By WATI ANDI SAMSIAR
KOTA KINABALU: The state government is in the process of re-gazetting the Kinabatangan wildlife sanctuary as a protected area under the Wildlife Conservation Enactment.
Currently, the area is under the State Land Ordinance.
Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Haji Aman said the Land & Survey Department and Forestry Department were in the process of finalising the matter.
He was commenting on a news report in a national daily that the 26,000ha sanctuary billed as Malaysia’s “Gift to Earth” was facing massive destruction.
The area is presently managed by the Kinabatangan District Office and not the Sabah Wildlife Department.
“We are doing it now for better protection of the area,” Musa said to reporters after receiving dividend payment of RM5.052 million to the state government from Warisan Harta Sabah Sdn Bhd and a loan re-
payment amounting to RM4,695,850.16 from Sabah Housing & Town Development Authority (SHTDA) at his office here yesterday.
He also said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had called him to find out more about the matter following the news report.
“I’ve explained to the Prime Minister that the state government is in the process of re-gazetting the area,” he said.
According to Musa who is also Finance Minister, Wildlife officers have every right to go to any area where there was poaching against protected wildlife species.
The Chief Minister also said there were no large scale illegal logging in the Kinabatangan area.
“There are ‘bantalan’ activities (small-scale tree felling) carried out by villagers for their own use,” he said.
Meanwhile, Musa said he would get the Kinabatangan District Office to investigate and monitor development along the Kinabatangan riverbank and indiscriminate land clearing in the area.
“I will also bring up the matter in the next State Cabinet meeting,” he added.
The Star reported on Monday that in the last four years alone, 20 per cent of the 100-million-year-old forest had been estimated to have been cleared, threatening endangered animal species like the Borneo pygmy elephants, orang utans, proboscis monkeys and hornbills.
Besides the danger of losing these animals, the ecotourism industry is also bracing itself for tougher times due to the illegal encroachment into the Lower Kinabatangan, where the sanctuary is sited.
Thousands of tourists, both foreigners and locals visit the sanctuary each year to sample its rich fauna and flora.
Yesterday, Warisan Harta and SHTDA were represented by their chairman, Datuk Dr Pataware Patawe and Datuk Rubin Balang, respectively.
Also present were Assistant Minister in the Chief Minister’s Department Datuk Edward Khoo, state Secretary Datuk KY Mustapha and senior officials of Warisan Harta and SHTDA.
Courtesy of New Sabah Times