News & Updates

Saving sea turtles from extinction

SEMPORNA: The younger generation need to be educated on the importance of maintaining the sea turtle population in the waters around Sipadan and Mabul islands off the Sabah coast.

Dr Pushpa Palaniappan, a senior lecturer of Borneo Marine Research Institute, University Malaysia Sabah, who expressed this opinion, said while the communities along the coastal regions were beginning to understand the need to preserve the sea turtle numbers, it took time to change the general misperception people had on conservation.

In fact, the sea turtles were on the verge of extinction because of apathy towards saving them from dying out, she added.

The main factor is the selling and eating of turtle eggs. For instance, some poor families sell turtle eggs to earn a better income.

Apart from this, callous fishing methods trap the turtles in nets, causing them to drown.

The turtles would also become sickly and thinner through “food poisoning” if they ate too much plastic thrown into the sea by the irresponsible people.

The turtles usually mistook plastic bags or sheets floating on the surface for jelly fish which form part of their natural diet.

Generally, sea turtles are on their eve of destruction due to habitat and nesting site loss, pollution, predation, overhunting and a lack of understanding of their important role in maintaining the equilibrium of the ecosystem.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF-Malaysia) plays a vital role in providing awareness education programmes on preserving sea turtle population for the younger generation.

In this regard, Dr Pushpa thanked the government, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and society in general for their co-operation and help.

She was in Semporna recently to attend a prelude event of World Turtle Day 2013 held at Uncle Chang’s Resort on Mabul island.

Programmes for catching, measuring and tagging turtles were organised for the guests.

World Turtle Day 2013 will be held on May 23 to bring attention to, increase knowledge of and respect for turtles and tortoises as well as encourage human actions to help these marine reptiles survive and thrive.

The Borneo Marine Research Institute (BMRI), Universiti Malaysia Sabah – in collaboration with Uncle Chang’s Resort, 1Borneo Ballroom Sdn Bhd and The Borneo Connections Sdn Bhd – plans to commemorate World Turtle Day 2013 by conducting an underwater census of the resident sea turtle population in the waters of Mabul.

The turtles will be caught, photographed, measured, tagged and returned to the sea.

The objective is to create public awareness and enhance education, research and conservation of the sea turtle population in the area.

The organisers will open the event to Resort guests to give them hands-on experience on sea turtle research. Primary schools in Mabul will also be invited to observe World Turtle Day activities there.

Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun will officiate at the event.

World Turtle Day in Mabul will be an annual event to be included in Sabah tourism calendar to encourage participation from domestic and international tourists.

This long-term project will enable BMRI to collect annual growth rate data on the sea turtle population in Mabul for conservation purposes.

Sea turtles are highly migratory sea-going reptiles, believed to have existed since the Triassic period, about 200 million years ago.

They are air-breathing animals that spend most of their life in the sea. Most have a similar life cycle. The baby turtles enter the surfs upon hatching and are only seen again as juveniles at foraging grounds.

Once they have reached maturity, they will migrate to their natal beaches where the females will lay numerous clutches of eggs in the sand.

The turtles will return to their foraging grounds at the end of the nesting season to prepare for the next reproduction season. The interval between seasons can range between two and seven years.There are three species nesting in Sabah – the green (chelonia mydas), hawksbill (eretmochelys imbricata) and the olive ridley (lepidochelys olivacea). The numerical ratio between green turtles and hawksbills is 10 to one.

Two other species – leatherback (dermochelys coriacea) and loggerhead (caretta caretta) also traverse the waters of Sabah, migrating from their foraging grounds to their nesting beaches on the surrounding islands.

Pushpa disclosed her research team had found 126 sea turtles in 2010-11 and 12 more in 2012 at Sipadan.

Sea turtles live up to 70-80 years on average while the younger ones (average age 10 years) are called juveniles. The height of their breeding season is between July and November.

Uncle Chang, founder of Uncle Chang’s Sipadan Mabul Dive Lodge, is very supportive of World Turtle Day and plans to hold it annually.

He hoped other companies would support and participate in the celebration to help preserve the sea turtle population in Mabul.

Uncle Chang will set up 120 resorts on another two islands – Mega and Kalapuan – this year to promote tourism, especially on the east coast of Sabah.

His management team has done a lot to preserve the natural resources of the area and also embarked on beautification projects to attract tourists to Sabah.

Semporna’s tourism sector statistics showed a drop in arrivals three weeks ago due to the intrusion of Sulu gunmen but the situation has returned to normal.

According to Uncle Chang, all the stakeholders, including the government, have vital roles and responsibilities in boosting the tourism industry in Sabah.
“This is important for the economy of the state and the nation,” he said.

Source: Borneo Post

Star Wars director to direct ‘Sandakan Death Marches’

KOTA KINABALU: A film on the Sandakan Death Marches will be produced by award-winning film director Roger Christian.

This film, to be carried out in collaboration with National Film Development Corporation Malaysia (FINAS), is expected to cost USD5 million, said its chairman Datuk Mohd Efendi Datuk Hamdan.

