Zolkipli Mohamad Aton

KUCHING: The pangolin, a unique and protected species among Bornean mammals in Sarawak, is to have its classification upgraded into the ‘totally protected’ category in the state.

The animal also known as the ‘Scaly Anteater’ or its scientific name Manis javanica has been topping the chart as the most frequently seized mammal in Asia’s illegal wildlife trade lately and currently facing extinction.

Naming the shy and quiet animal as his favourite, Sarawak Forestry Corporation Sdn Bhd Chief Executive Officer Zolkipli Mohamad Aton said the corporation would conduct a study to find out its current population, before submitting a proposal to the government to upgrade its category.

This, he said, was a common procedure.

However, he noted that if there were indicators, for instance from TRAFFIC (The Wildlife Trade Monitoring Network) saying that they have to do it immediately, then the classification upgrade would be made as priority.

Zolkipli Mohamad Aton

“For now, on our job list, we want to review our Wildlife Masterplan, after that the relevant laws, but if there are indicators by outsiders, if they say, look you must do it, if not they (species) will be go extinct, then we have to put it as priority,” he told Bernama in an interview.

In Sarawak, totally protected species may not be kept as pets, hunted, captured, killed, sold, imported or exported or disturbed in any way, nor any recognisable part of these animals be in possession.

Among the animals in the category include the Proboscis Monkey, the Bornean Gibbon, Rhinoceros, Naked Bat, Dugong and all marine turtles.

Zolkipli noted that Sarawak still had quite a number of pangolins, but in other states, the numbers were declining.

“So these smugglers now want to come over here (Sarawak). We have been warned by other people, better look after your pangolins,” he said.

He said the animal, being a rare and hardly seen species, had numerous myths surrounded it, especially to the traditional medicine practitioners, which contributed to the demand, among others, of its scales covering its entire upper parts.

“They said it has medicinal value, but I can quote an article by the World Conservation Society that says that pangolin nails are made of keratin, which is the same material as human fingernails, so in reality there is no medicinal value there, but because of traditions, people tend to go for these things.

“There are some who like its meat, but pangolin meat is not even fleshy,” he said.

Apart from protecting the pangolin, the other factor needed to be given focus is on penalties, Zolkipli said, adding that the SFC would also review its wildlife-related laws to increase the penalty on offenders.

Traffic Southeast Asia Director Kanitha Krishnasamy, in an article early this year, posed a rather intriguing question about the penalty involving offences related to wildlife smuggling in the country and wanted state governments to review their laws.

Citing a case on Feb 7 this year, where Sabah Police and the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) shut down a pangolin processing factory and warehouse after seizing 30 tonnes of pangolin and their parts, she was quoted as saying that the maximum amount of fine under the state’s enactment was nowhere near the syndicate’s possible revenue.

“This is also important because the worst financial penalty the suspect in the Feb 7 case may get, if convicted under the Sabah’s Wildlife Conservation Enactment, is a fine of RM250,000.

“Meanwhile authorities have valued the seized items at RM8.4 million, making the syndicate’s revenue 33 times higher than the law’s heftiest fine,” she was quoted as saying. – Bernama