Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Lowland forest secured to ease wildlife movement in Sabah

KOTA KINABALU: Ten plots of lowland forest critical for the movement of endangered wildlife will soon be gazetted as part of the fragmented Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary in Sabah.

Totalling 132.19 hectares (326.7 acres), the land titles were yesterday handed to the Sabah Wildlife Department to create natural forested corridors for Borneo Pygmy Elephants, Orang Utans and other wildlife pushed into pockets of protected areas and cut off by agricultural estates and settlements.

The international community raised funds via the UK-based World Land Trust (WLT) for the largest land parcel, the 89.8 hectare (222 acres) forest purchased from an oil palm company close to Kampung Bilit, with the Sabah Government meeting a shortfall in the price.

Conversion to agriculture for this piece of forested area would have ended hope of creating a corridor for wildlife, especially elephants, to move between lots three and five of the Sanctuary. A nearby oxbow lake is an important fishing ground and is used for eco-tourism programmes carried out by the local community.

The nine other pieces of land totalling 49.39 hectares in Sukau, downstream of Bilit, were bought from individual title holders, through funds from The Shared Earth Foundation and Abraham Foundation, both of the United States.

Land Empowerment Animals People (LEAP) partnered with several organisations including IUCN National Committee of The Netherlands (IUCN NL), the Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry and the Land and Survey Department to secure the lands.

LEAP Executive Director Cynthia Ong presented the titles on behalf of partners and donors to Sabah Wildlife Department Director Datuk Dr Laurentius Ambu at the Heart of Borneo International Conference at the Magellan Sutera Resort, here.

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Haji Aman witnessed the handing over of the titles.

Ong said it was becoming more urgent to move Government and the private sector into gear to support efforts to reconnect forests in the 26,000-hectare Sanctuary divided into 10 lots, and which exists alongside mainly oil palm estates.