“Meanwhile, we will create an academy here for the supporting crews, local actors and actresses who we hope will enable us to realise this project,” he said.

According to him, the academy will be opened to all interested members of the public, both locally and internationally.

Christian, of the original Star Wars fame, hoped to put together the film on the World War Two atrocities by September with assistance from his crew of experts in film making.

He added that those who attended the academy and are found to be able to fill the criteria and requirement such as tenacity and discipline, will have a chance to work with the film.

He believed that this film can be of great interest not only to Australians and the British who were directly involved in the event during the Second World War but also to international audience as he will be exploring the humane part of the story.

Christian, who has been here for the last three months, said he had learned of the dark episode in Sabah history through reading and speaking to people who had knowledge of the event as a whole.

“We would like to highlight the local participation in the Death March,” he said.

Meanwhile, Datuk Masidi Manjun the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment said Christian’s venture into making the film could be a great source of encouragement for aspiring local filmmakers to embark on similar ventures.

“Presently, we have very few filmmakers that actually film fully in Sabah and this could be because we don’t have the proper facilities for such ventures. The cost of making films may also be discouraging,” he said.

The film by Roger Christian, will not only be a great source of encouragement but will also ensure that Sabah is highlighted in the international arena as a tourism destination.

“We spend a lot in promoting our State as a tourism destination and the film will augment our effort tremendously,” he said.

The forced marches in Borneo from Sandakan to Ranau resulted in the deaths of more than 1,000 allied prisoners of war during World War II.

Only six Australians survived, all of whom had escaped, some with help from the locals.

Source: Borneo Post


Sabah: Maintaining investor confidence given priority

With key programmes aimed at boosting edu­cation and rural devel­opment gaining pace, Sabah’s government will be hoping that its move to calm investors by setting up a regional security zone following an incursion in February proves effective.

On March 28, Kuala Lumpur approved an initial allocation of RM200 million (US$64.76 million) to fund the Eastern Sabah Safety Zone (Ess-zone), which was put in place a week earlier to protect the area from further intrusions in the wake of an offensive launched by Philippines-based rebels.

Officials said they were prepar­ing to purchase unmanned aerial vehicles, attack helicopters and speedboats. Once fully imple­mented, the Ess-zone is expected to send out a message of reassur­ance to investors and tourists, although experts remain divided on the long-term impact the in­cursion could have on Sabah’s economy.

A total of 24 development projects worth nearly RM1 billion (US$0.32 billion) are currently under construction as part of the Sabah Development Corridor (SDC) initiative, led by the RM247 million (US$80 million) Palm Oil Industrial Cluster, which is being rolled out in Sandakan.

“Setting up the Ess-zone will definitely boost the security level in east Sabah in the best possible manner,” Chief Minister Musa Aman told local media in March.

“This will simultaneously uplift the confidence of tourists and foreign investors to visit and carry out economic activities in Sabah.”

The leadership will also be keen to relay recently published data on the Government Transforma­tion Programme (GTP), which indicates that its commitment to modernising Sabah is producing results.

Under the GTP, 1,900 kilometre (km) of roads are set to be built throughout Sabah and Sarawak. Public transport is earmarked for an overhaul, and pre-school edu­cation will also receive a boost.

Although the government schemes are spearheading much of the new development, an Invest­ment Incentive Package for the SDC, which was given the green light last December, is set to pave the way for the private sector to play a greater role in driving economic growth.

The package aims to boost investment in tourism, manu­facturing, agriculture and major industries.

The incentives included full tax exemption on statutory income for up to 10 years and an investment tax allowance of 100 per cent on qualifying capital expenditure for five years. Under current policy, the state also offered full exemp­tion on import duty and sales tax exemption, local media said.

The state’s leaders expected Sabah’s gross domestic product (GDP) per capita to increase three-fold on the back of the SDC, with total growth forecast to quadruple by 2025.

Sabah has notched up about RM114 billion (US$36.92 billion) in investment since the initiative was launched in 2008.

However, there were fears that investment levels could fall follow­ing February’s incursion.

Malaysian Rating Corpora­tion’s chief economist, Nor Zahidi Alias, acknowledged tourism and retail could experience fall-out from the conflict, but said Sabah would likely ride out any turbu­lence long term.

“My feeling is that the cur­rent incidents will not have a significant impact on the state’s economy as (this event) was a localised problem. As long as it doesn’t lead to a contagion effect, it will not have an adverse effect on the state’s economy,” he told Malaysian newspaper The Star on March 8.

Experts such as CIMB Invest­ment Bank’s economic research head, Lee Heng Guie, however, remained more cautious. “There will likely be some impact on the sectors that Sabah has been leveraging on but it’s hard to quantify at this point,” he told the newspaper.

Optimists viewed the Ess-zone, which would cover the 10 districts of Kudat, Kota Marudu, Pitas, Be­luran, Sandakan, Kinabatangan, Lahad Datu, Kunak, Semporna and Tawau, as a well-aimed re­sponse from the government that was likely to bring wide-sweeping benefits to the areas.

