This Mazda BT-50 model is a truck on a species-saving mission

DID YOU have any idea that the Philippines has its own endemic species of pangolin? Well, we do — and it’s appropriately named the Philippine pangolin or Palawan pangolin (Manis culionensis) because, as the name obviously states, they live mostly in the islands of Palawan. Very little is known about the ecology and biology of the Philippine pangolin because it was only very recently when the animal was identified as a distinct species from the Sunda pangolin, which can be found in Indonesia. To differentiate, our Philippine pangolins have the greatest number of rows of scales among all Asiatic species. They accommodate more on their bodies because their scales are smaller; and they also have a shorter head-and-body-to-tail-length ratio.

Although they remain to be shy and mysterious animals, what we do know for sure is that they are now a critically endangered species! That may sound quite ironic, since the pangolin isn’t such a famous creature to begin with, but they’ve suffered from relentless poaching mainly due to the fact that (although there is no scientific evidence to support it) their scales are highly sought after as an ingredient for Chinese traditional medicine.

And sadly, so little is known about our Palawan pangolins that we’re not even sure what their exact remaining population is. We just know that, compared to the sightings in the past years, their numbers are rapidly dwindling. Our very own unique wildlife species is on the verge of going extinct before our very eyes, and they need all the help they can get from us, now.

Enter Mazda Philippines and its newfound advocacy to help save the Philippine pangolins, under the direction its President and CEO Steven Tan — who is an avid nature-lover himself. The Japanese car brand committed to lend out a Mazda BT-50 4×4 Pangolin pickup truck to the Katala Foundation for at least a year, to help them as they venture into the forests of Palawan to study and rescue our critically endangered pangolins.

The Katala Foundation, under the leadership of its Filipino-speaking German founder Sabine Schoppe, is a Philippine NGO that is active in protecting and conserving threatened endemic wildlife in the country, especially in Palawan.

“What an appropriate choice Mazda made to give the much-needed attention that the Palawan Pangolin deserves,” shared Katala Foundation Program Director Indira Lacerna-Widmann. She added: “We hope that with this vehicle, we will have the right direction to achieve the conservation status of this species. It’s an honor for us. The passion that we work for this species — and for other species we are working on — is carried also in the passion for this vehicle.”

The new BT-50 Pangolin is a pimped-up version of the Mazda BT-50 that we’ve long known. New to this special variant are its locally manufactured 17-inch Rota alloy wheels, which meet the highest safety standards — including passing Japan’s Light Wheel Automotive Wheel Testing Council (JWTC). These are custom wheels that match the BT-50’s fender flare extensions and consequently gift it with a visually wider, more powerful stance.

The BT-50 Pangolin also carries a lightweight, aluminum matte-black roof rack; and can offer a total of up to 1,214 liters of storage volume. Meanwhile, its supplemental cargo-bearing capability is set at 1,086 kilograms.

Inside the BT-50 Pangolin is a seven-inch touchscreen JVC infotainment system that is already Apple CarPlay- and Android Auto-compatible. And consistent with the Mazda brand’s commitment to providing premium-quality vehicles, the BT-50 Pangolin’s seats are wrapped in soft black leather, as is its ergonomic steering wheel which is pleasant to the touch.

Powering this strong but comfortable pickup is Mazda’s 3.2-liter five-cylinder common-rail turbo diesel engine — which also happens to be the highest diesel-powered displacement of a pickup currently available in the local market. This engine delivers 200ps of power alongside 470Nm of smooth-flowing torque. This also makes it a perfect vehicle for the Katala Foundation to negotiate through primary and secondary forests in Palawan, in search for our pangolins.

Mr. Tan expressed, “Like the BT-50, the Philippine pangolin is a reserved yet highly proficient, hard worker. That is why together with the Katala Foundation, we at Mazda Philippines will make use of the enduring nature of the BT-50 to promote awareness and inspire conservation of one of the Philippines’ and the world’s most critically endangered mammals.”

The new BT-50 Pangolin comes in any of six colors: Cool White, Titanium Flash, True red, Jet Black, Aluminum Metallic, and Deep Crystal Blue. As an extra treat, it is now offered at a special introductory price of only P1.4 million — which is P150,000 less than the regular BT-50 4×4 SRP of P1.55 million.

Moreover, it also comes with Mazda Philippines’ five-year free service plan, that includes 10 PMS sessions over five years (or 100,000 kms, whichever comes first).

And you just have to love that pangolin graphic.