Friday, July 16, 2010

The Green Connection in preserving Borneo's biodiversity

KOTA KINABALU: What used to be a vacant swamp area five years ago is now the home to over 1,200 native species of Borneo's vast biodiversity, from sharks and stingrays to non-poisonous snakes and frogs.

The swamp today is part of The Green Connection, an aquarium and science discovery centre that opened its doors to the public on May.

It is more than just your usual eco theme park run by profit-oriented organisations, it is a conservation and education centre set up and operated by concerned conservationists and the Sabah Foundation.

Located about 2.5km from the city centre, this centre aims to promote environmental awareness by showcasing the land and marine biodiversity of Borneo and highlighting both the threats they face and the need to conserve them.

Visitors who come here will journey into the ecosystems that can be found in Borneo and explore the vast biodiversity contained within.


Prof Steve Oakley, a marine biologist for the last 25 years, is among the pioneers of the centre. Oakley, the technical director of the centre, who hails from England has been residing in Malaysia for the last 15 years, and has worked in 28 countries to date.

"Many years ago, a few concerned conservationists who worked for me at the Universiti Malaysia Sarawak's (Unimas) Institute of Biodiversity and Environmental Conservation carried out numerous studies on coral reef degradation in Sabah and Sarawak.

"Once we found out the source of the problem, we started looking for the solution. And the solution is to create marine protected areas ....but that's the government's job like regulating and controlling destructive fishing, not really the role of an NGO," he said in an interview with Bernama.

"So instead we adopted an approach similar to World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), whereby we started rejuvenating coral reefs, rescuing sharks, stingrays and snakes...

“So the next logical step is to open a conservation facility like the one you see here today," he added.


However, it was no easy feat as it took five years to create the place and raise money for the RM12mil project.

They were then lucky to meet a partner with similar goals, the Sabah Foundation (YS) that is now the major shareholder of Aquatica Aquarium and Discovery Centre Sdn Bhd, the company that owns The Green Connection.

"We went looking for partners with the same objectives to set up the facility. YS' first objective is education, ours is also education, so we agree completely," said Oakley.

Continue reading at: The Green Connection in preserving Borneo's biodiversity

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