The member of parliament (MP) for Silam, Salleh Kalbi, told local media that the security zone would boost property prices, cre­ate jobs and ease any concerns among tourists, particularly in the Lahad Datu area where the incursion took place.

“After Eastern Sabah Security Command, I am confident the tourist arrivals (in Lahad Datu) will increase as they will feel safer,” he said.

Ess-zone is expected to play a key part in shoring up confidence among investors.

However, the government will need to ensure it maintains the focus on private sector initiatives while pushing ahead with its se­curity efforts, since these will be instrumental in steering Sabah’s long-term growth.

140 volunteer divers aim world record

Kota Kinabalu: About 140 divers are attempting to create a Guinness World Record for the longest underwater clean-up beginning Saturday and ending 168 hours later or one week from now at 14 dive sites surrounding the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park here.

Organising the world record attempt is Astro Kasih under its Corporate Social Responsibility programme, Beautiful Malaysia that aims to create greater awareness on marine conservation as well as promote eco-tourism among Malaysians.

The official start was officiated at by Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman together with Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun at Gaya Island.

Also on hand were Senior Vice President of Broadcast and Operations, Astro, Rohaizad Mohamed and Vice President of Community Affairs, Astro, David Yap.

The divers aged 21-63 from Malaysia, France, Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, USA, Lithuania, Switzerland, Hong Kong and the Netherlands would be taking turns to dive for 168 consecutive hours (night and day) to collect rubbish underwater under the close supervision of the Guinness World Record officials.

Response to participate in the underwater clean-up had been overwhelming with over 700 entries received by Astro Kasih from both local and international volunteers.

They were from various professions such as cardiologists, marine biologists, architects, chemists, journalists, as well as officers from the Royal Malaysian Police, Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency, Fire and Rescue Department, together with the Hong Kong Police Force.

“It gives me great pleasure to see so many volunteer divers here today as a show of support, in preserving our environment, especially in marine conservation.

“We are pleased to collaborate with Astro once again on another Beautiful Malaysia campaign here in Sabah. I would like to congratulate Astro for their continuous CSR efforts here in Sabah and together, I am confident we can create further awareness on preserving a Beautiful Malaysia,” said Musa.

“We always welcome such initiative to preserve Sabah’s pristine environment and a successful attempt will also further boost Sabah’s image.

“To all the divers, I wish them all the best and hope they will be able to create the Guinness World Record,” said Musa when met later.

Meanwhile, Rohaizad said Astro was happy with the State Government, the Ministry of Tourism, together with the local and international diving community for their enthusiasm and unwavering support “in preserving our natural heritage and creating a Beautiful Malaysia that is home to our future generation.

“It also makes me proud to see our very own Astro employees take part in this attempt, and I would like to wish all the divers good luck,” he said.

One of the volunteer divers, Nor Hisham Mohd Nordin, who is the Vice President of Interactive TV, said the divers faced a little bit of challenge on the first day due to the murky water.

The divers are diving in groups of four but due to the low visibility they had to struggle to keep the group together while looking for garbage on the sea bed.

“But this will not deter our spirit to accomplish the mission,” he said when met after completing the one-hour dive with his group.

Source: Daily Express


Yayasan Sabah to transform Sabahans through three programmes

PUTATAN: In support of the country’s transformation policy, Yayasan Sabah Group (YSG) has adopted three core strategic programmes to help transform the socio-economy of Sabahans.

The first one is the Excellent and Innovative Village (PDCB), which is a continuation of the group’s previous efforts to develop rural communities.

Its director, Tan Sri Datu Khalil Datu Jamalul, said the programme is currently implemented in six villages, namely Kg Sebait Sandakan, Kg Singgoron Baru Ranau, Kg Pandasan Kota Belud, Kg Sinaron Sook, Kg Lormalong Kunak and Kg Lambidan Kuala Penyu.

“PDCB is part of Yayasan Sabah’s commitment to empower the leadership and enhance the capacity of the people in these villages,” he said during the Group’s “Transformation Programmes Roadshow” here yesterday.

Similar programmes to develop the intellect, socio-economy and culture of rural communities implemented by YSG in the South West Coast Zone have benefitted 60,871 villagers.

For its second core programme, Khalil said the group had decided to develop handicraft manufacturing activities as a way of generating substantial and sustainable income for rural communities.

The setting up of Sabah Handicraft Centre recently launched by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak in Keningau as part of this programme and effort to develop local handicrafts as an important source of income, would be continued under the Group’s long-term plan.

He noted the centre has started to develop high quality batik featuring local motives design for international market, adding 15,000 local youth had been trained in handicraft industry.

“The third core is the Sabah International Convention Centre (SICC), a project poised to become an important economic growth engine for the State’s tourism sector.

“The federal government has provided a funding of RM250 million for this purpose while the state government has given us the land for the project,” he said.

The SICC, he said, will better position Sabah as a Meeting, Incentive, Conference and Exhibition (MICE) destination, apart from creating 10,000 employment opportunities for the locals.

Khalil also disclosed that the Group was planning to set up Kolej Universiti Yayasan Sabah (KUYS) to complement its existing college.

Source: Borneo Post