Wednesday, January 23, 2013

MoU to expand Wildlife Corridor in Lower Kinabatangan

“It makes sense to conserve. Nature is Sabah’s biggest asset. We are very lucky. Show the future generations that we are looking after it,” said Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun who witnessed the MoU Signing Ceremony on Creation and Management of Orangutan and Borneon Elephant Conservation Corridor in Kinabatangan Mega Biodiversity Corridor. The MoU was signed between Borneo Conservation Trust (BCT) and Myne Resort at the Palace Hotel recently.

Speaking at the ceremony, BCT Honorary Secretary and Director of Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) Datuk Dr Laurentius Ambu said, “Looking into Lower Kinabatangan Sanctuary, the biggest problem that we face is fragmentation of the area. We worked with WWF (World Wildlife Fund for Nature) to come up with a master plan to deal with this problem. One of the recommendations at that time was to work with the land owners, NGOs, resorts and oil planters.”

“That vision is being realized through this MoU today. We are embarking on the first model with this partnership whereby 100 acres of Myne Resort land will be managed together with BCT and Sabah Wildlife Department. Instead of developing it for agriculture, the land will be used for tourism purposes.”

200 acres of Myne Resort’s forest land is located along the fringes of Kinabatangan River in Kampung Bilit. 100 acres have been utilized to build the resort. The 100 acres of forest land is an important component that reconnects isolated forest habitats with the larger forest landscape by re-establishing the biodiversity corridor between Lot 4 and Lot 5 of Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary.

"This will be a big highway for the elephants to move from the northern to the southern part of Sabah,” said Ambu. Besides linking key habitats for the elephants, the habitats for orangutans and rhinoceros will also be re-established in Lower Kinabatangan. This will decrease isolation of animal population that will expose species to genetic drift and inbreeding. Habitat fragmentation will also increase the incidence of human-wildlife conflict.

“The biggest challenge in forest conservation is to convince landowners to defer their profit,” said Masidi. “I think Myne Resort has conservation at heart,  and it makes economic sense.”

Masidi also said that the partnership established will draw in more tourists to Sabah. “We can only find the orangutan in Sumatra and Borneo. You might find them in other places but that is not their natural habitat,” added the Minister. “Even the Proboscis monkey is endemic to Borneo.”