Saturday, December 30, 2017

Unique Tun Mustapha Park potential tourism game changer

KOTA KINABALU: With its unique biodiversity, the Tun Mustapha Park (TMP) is a potential game changer to help boost tourism sector in Malaysia, particularly Sabah.

The 898,726.26 ha TMP area has more than 50 islands and islets located in the Kudat, Pitas and Kota Marudu districts in the northern part of Sabah.

The TMP is also home to Sabah’s third largest volume of fishery products from coral reefs, bays and open waters, and the source of livelihood to 80,000 coastal inhabitants, with great potential for eco-tourism.

The area’s unique biodiversity supports and linked habitats and is home to endangered marine animals, such as green sea turtles and dugongs.

A small community of the distinctive Palauh (pelaut) or sea gypsy people is also found inhabiting the open sea area in TMP.

A team of scientists and researchers from local universities and Non-Governmental Organizational bodies (NGOs) have recently completed a five-week (from April 15 to May 19) scientific expedition in TMP.

The findings of the research works were presented during a two-day seminar, organized by Sabah Parks, at a leading hotel in Kota Kinabalu, last month.

The expedition, organized by the Sabah Parks, was to collate information for the Park management to focus on conservation activities as well as to have better control of the Park.

Participants of the open sea and land expedition were from Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS), UiTM, University College Sabah Foundation (UCSF), Sabah Environmental Trust (SET), WWF Malaysia, Politeknik Sandakan and Sabah Parks.

The first scientific expedition was launched in the same area in 2012 to gather marine scientific data for the gazettement of the park.

TMP was gazetted on May 19, 2016 under the Parks Enactment 1984 with an area of 898,726.76 ha, covering only the sea area.

According to WWF Malaysia, TMP is the largest marine protected in Malaysia. As a signatory to the Coral Triangle Initiative (CTI) on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security, Malaysia has developed a National Plan of Action to protect its portion of the CT area.

Tun Mustapha Park is one of Malaysia’s CTI Priority Conservation Areas.

The focus of research during the recent scientific expedition include community interrelation with forest eco-system services of the islands in TMP, tourism resources assessment, the role of TMP in the conservation of cultural heritage and conservation of TMP marine resources.