KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Wildlife Department is in the process of sending samples of pangolin scales worth RM100 million seized here recently, to Kuala Lumpur to determine their species and origin.
The Sabah Customs Department seized 8,000 tonnes of pangolin scales on July 29, believed to be on their way to China.
The authorities also picked up a 43-year-old local man who owned the company that allegedly tried to ship the scales to China.
Customs said they believed the scales had been sourced from 16,000 pangolins.
“We are in the process of sending samples of the pangolin scales seized recently by Customs to a forensic laboratory of the federal Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) in Kuala Lumpur,” Sabah Wildlife Department director Augustine Tuuga told FMT today.
“The forensic tests will determine the species of the pangolins.
“From there, hopefully, we’ll know where the pangolins came from, whether from Sabah or other places.
“There’s only one type of pangolin in Sabah — the Sunda pangolins.
“There are eight species of pangolins in the whole world and they can be found in China, Asean countries, India and Africa.”
Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Masidi Manjun today said the government was considering making pangolins a fully protected species.
Currently, the mammals are semi-protected and only people with a licence can hunt them.
If pangolins become fully protected, there will be a total ban on their hunting.
“We have submitted the proposal to change the protection status of pangolins to the state tourism, culture and environment ministry,” said Augustine.
“The ministry will then bring the proposal to the state cabinet for deliberation and approval to revise the pangolin classification to ‘fully protected’.”
There are growing concerns that overhunting of the animals for both their scales and meat would make them extinct.
Pangolin meat is also in demand and it is hard to detect when smuggling as the meat is often packed commercially, disguised as other meat.
Pangolins are said to be the world’s most poached animal as their meat and scales are thought to have medicinal benefits.