News & Updates

Japanese students plant mangroves to support rehabilitation

A group of secondary students from Japan has volunteered to come to Sabah for the first time to plant mangroves and even donated RM3,500 in support of the State’s project on rehabilitation of degraded mangroves.

State Forestry Department (SFD) Director Datuk Sam Mannan said the group of students from Ritsumeikan Uji High School in Kyoto was brought by Professor Shigeyuki Baba, Executive Director of the International Society for Mangrove Ecosystem (ISME).

He said the trip to Sabah was in conjunction with the third meeting of the Project Steering Committee on rehabilitation of degraded mangroves that was held in Sandakan yesterday.

It was part of the collaboration between SFD and ISME that was sealed on November 10, 2010 to implement the rehabilitation project.

Sam said the students, led by their teacher Saori Matsuoka, were all excited about the trip and took part in planting mangroves in Sungai Lalasun, Sandakan.

He added that from the funds raised for the trip, the students donated 10,000 Yen (more than RM3,500) to SFD in support of mangrove rehabilitation in the State.

Recognising the importance of cultural exchange and nature education, the students visited SMK Muhibbah Sandakan, the Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre and the Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Centre.

Sam said the collaborative project between SFD and ISME is funded by Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance Co. Ltd, and the first phase of the project would be for three years (2011-2014 with an annual target of 50 hectares.

He said the ISME had remitted RM206,300 to SFD to support the expenditures of rehabilitation work for the first year and from October 2011 to March 2012, the project had planted 50 hectares of degraded mangroves in forest reserves of Sandakan and Beaufort.

The PSC was formed and chaired by the Director of SFD to monitor the progress of the project, and thus far, the committee had met three times in Sandakan.

ISME was established in 1990 to promote research, conservation, rational management and sustainable use of mangrove ecosystems. With its Secretariat located at the University of the Ryukyus, Okinawa, Japan, the society now has over 1000 members from 90 countries/regions.

During the Society’s 8th General Assembly and Mangrove Workshop in Sandakan in September last year, SFD was awarded an honorary institutional membership of ISME.

Sam said such collaboration presented a great opportunity for SFD to strengthen its capacity in mangrove rehabilitation.

“SFD is honoured to be chosen by the Society for the project implementation.

“Sabah is the first state in Malaysia to have such collaboration with ISME and this may herald the beginning of other collaborative efforts between institutions in Japan and Sabah in the future,” he added.

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Young Hornbills missing from Lower Kinabatangan?

World renowned hornbill expert from Thailand, Professor Dr Pilai Poonswad of Mahidol University and the Hornbill Research Foundation (HRF), has expressed her concern for the lack of information on the breeding cycles of hornbills in Sabah.

“I have visited Sabah before briefly for the Borneo Bird Festival last year but after visiting the Lower Kinabatangan to do a rapid assessment of hornbills, I am now concerned in particular with the lack of information on breeding cycles for the whole state and the lack of suitable nesting trees in this area in particular,” shared Poonswad.

Poonswad and her team of three researchers spent a week with local counterparts at field sites of the Lower Kinabatangan with the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD), HUTAN — Kinabatangan Orang-utan Conservation Programme (HUTAN-KOCP) and the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC).

“The first thing that needs to be done is to establish when are the different species of hornbills breeding,” stated Poonswad who has spent the past 33 years studying and carrying out community based conservation of hornbills in Thailand.

During the teams’ rapid assessment in the Lower Kinabatangan, another issue that has caused concern for Poonswad and her researchers is the lack of suitable nesting trees.

“I understand that the Lower Kinabatangan is a forest that has previously been extensively logged and I can clearly see it is also now part of the oil palm landscape. This means that big trees which are usually preferred by hornbills are missing from this area,” explained Poonswad.

For example, in a similar site in Southern Thailand, Rhinoceros Hornbills (Buceros rhinoceros) on average makes its nest in trees that have a diameter of about 148 centimetres but in the Lower Kinabatangan, Poonswad estimated that trees that might be suitable were mostly between 40 to 60 centimetres in diameter.

“Talking to our counterparts, we know that the Rhinoceros Hornbills are seen along the Lower Kinabatangan, even in flocks but this doesn’t mean they are nesting here. They could be seen during non-breeding cycles, which is why it is important to establish the basic information of breeding cycles,” said Poonswad.

As part of their work, HRF also ensures that there are adequate nesting sites before the breeding cycle that varies between the different species of hornbills.

“We will repair natural nesting sites when needed and put up artificial sites where they are no natural options to nest,” said Poonswad.

While her team had not planned to do either during their rapid assessment, they scrambled materials to repair one nesting site in DGFC and to build another outside their homestay in Sukau because of their concern for a pair of Oriental Pied Hornbill (Anthracoceros albirostris) they saw daily.

“The dedication and passion of the HRF is extraordinary and I am grateful that they made the time to come down to the Lower Kinabatangan to do this much needed rapid assessment even though it clashed with the beginning of the hornbill season in Thailand,” said Dr Marc Ancrenaz, scientific director of HUTAN-KOCP.

