Plight of the pangolin: Move to boost awareness on threatened species in Sabah


Awareness posters for the conservation of pangolins being distributed to a school official at SK Tidung Tabin in Sabah's Kinabatangan district.

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah conservationists are hoping to increase awareness of critically-endangered pangolins and the threat posed to their survival by heavy poaching.

Local pangolin expert Elisa Panjang said an active outreach programme was being conducted at schools, villages and plantations to create awareness on the pangolins' plight.

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"Our message is how to work together for a brighter future for these fascinating animals," she said in conjunction with World Pangolin Day which is observed on the third Saturday of February (Feb 18 this year).

She said the focus on getting the community involved was in line with the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Pangolin Specialist Group's theme "Communities Leading Pangolin Conservation".

"We have produced a poster to raise awareness on how to handle pangolins that can be encountered in your garden or farm, or in situations in which a pangolin is threatened.

"This gives the public knowledge of what to do, or who to contact, if a pangolin is found. We have distributed this poster to schools, villages, plantations and conservation areas," she said here on Friday (Feb 17).

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"Pangolins are totally protected species under Schedule 1 of the Sabah Wildlife Enactment 1997 but unfortunately they are still being poached."

Panjang said the Sabah Wildlife Department and Land Empowerment Animals People (LEAP) have been conducting workshops on pangolin rescue and veterinary care of the animals in captivity before releasing them into the wild.

"Husbandry and rehabilitation of rescued or confiscated pangolins is challenging, especially if young or baby pangolins known as pangopups are found without their mothers.

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"We are working to increase the capacity of our vets and rangers in caring for pangolins so they have a better chance of survival when returned to their habitat," said Panjang, a conservation officer with Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC) in Kinabatangan.

Panjang said pangolin conservation still had a long way to go in Sabah but was confident it would succeed with growing public awareness.

"Even though pangolins are elusive and nocturnal, these precious inhabitants of Sabah's forests are fast becoming a wildlife icon, together with orang utan, Bornean elephants, sun bears and clouded leopards," she said.

Panjang has been involved in creating educational and awareness materials through an active international network of pangolin experts and conservationists in Africa, South and South-East Asia.

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LEAP's biodiversity conservation and environmental awareness manager Sylvia Yorath said there were still many challenges ahead including local and international demand for meat and scales, and loss of forest habitat.

There is also a need to carry out a census of pangolin population and distribution in Sabah.

She said the necessary training to increase awareness of pangolins was carried out in partnership with the judiciary, Wildlife Department, DGFC and Justice for Wildlife Malaysia to increase the capacity of authorities and wildlife experts in successfully prosecuting wildlife crime cases.

"Work will start soon on formulating the Sunda Pangolin Action Plan for Sabah which will chart a course for the long-term future of pangolins," she added,

A World Pangolin Day event will be held at Lok Kawi Wildlife Park on March 11 with exhibitions, dialogue sessions and workshops as well as pangolin-themed children's games.

The Sunda pangolin, a totally protected species in Sabah.The Sunda pangolin, a totally protected species in Sabah.

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