A new research centre makes Imbak Canyon its focal point.
DEEP in the heart of Ulu Kinabatangan in Sabah’s south-eastern region is a canyon valley so remote and inaccessible that it has, for years, remained little-known, even to the people of the nearest village of Kampung Imbak in Tongod.
Because of that, this wilderness has remained untouched – it is one of the last unlogged contiguous lowland dipterocarp (a family of tropical hardwood trees with two-winged fruits) forest left in the state today.
In 2003, the Yayasan Sabah Group designated it as the Imbak Canyon Conservation Area, solely for research, education and training, and as a seed source or gene bank. In 2009, all 30,000ha of the area were accorded Class 1 (Protection) Forest Reserve status.
The area merits protection as it is a crucial corridor link between two important protected areas: Danum Valley and Maliau Basin. This link facilitates movements of wildlife like the pygmy elephant, orang utan, bearded pig, clouded leopard and even the critically-endangered Sumatran rhino (footprints were previously detected there).
Its pristine state makes it ideal for research into non-destructive use of an undisturbed forest, for instance in carbon sequestration (removing carbon dioxide and storing it in the soil). It also serves as a catchment area for the Imbak River which merges with the Melian River before spilling into the Kinabatangan, Sabah’s principal waterway.
Yet, just a few decades before, the forest had been vulnerable; it was within the logging concession given to Yayasan Sabah. Fortunately, a scientific expedition by Sabah Forestry Department in 2000 helped saved Imbak Canyon as it showed the area to have abundant biodiversity. Two other scientific studies were conducted after that, in 2004 and 2010.
Imbak Canyon, together with Danum Valley, Maliau Basin and the coastal forest of Tumunong Hallu, form part of the one million hectare of concession known as the Yayasan Sabah Forest Management Area. Half of this is Class 1 (Protection) Forest Reserves consisting of the mentioned conservation areas and other logged sites now given the Class 1 category. The other half consists of Class 2 Commercial Forest Reserves, which can be logged.
Petronas is funding the conservation of Imbak Canyon. In 2010, the oil and gas company allocated RM6mil for a three-year commitment to manage the area in a sustainable manner. So far, there has been public awareness campaigns, wildlife surveys, studies on climatology, hydrology and ethnobotany (relationship between humas and flora) as well as construction of an information centre, a jetty to ease transportation of crops by villagers who farm at the forest fringes, and a research station.
Dr Waidi Sinun, Yayasan Sabah conservation and environmental management division group manager, says Imbak is special for different reasons – one being the shape of the canyon and its 25km-long, mountain-bounded valley. It is visible from the air, just like Maliau Basin and Mount Kinabalu.
Continue reading (Incl. Pics & Vid) at: Eye on Imbak Canyon.