HUTAN — KOCP has been investigating the hornbill situation in the Lower Kinabatangan with survey interviews of local communities from 2009 to 2010 before presenting their findings last year.

“Through interview surveys, the local community also specified that the loss of big trees over the past generation as the cause of decline of hornbill nesting sites and this is an issue we have to address if we want to see all eight species in the Lower Kinabatangan in the long term,” said Ancrenaz.

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Elephants using ‘survival’ corridor

The fragmentation of the forest habitats is one of the key challenges to ensure the survival of the Bornean elephants in Sabah. The ‘Melapi elephant corridor’ in Sukau has proven that even a strip of land 50 meters wide makes a difference to facilitate the migration of the Bornean elephant herds in Lower Kinabatangan.

The conservation project, led by Raymond Alfred, the head of Conservation and Research, Borneo Conservation Trust (BCT), explained that the corridor was established in August 2011 which is a collaboration between the Sabah Wildlife Department and Borneo Conservation Trust, together with their partners Syarikat Yu Kwang Development Sdn. Bhd. and Proboscis Lodge Bukit Melapi.

The Borneo Conservation Trust (BCT) is a non-profit NGO established in 2006 and was incorporated under the Trustee’s Ordinance 1951, Cap. 148 (Sabah).

BCT relies wholly on funds and grants that is provided by individuals and corporations, to enable it to implement conservation and research works.

The establishment of the Borneo Conservation Trust (BCT) was first mooted as an unprecedented Malaysia-Japanese effort to re-acquire the important alienated lands in the wetlands and riverine forests in order to allow the movements of Bornean elephants and orang utans, the flagship species of Sabah.

“We are very happy to know that the elephants are now able to pass through the land using this corridor to migrate from one key habitat to another, when previously it was a very narrow bottleneck,” said Alfred.

“This collaborative effort is an example where the private sector can work with us and the NGOs. We welcome the opportunity to work hand-in-hand with companies and organisations keen to play an active role in supporting and contributing to Sabah’s wildlife conservation initiatives,” said Dr Laurentius N. Ambu, the director of the Sabah Wildlife Department.

“With the re-establishment of this corridor, the potential human and elephant conflict in the villages and plantations is also reduced,” concluded Ambu.

This week, students from the Nihon University Japan, planted more than 100 trees within this corridor to facilitate the movement of the orang utans within the fragmented habitat in the future.

The activities of the students were coordinated by Borneo Conservation Trust Japan (BCT-Japan).

With continuous diligent effort in the next three years, a forest canopy could be eventually established in the area.

Source: Borneo Post

60% of Sabah is still forested

Despite extensive landscape changes in the past, including the introduction of agriculture to reverse the over-dependence on timber, some 60 per cent of Sabah still remains under forest cover, State Forestry Department Director Datuk Sam Mannan said. The rate of deforestation between 1970 and 2010 was about 0.5 per cent a year, with its height being between 1990 and 2000 during the oil palm cultivation boom, which unfortunately also saw a direct correlation between the number of Orang Utans being sent to the rehabilitation centre in Sepilok, he said.

“Fortunately, what is most important is the fact that we did not discard the forest reserve system that we inherited. If anything, we expanded it.

“About four million hectares of Sabah remain under forest reserves, parks and wildlife sanctuaries,” he said when briefing the Sultan of Brunei, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, who visited the department’s Rainforest Discovery Centre (RDC) in Sepilok, Saturday.

Mannan said despite “acts of random madness of the past,” rainforests have managed to recover, with biological assets largely intact, and no record of any species going extinct so far.

“The closest to extinction is the Sabah Rhino which we are trying to save through captive breeding,” he added.

He also said the RDC, launched in 2007, is developed to meet objective of creating awareness on conservation and the environment as well as to promote ecotourism and recreation, education and research and development.

Mannan said the total development cost for the centre has exceeded RM25 million and approximately RM10 million spent under the 10th Malaysia Plan to further develop its facilities.

Source: Daily Express

Sabah still favoured among foreign tourists: Minister

Sabah is still a favoured destination among foreign tourists, said Tourism, Environment and Culture Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun. He said this is proven by tourist arrivals last year, which totalled 2.8 million, surpassing the target set. “Sabah remains the favourite choice among the tourists, especially the foreigners, due to our security, harmony, peace, friendliness and hospitality of the people.

“Tourist arrivals last year was more than that in 2010 where the State registered 2.63 million tourists,” he said.

Masidi said this in his speech before flagging off a motorcycle convoy of 150 big bikers, headed by State Commissioner of Police Datuk Hamza Taib, for a crime prevention awareness campaign in Kepayan.

The participants were from the Sabah Big Bikers Club, Temburong Big Bikers Club from Brunei Darussalam, Pamoda Big Bikers Club and a group of police personnel from the Sabah police contingent.

The two-day convoy will make four stops at four police stations at Papar, Beaufort, Sipitang and Tenom to enhance public awareness.

Source: Daily Express