Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Sabah’s Imbak Canyon contains a wealth of information

THE early morning mist envelopes the Imbak Canyon Conservation Area (ICCA). The chirping of birds, the call of gibbons and the sound of rushing water from a river are beautiful and unforgettable.

This writer recently went to the Gunung Kuli Research Station, located at the ICCA, the remaining part of unspoilt lowland rainforest in the heart of Sabah.

A trip to this pristine forest is incomplete without understanding the beauty of wildlife and trees.

The water in the Imbak River is crystal clear. In addition, a number of freshwater fish live in the river and other streams.

In 2010, a 10-day research expedition was organised at the Gunung Kuli Research Station. More than 100 researchers took part in the research expedition.

Imbak Canyon

During their expedition, researchers found 50 species of medicinal plants and 28 species of orchids in the conversation area, which spans 30,000 hectares.

The Imbak Canyon is a priceless heritage site, which had been transformed into a Forest Conservation Area in 2010.

According to Dr Waidi Sinun, Yayasan Sabah’s group manager (conservation and environmental division) at the ICCA, the ICCA had been developed into a conservation area by Yayasan, Sabah Foundation, in 2003, for research purposes.

Today, the area is managed by the foundation.


Imbak Canyon is a 25km long valley in central Sabah. It is surrounded by sandstone cliffs that are more than 3,700 feet tall.

The Imbak Canyon forest consists of shrub communities as well as low forest communities.

Recognised as a genetic seed bank, Imbak Canyon is home to more than 317 species of plants, out of which 32 species are found in Borneo, with only six species present in Sabah.

According to Waidi, there are six different species of primates in Imbak. They are the Borneo gibbon, the long-tailed Macaque, the Silvered Langur, the Red leaf monkey, the Proboscis monkey and the Pig-tailed monkey.

Waidi said the ICCA will combine Maliau Basin and Danum Valley so that a full-fledged research facility can be developed for biodiversity studies.


Efforts to develop the ICCA into a world class education centre were intensified after the launch of the Yayasan Sabah-Petronas Imbak Canyon Partnership last year.

Petronas contributed RM6 million to create a master plan for Imbak Canyon.

At the proposed Imbak Canyon Studies Centre (ICSC), there will be a laboratory, research and staff quarters, an observation tower, conference rooms, galleries and a nursery.

The facilities available at the Tampoi Base Camp in Imbak Canyon are not sophisticated. Currently, the base camp has hostel-type accommodation with washrooms, a camping ground and a dining area.

Petronas’ contribution is indicative of the organisation’s desire to conserve Imbak Canyon’s unique biodiversity, and to make it a central research hub for studies on environment and biodiversity.


"It is important to get the support of various organisations so that the Imbak Canyon can be developed into a conservation area to protect wildlife in Maliau Basin and Danum Valley.

"Equatorial rainforests, including the Imbak Canyon, play an important role in reducing the amount of carbon in the environment," said Mohammad Medan Abdullah, Senior General Manager at the Petronas Group’s Corporate Affairs Division, at the launch of the YS-Petronas Imbak Canyon Conservation Partnership.