A cabinet paper to revise the status of pangolin in Sabah has been prepared and expected to be tabled early next year. Danau Girang Field Centre director Dr Benoit Goossens said Sunda pangolin was the only species found in Sabah but it was protected under Part 1 of Schedule 2 of the Sabah Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997 which they can be hunted with permits. (Photo courtesy of Danau Girang Field Centre)

KINABATANGAN: A cabinet paper to revise the status of pangolin in Sabah has been prepared and expected to be tabled early next year.

Danau Girang Field Centre director Dr Benoit Goossens said Sunda pangolin was the only species found in Sabah but it was protected under Part 1 of Schedule 2 of the Sabah Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997 which they can be hunted with permits.

“Pangolins are the most trafficked mammal in the world, and are mainly threatened by poaching for international trade involving live animals, meat and scales.

“Another threat is the habitat loss and fragmentation, although the severity of this threat requires further research in Sabah,” he said in a statement following the success of the centre in fitting satellite unit on a Sunda pangolin which was rescued by a villager Nasri Manjah at a palm oil plantation.

Goosen added the heavy trade of the species had prompted Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun to push Sunda pangolin to become a totally protected species.

State Wildlife Department assistant director Dr Sen Nathan said about 22,000 pangolins were killed between May 2007 and Jan 2009 to supply a syndicate.

“Nasri, a full-time farmer, has lived in the Kinabatangan since 1976, and according to him pangolins were very common in his time but nowadays they are hard to spot.

“I am glad that he decided to save the pangolin by giving it to us and gave the animal a chance to survive, although several possible buyers were negotiating with him,” he added.

Meanwhile, the rescued adult female pangolin weighing at 7.72 kilogrammes has been named Asa, meaning “don’t give up” in Malay.

It was attached with a Global Positioning System unit weighing 80 grams on its scales, situated at its hind leg near to its tail to minimise interference with its movement.

The pangolin had been released and successfully tracked for already a week.

The centre’s lead researcher Elisa Panjang said it was difficult to study the species due to its elusive behavior and rarity.

“We want to understand how the pangolin responds to its environment, particularly in degraded and fragmented forest such as the Kinabatangan.”