Stall manned by Elisa Panjang at the Ketamu 4 Pangolins event on World Pangolin Day 2020
Selection of local press articles on Sunda Pangolin
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 (Manis javanica).
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 (see here) 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.
Over recent years dialogues with stakeholders have revealed a need for enhanced veterinary and husbandry practices for confiscated and rescued pangolins including establishing a permanent centre for Sunda Pangolins in Sabah, and increased research and conservation as well as fundraising, education and awareness and enforcement.
Together with Elisa Panjang, and working closely with Sabah wildlife Department, LEAP is also embarking on a new project called the ‘Pangolin Rescue, Rehabilitation & Release (3R) Programme’ which aims to gather expertise and agree protocols for Pangolin Rescue, Rehabilitation and Release manuals/Standard Operating Procedure (SOPs); establish capacity to actually implement rescue, rehabilitation and release of pangolins at facilities in Sabah through the acquisition of equipment and training of staff ; and build 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 with the emergence of zoonotic diseases such as COVID -19 caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the need to stop wildlife trade has never been greater.
LEAP will continue working with relevant stakeholders, including local communities, to secure a future for this wonderful but threatened mammal and its habitats.
Deputy Director ll of SWD Roland Niun giving his opening speech
Photo credit: SWD
Sylvia and Elisa handing over a specially modified pangolin holding box to Roland. Boxes were donated to Lok Kawi Wildlife Park and Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre clinics and to the Wildlife Rescue Unit. Thank you to The Shared Earth Foundation for funding the purchase of this equipment
Photo credit: WRU
As part of the PANGOLIN RESCUE, REHABILITATION AND RELEASE (3R) programme, on 20th January 2022 LEAP held the first of its awareness and capacity building events under, focusing on 'Capacity Building and Formulation of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for Pangolin Rescue and Confiscation in Sabah'. The event was organised in conjunction with Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) and Elisa Panjang , pangolin researcher and conservation officer of Danau Girang Field Centre, and brought together ’frontliners’ from various relevant agencies including from SWD headquarters and district offices throughout Sabah, vets and rangers from Lok Kawi Wildlife Park, Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre and the Wildlife Rescue Unit, staff from Sabah Forestry Department and the Sabah Foundation and representatives from wildlife NGOs including WWF Malaysia, Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre, 1 StopBorneo Wildlife and Panthera.
Held as a hybrid event with participants attending in person and online, and officiated by Tuan Roland Niun, Deputy Director ll of Sabah Wildlife Department, participants were introduced to the 3R project then given an in depth introduction to pangolin biology, research, behaviour and conservation by Elisa, followed by a comprehensive overview of laws and regulations governing the rescue and confiscation of Totally Protected wildlife under Sabah’s Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997 by Senior Wildlife Officer, Awareness and Education, and Pangolin Species Officer Puan Nurain Acheh. This was followed by a presentation by Dr Roopan Navaneetha, WRU Assistant Manager who shared about WRU’s experiences and challenges with pangolin rescues in Sabah.
Participants had a chance to look at equipment used in pangolin rescues and different types of transportation and holding boxes, and discuss the pros and cons of various methods of dealing with pangolins under different rescue scenarios.
Members of the public are contacting the authorities more and more often about pangolins, with at least 33 rescue cases in Sabah in the last 10 months. The hope is that the frontliners in wildlife rescues will be better empowered and equipped to rescue pangolins safely and that standard operating procedures (SOPs) can be formalised so that stress caused to pangolins during rescue can be minimised. As well as implementing best practise, much needed and valuable data on pangolins such as distribution and threats such as injuries from dogs can also be gathered during rescues and analysed.
Next steps will include finalising the SOPs and disseminating to relevant stakeholders and then moving to the second phase of the 3R programme which will focus on husbandry of rescued pangolins in rescue centres before the pangolins are released back to the wild.
Elisa explaining about the pros and cons of different equipment used in pangolin rescues
Puan Nurain of SWD receiving a token of appreciation from Sylvia
Newly empowered pangolin rescuers in a group photo after the training
Brainstorming meeting on pangolin rescue and husbandry, September 2021
On 29th September 2021 LEAP held an online meeting together with Elisa and other key stakeholders to brainstorm on issues such as existing pangolin rescue SOPs and protocols, pangolin husbandry including health, food, enrichment, housing and behaviour, dealing with young pangolins or ‘pangopups’, handling of large seizures of pangolin and the all-important topics of release and post-release monitoring as well as the collection and compilation of pangolin rescue data in Sabah.
We were very fortunate to have input from Wildlife Reserve Singapore’s Ade Kurniawan, Animal Care Officer and Sunda Pangolin coordinator at the Night Safari whose experience and insights on pangolin husbandry were greatly appreciated.
Next steps for the 3R programme are proposed training sessions for pangolin rescue ‘front liners’ – first responders such as wildlife vets and rangers and NGO members who sometimes rescue pangolins, to increase capacity in rescue techniques and come up with a set of SOPs endorsed by Sabah Wildlife Department, as well as helping to improve current holding facilities for rescued pangolins.
Together we can make the world a better place for these amazing animals!