LEAP has long been concerned about the loss of Sabah’s biodiversity and has supported initiatives to conserve threatened and endangered species such as the Critically Endangered Sunda Pangolin.
In 2014 LEAP helped initiate the Pangolin Conservation Working Group comprising NGOs and relevant government departments and in September 2017 the Sunda Pangolin was upgraded to a Totally Protected species under Schedule 1 of the Sabah Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997.
LEAP has also supported the work of local pangolin researcher Elisa Panjang through input into the design and distribution of pangolin conservation awareness materials such as posters and the sharing of news articles in the press. And to help promote World Pangolin Day on 15th February 2020, LEAP worked with Elisa to highlight the plight of pangolins during its "Ketamu 4 Pangolins" event, a market showcasing local sustainable products and initiatives. Elisa and Sabah Wildlife Department carried out educational activities with local students and engaged with the public through a stall with pangolin information and awareness materials.
In April 2020, LEAP, Sabah Wildlife Department, Elisa Panjang and Peter Chan of Sabah Pangolin Sanctuary and Research Institute (SAPSARI) got together to follow up on an initial workshop held in late 2019 on the role of SAPSARI. A Technical Working Group and various sub-groups comprising representatives from these organisations plus Sabah Parks and WWF Malaysia will be set up in the near future to move forward with plans for enhanced veterinary and husbandry practices for confiscated and rescued pangolins, research and conservation, establishing of the SAPSARI centre and fundraising, education and awareness and enforcement.
Together with Elisa Panjang, LEAP is also embarking on a new project called ‘Pangolin Rescue, Rehabilitation & Release (3R) – A partnership between LEAP, SAPSARI and Sabah wildlife Department’ with the objectives of gathering expertise and agreeing protocols for Pangolin Rescue, Rehabilitation and Release manuals/Standard Operating Procedure (SOPs); establishing capacity to actually implement rescue, rehabilitation and release of pangolins at facilities in Sabah through the acquisition of equipment and training of staff ; and building public support for pangolin conservation through continued advocacy and outreach.
While awareness may be slowly increasing about the plight of the pangolin, this is matched by a seemingly undiminished demand for pangolin meat and scales, both domestically and internationally, and recently pangolins have been in the spotlight as a potential link between the original source of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and humans, highlighting the urgent need to stop wildlife trade.
LEAP will continue working with relevant stakeholders, including local communities, to secure a future for this wonderful but threatened mammal and its habitats.