KUCHING: The Sarawak government plans to gazette 20 more parks and natural reserves statewide to conserve and protect the state’s diverse biological resources.
Minister in the Chief Minister’s Office (Special Functions), Tan Sri Datuk Amar Adenan Satem highlighted this yesterday to rebut international claims that a big part of Sarawak’s forests have been destroyed.
“Despite the tremendous development that has taken place, the cultural and diversity is very much alive,” he said.
“We have proposed to the Cabinet for 20 more parks and natural reserves to be established, which have been approved as the government recognises the importance of the state’s diverse biological resources,” he said.
“The proposals include Piasau Camp in Miri,” he told reporters after opening the ‘Second International Conference on Alfred Russel Wallace: His Predecessor and Successor’ at Riverside Majestic Hotel here on behalf of Chief Minister Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud.
“To gazette the areas involved, we have to do things according to procedure including hearings and respect the Forestry Ordinance which may take some time, but we will do it as soon as possible,” he assured.
Re-emphasising the state government’s commitment to the environment in the chief minister’s speech, he pointed out Wallace’s other major publication from Sarawak on the orangutan was written in Simunjan in 1855 and published the following year.
Wallace’s measurement and observation of adult orangutans led him to speculate that two kinds probably existed in Sarawak – a smaller and larger type.
“We now know from DNA studies that two species of orangutan existed in the world – the Sumatran and the Borneon species,” he explained.
“His study of the habit of orangutan led him to conclude that the quality of habitat, especially level of disturbance caused by humans, was crucial in determining the occurrence of orangutan.”
Recognising the need for the protection of habitats for these endangered and other wildlife species, he said the state government was close to reaching the target to set aside about a million hectares of forest as totally protected areas (TPAs).
“Batang Ai National Park and Lanjak Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary have been gazetted specifically for the conservation of orangutans while rehabilitation and release programmes are continuing at Matang Wildlife Centre,” he added.
The Wallace 2013 was the second international event in Sarawak to honour the remarkable contribution of Alfred Russel Wallace to science, biodiversity conservation and humanity.
The first event was held in 2005 to celebrate 158 years of his explorations in Sarawak.
This two-day conference aims to bring together historians, natural scientists, ecologists, zoologists, botanists, palaeontologists, anthropologists, geologists, park managers, and other scholars of natural sciences to share their experiences on ecology, evolution and resource management of the region.
About 80 delegates representing Australia, Brunei, Germany, USA, UK, Switzerland, Singapore, Japan, the Philippines, India, Thailand and Pakistan attended the conference.
A total of 55 papers will be presented covering topics such as Wallace and Biogeography, Herpetology, Biology of Birds and Mammals, Plant Science and Ecology, Phylogenetics and Biodiversity, Invertebrate Biology, Aquatic Biodiversity, and Conservation and Sustainable Management.
In conjunction with the conference, a tour to Gunung Serambu, a Wallace collection locality, will be held tomorrow and an expedition to Mount Santubong where Wallace collected and wrote his monumental paper, now referred as ‘Sarawak Law’, will be organised between now and Nov 18.
The conference is jointly organised by Unimas’ IBEC, Department of Sarawak Musuem, SFC and supported by Sarawak Convention Bureau (SCB).