KOTA KINABALU – Urgency over the future of the Sunda pangolin has prompted the setting
up of the Sabah Pangolin Conservation Working Group, which is looking at several immediate
steps including preparing a Cabinet paper to propose that the species be listed as Totally
Protected under the Sabah Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997.
The nocturnal animal is currently listed in Part One of Schedule Two, which means that it can be
hunted with a license, and upgrading its status to Schedule One will accord it full protection.
Sabah Wildlife Department Assistant Director, Dr Sen Nathan said, participants at a recent
workshop to discuss the fate of pangolins had unanimously agreed that the matter has to
be brought to the attention of the State Cabinet, and that the animal must be accorded full
protection, given rampant poaching.
“Under its current listing, a hunting license can be issued to hunt pangolins. Although no hunting
license has ever been issued, we are aware based on our own reports and those acquired from
other parties that pangolins are poached.
“The newly formed Working Group’s suggestion to elevate the status of the pangolin to that of a
Totally Protected species will hopefully deter poachers. Maybe some are unaware of legislation
to protect certain species, and we hope that if this Cabinet paper goes through, poachers will
stop their activities,” he said.
The Working Group was set up at the end of a daylong workshop involving the relevant
government agencies, NGOs, research organizations and an oil palm company.
The inaugural workshop held on August 21 was jointly organised by the Sabah Wildlife
Department and Danau Girang Field Centre, with funding from Lush Cosmetics.
Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC) Director, Dr. Benoit Goossens said, other next steps include
starting an awareness campaign, apart from working closely with the soon to be established
Wildlife Enforcement Unit, a joint initiative between DGFC and the Department.
“The long term goal which covers a period of between two to five years would be to decrease
poaching and trade of pangolins, increase ecological and population studies and to look at the
possibility of setting up a sanctuary to rehabilitate pangolins.
“The workshop we organised was much needed, and we agreed that we also need to learn
more about pangolins in Sabah. Based on current information, the biggest threat comes from
illegal hunting for the international trade, and another would be threat from habitat loss and
fragmentation – but more research and data is needed,” he said in a Press release jointly issued
with the Sabah Wildlife Department.
Goossens pointed out that according to a 2010 report by wildlife monitoring network TRAFFIC,
some 22,200 pangolins were killed between May 2007 and January 2009 to supply one
syndicate, with most coming from the districts of Keningau, Kota Belud, Kota Marudu and
“As a biologist, I find it hard to believe so many pangolins were killed in Sabah over less than
two years. Pangolins must be coming from other places, with Sabah serving as a place for the
animal to transit before being further distributed,” he said.
He said several workshop participants reported that there seemed to be less pangolins in
plantations nowadays compared to five years ago, based on their observation as part of their
regular wildlife monitoring work.