KOTA KINABALU: The State Government is implementing a pioneering approach in protecting wildlife in Malua Reserve from illegal hunting in collaboration with Malua BioBank and four local palm oil companies.
A collaborative arrangement called Malua Wildlife Conservation Agreement was signed between the State and the companies involved yesterday, to officially ink their partnership towards improving the protection of threatened wildlife in areas covered under the Heart of Borneo initiative.
The four companies involved are IOI Corporation Berhad, TH Group, Kwantas Corporation Berhad and Perbadanan Kemajuan Pertanian Selangor.
The agreement was the first step in implementing the findings of a study funded by the Malaysian Palm Oil Council that identified that it will take a cooperative effort to prevent illegal hunting and poaching in the Malua Reserve.
Sabah Forestry Department director Datuk Sam Manan said the document was a positive way forward and a demonstration of the important role the palm oil industry can play as a key partner in protecting Sabah’s globally significant biodiversity.
Malua BioBank is an innovative conservation project covering 34,000 hectares of lowland rainforest aimed at protecting wildlife.
Illegal hunting, however, still remains a significant threat to the wildlife in the area.
The agreement, a five-year partnership contract, will focus on improving boundary security within the plantations, recruiting and training oil palm workers as Honorary Wildlife Wardens and managing human-wildlife conflicts.
The collaboration will also emphasise on improving environmental awareness of workers and their children living in the oil palm plantations.
Darius Sarshar, director of New Forest Asia, which manages the BioBank, said by working in partnership with the plantation companies on the northern boundary of Malua, they would be able to prevent illegal hunters access to the reserve.
Coupled with their own Protection Unit guarding key access points to the reserve around the clock, he said the additional help from the planters could help totally eliminate all hunting pressure in the area.
The agreement was signed in conjunction with the International Conference on Heart of Borneo+5 and Beyond currently being held here.
The two-day conference also saw the signing of a separate agreement between Sabah Forestry Department and the Tropical Biosphere Research Centre (TBRC) of University Ryukus, Japan.
The agreement was intended to promote the exchange of staff in order to advance scientific research, education and cultural understanding, and to contribute to the mutual benefit and development of the two organisations.
This will also cover exchange of scientific research materials, publications and information, conduct joint research and host joint seminars, conferences and symposia.
Formed in 1994, the TBRC is active in broad-based research activities on the ecology and diversity of tropical and subtropical ecosystems, and the influences of various environmental factors.
The centre is also aiming to widen its studies to include molecular biology and immunobiology, and believed the partnership agreement with SFD would facilitate such an inter-disciplinary collaboration.
The signing ceremony was graced by Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Dr Yee Moh Chai, who represented Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman.