KOTA KINABALU: A pangolin sanctuary, to be established within the protected Tawau Hills National Park, is set to become Sabah’s new wildlife tourist attraction.
Funded by Arizona Sabah Pangolin Sanctuary and Research Institute (Sapsari) with an initial start-up investment of RM1 million, the sanctuary is an effort by the state government to further protect arguably the world’s most poached and trafficked animal.
Deputy Chief Minister cum state Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Christina Liew said Tawau was picked as a suitable location for the pangolin sanctuary because it has a vast forest.
“It will be a suitable place for pangolins because there’s plenty of food supplies there in the form of insects such as termites and ants.
“The Tawau Hills cover an area of 20,000-hectare, and that’s plenty of land. I will ask Sabah Parks and the Wildlife Department to identify a location for the sanctuary that will be convenient for tourists to come and visit the sanctuary.
“We will be working together with our pangolin expert Elisa Panjang, so we can have a proper outfit there because the sanctuary will also serve as a research centre. It is expected to assist the wildlife department and researchers to have better data on pangolin population and behaviour,” she said today.
Earlier, Liew witnessed the signing of a memorandum of understanding on the establishment of the sanctuary between Sapsari and Sabah Wildlife Department.
Sapsari was represented by its founder and chief executive officer Peter Chan, while Sabah Wildlife was represented by its director Augustine Tuuga.
According to Liew, Sabah needed such a sanctuary to educate the people on the need to protect pangolin as the species was the state’s asset.
“No one is allowed to kill and poach pangolins for whatever reason. In February this year, we discovered RM8 million worth of smuggled pangolins and body parts in Tuaran. We will increase enforcement to prevent this from recurring.
“With a proper sanctuary, we will be able to carry out more effective and efficient conservation efforts of the pangolins,” she added.
Chan meanwhile said the pangolins had been under-represented and that it was only right to gather like-minded individuals to bring conservation of the species to greater heights.
“Sabah has a vibrant eco-tourism industry and well-educated people. This (sanctuary) is not just a Sabah project but a global one. I am confident the state can take the lead in pangolin conservation efforts,” said the Penang-born retired engineer.
Chan, who resides in the United States and engages in philanthropic works, also said the sanctuary would be run by locals and Sabah Wildlife Department in particular.
In Sabah, it is estimated there are slightly more than 1,000 pangolins left in the wild. The animal is hunted for its meat (exotic food), scales (traditional medicine) and skin (accessories).-nst online.