offences under the totally protected category carry heavier fines and jail terms.
Hon noted that the Miri Sessions Court recently sentenced an Indonesian to a fine of RM27.8mil and one year imprisonment for illegally possessing three pangolins and 2,782 pangolin scales.
Commending Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC) for effective enforcement in the case, he said the hefty penalty showed that Sarawak was serious about tackling wildlife crime.
He also called on SFC to continue its awareness programmes and engage actively with NGOs to reinforce the message that wildlife trading without a permit is illegal in the state.
"In Sarawak, WWF-Malaysia implements conservation awareness programmes and has engaged with local communities, the public and school children in disseminating conservation messages.
"To this end, the public must cooperate by not consuming or buying any wildlife, and report to the authorities if they come across any cases of illegal wildlife trading," he added.