KOTA KINABALU, Aug 29 ― The Sabah government will urgently seek to upgrade the protection status of pangolins in the state to Totally Protected.
State Tourism, Culture and Environment Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun said there was a pressing need to raise the status to send a strong message to poachers and wildlife traffickers that the state was serious in tackling the problem.
“Enough is enough. It's been a long time coming now, but Sabah Wildlife Department will be sending in the papers for Cabinet approval as soon as possible,” he said.
Pangolins are now classed as a Schedule 2 animal, making it legal to hunt them with a permit issued by the department. When upgraded to Schedule 1, it will be fully protected under the Sabah Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997 and no permit will be issued. Punishment for possessing a protected species is also mandatory jail time of six months to five years.
He said that although upgrading the legal protection would not eliminate poaching, it would help to educate the public on the need to protect pangolins and their environment.
The urgency to upgrade the mammals' status comes after a record eight-tonne seizure of pangolin scales from the Sepanggar container port terminal here a month ago.
The shipment was meant for markets in China although its origins was not announced.
Customs director-general Datuk T. Subromaniam yesterday said the 43-year-old company proprietor involved will be charged soon for attempting to smuggle out banned items.
He also said that the Sabah Wildlife Department was free to charge the suspect under its own enactment.
When asked, Masidi said he hoped that the department would be able to bring the suspect to justice, but that it was up to their investigations.
“We will let the wildlife department do their investigations and decide. But they should,” he said.