KOTA KINABALU: The proposed pangolin sanctuary in Tawau which was first mooted in 2019, is being put on hold for now as the state government looks at other approaches to conservation.
State Tourism, Culture and Environment Assistant Minister Datuk Joniston Bangkuai said a facility to temporarily house rescued pangolins before releasing them back to the wild, was better suited as this species was not meant to live in sanctuaries.
Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) was also collecting data and coordinating researches at the moment to come up with a pangolin action plan in Sabah, he said responding to Api-Api assemblyman Datuk Christina Liew on the present status of the Sabah Pangolin Sanctuary and Research Institute (Sapsari) at Taman Bukit Tawau which was launched by Warisan Plus state government in 2019.
Previously, pangolins had been upgraded from protected to fully protected status in 2017 in efforts to protect the species.
"The ministry via SWD held a workshop on November 20, 2019 led by the Sapsari team with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) involved.
"It was to discuss suitable locations for Sapsari, long-term planning including operations costs, and discussions on findings to be filed for a comprehensive report to the state government via SWD.
"The workshop evaluated that Sapsari is to be executed in three phases namely creating Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for rescued and seized pangolins as well as awareness campaigns; Phase 2 to focus on research including breeding, diet, and monitoring; and last phase on integrated management and administration.
"Besides this, researchers also evaluated the need to have a facility for temporarily housing confiscated pangolins or those handed over for health inspection before being released, is more suitable than building a sanctuary.
"This is because pangolins are a species that need to be freed back immediately to their natural habitat and not like other species which are kept in sanctuaries.
"Due to this, it was suggested that the formation of such a sanctuary be postponed," Bangkuai elaborated.
He also said the progression of the identified phases were not able to be executed as planned due to Covid-19 pandemic, but the workshop to discuss on standard operating procedures and guidelines for rescued and confiscated pangolins have re-commenced earlier this year.