By BORNEOTODAY REPORTERS
KOTA KINABALU: The Sunda pangolin – found only in Sabah – is now a totally protected species which means the hunting of this endangered but highly sought after animal is prohibited.
Masidi Manjun, the Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment minister said the state cabinet had approved the proposal to elevate the protected status of the animal in a bid to slow down its fast declining numbers.
Masidi said the numbers of pangolins were declining in Asia and Africa, due to the increasing demands as exotic food and medicine or supplements especially from China nationals.
“Here in Sabah, we are also told of restaurants secretly serving the meat to rich guests and tourists,” he said, without elaborating.
It has become well known secret that China tourists especially, would be brought to ‘underground restaurants’ (even private houses where the unscrupulous try to avoid detection) in Sabah to savour exotic meats, in particular the pangolin.
“Pangolins are being hunted and are sold as meat and medicine although there is no proof of health benefits from the consumption of this meat,” Masidi said in his speech when launching a replica of the Sunda pangolin at the Sandakan airport on Tuesday (Feb 13).
Kamarlin Ombi, the Assistant minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment read out Masidi’s speech at the event.
He said though pangolins were under the protected species list, the selling of its meat was still rampant, even in local markets known as Tamu.
The scales of the pangolin was said to be smuggled to China.
Previously, the Sunda pangolins were protected under Part 1 Schedule 2 of the Sabah Wildlife Conservation Enactment, allowing for them to be hunted with permits.
Now, this new status would see the pangolins being listed under Schedule 1 of the Enactment, which means the hunting this animal is prohibited.
Masidi also pointed out that it was a good effort taken by various organisations including the Future Alam Borneo, Danau Girang Field Centre and Malaysia Airports Holding Berhad to raise awareness on this critically endangered species
The replica made using recycled items such as advertisement boards, plastic bottles and plastic seems a fun way to let visitors and locals know the need to protect this species.
The programme was held in conjunction with the World Pangolin Day which falls on the third Saturday of February every year.