Monday, October 20, 2014

Crocker Range accorded Biosphere reserve status

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) has officially declared 350,584 hectares of Sabah's Crocker Range Park comprising its core and buffer zones and an expanded transition zone as a Man And Biosphere (MAB) reserve aimed at improving man's relationship with his ecosystems through education and science.

This historic declaration for Sabah marks the second of such honour for Malaysia, after Pahang's Lake Chini on December 8, 2009, out of a total of 620 in the world.

So, it's a very rare breed in the country. Amidst fanfare and pomp of Unesco Day celebration at Dataran Merdeka last Saturday, Unesco Regional Director Professor Dr Hubert Gizjin presented Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin a certificate of recognition which officially declares the 75km long and 15km wide Crocker Range Park as a MAB reserve.

The event has enlarged the original protected core and buffer zones from 199,000 hectares (1,444.92 sq km) to 350,584 hectares by an inclusion of 1457.79 sq km of forest reserves encompassing eight districts - Kota Kinabalu, Penampang, Papar, Beaufort, Tenom, Keingau, Tambunan and Ranau. Muhyiddin, who is also Education Minister, later handed the designation certificate to Sabah's Assistant Culture, Tourism and Environment Minister Datuk Pang Nyuk Ming, who represented his Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Masidi Manjun, witnessed by Deputy Education Minister Datuk Mary Yap.

Effectively, this declaration makes Crocker Range Biosphere part of the Sweden's Jonkoping University, known for being the most international university with an extensive exchange partners of 350 universities worldwide, which may prove a good helping hand to share insights and skills on working out a roadmap to improve the protection of Sabah's stock of ecosystems that are under stress.

But unlike the Kinabalu Park which is a totally protected area, the Crocker Range Park hitherto featured Community Use Zones defined areas where traditional human activities may be continued under an innovative co-management system to manage part of the core zones and also the buffer zones, agreed between the protected area or Park Authority and the local communities, in recognition that they were there before the park was established.

What's new about the Crocker Range Biosphere reserve is that it will henceforth incorporate the eight districts afore-cited, into the decision making process where development is going to be based on verified scientific research and continual monitoring. But besides terrestrial ecosystems, biosphere reserves also include the coastal ecosystems.