KOTA KINABALU: The state government, represented by the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) and the Rhino and Forest Fund (RFF), signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) during the Sabah Wildlife Conservation Colloquium.
This agreement lays the foundation to improve a wildlife corridor between Tabin – Malaysia’s largest wildlife reserve and adjacent conservation areas.
Tabin Wildlife Reserve is one of the last areas on Borneo where large wildlife still coexist.
This includes the Bornean Rhino, Bornean Elephant, Orang Utan, Banteng and Sun Bear.
But Tabin is almost completely isolated from other forests and surrounded by oil palm plantations.
“Connecting forest fragments is an integral part of our strategy to secure wildlife habitat in the long term,” said Dr Laurentius Ambu, director of the SWD.
The director added that it was necessary for the SWD to be active in promoting the reforestation work throughout areas with wildlife as corridors and forest patches are much needed for wildlife connectivity.
“At present there is an increase of reforestation work within wildlife landscapes in Sabah and we want them to be successful not only for the benefit of wildlife but also local communities who close to these areas,” said Laurentius.
The wildlife corridor will facilitate the migration of critically endangered wildlife through the newly established Segama Corridor Conservation Area.
It is hoped that eventually this will lead to a narrow but continous corridor from Tabin up to Kulamba Wildlife Reserve, another important refuge for endangered species.
“To save endangered wildlife suffering from habitat fragmentation, we need to establish a network of protected areas of a sufficient size and quality.
This will prevent inbreeding of currently separated sub-populations and help to maintain healthy populations.
Tabin is absolutely crucial for the long-term survival of many threatened species and needs to be reconnected with adjacent forest land.
The outcome of our efforts will be a connected conservation area of more than 200,000 hectares, nearly twice as big as Tabin is today,” Robert Risch, one of the directors of the RFF.
In the MOU the State Government reassures that the restored area will remain protected excluding any conversion or logging in the future.
This emphasises the commitment of the government to wildlife conservation in Sabah and convinces donors to become involved.
“Our approach is to plant a wildlife corridor with many different local canopy and fruit trees that occur in natural forest.
Although this may sound evident, the concept of planting trees in high diversities is not practised in most reforestation projects.
Our project in Tabin and the surrounding area use a seedling stock that is high in species and genetic diversity to accelerate the regeneration of the original ecosystem,” shared Dr Philippe Saner, one of the directors of RFF.
Leipzig Zoo from Germany and private donors financially support this reforestation project.
“We support the forest restoration project of the RFF because we have a holistic conservation approach.
Conservation is not just focussing on certain species, it means also taking care of their natural habitat,” said Dr Joerg Junhold, director of the Leipzig Zoo.