Potential for new dolphin-watching products

KUCHING: Irrawaddy dolphins are potential eco-tourism products for the Rajang and Saribas rivers.

Sightings of the inshore cetaceans in the state have been documented in the Sarawak River, lower waters of the Santubong branch of the Sarawak River, Rajang River, Rajang Mangrove, Saribas River and major estuaries namely Sematan, Bako, Muara Tebas, Bintulu and Lawas.

“We already have dolphin watching as a tourism product in the Santubong area. It could become potential tourism attractions in other sighted areas,” said Sarawak Forestry Corporation biologist James Bali yesterday.

He was one of the invited speakers for a series of public awareness talks at the Sarawak Biodiversity Centre in conjunction with SBC Biodiversity Day.

James said SFC had conducted many surveys including coastal, offshore and aerial surveys to study on Irrawaddy dolphins.

“We currently do not have any information on the species from Sadong River, Igan River, Baram River and Kemena River, due to lack of funds for further research.”

The Irrawaddy dolphin is the most common species and considered the flagship species in Sarawak.

It is a totally protected animal under the Wildlife Protection Ordinance 1998.

Meanwhile, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) associate professor Dr Lee Nyanti, from the Aquatic Science Department, spoke on the corals of Sarawak.

“Corals are important to medicine and pharmacology. For example, drug extract of coral sponges. The antiviral drugs Ara-A and anti-cancer agent Ara-C were developed from extracts of sponge.

“Another importance of corals is that it can contribute to the tourism industry. It is a natural attraction as people would want to see the beautiful reefs,” he said.

Lee also highlighted the management of corals.“It is not just about managing a small protected area. In managing corals, the process from upstream to downstream to the sea right down to the corals underneath, have to be considered.

“There are many threats to corals, including man-made activities,” he pointed out. This year is the year of marine biodiversity with the theme ‘One Ocean, Many Worlds of Life’.

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