KOTA KINABALU: Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment Datuk Seri Panglima Masidi Manjun said the state’s over-abundance of birds of various species should serve as a platform to boost the state’s economy.
“To date, we have discovered 67 endemic bird species in Borneo. Previously, we had only found 59 species. This shows that there has been an increase of eight new endemic sub-species,” Masidi said in his speech at the Borneo Bird Festival (BBF) 2017 opening ceremony at Imago Mall on Friday.
He added that 14 of those birds were endemic to the Kinabalu Park.
It is understood that the classification of the additional eight species was meant to be a focus for conservation biological diversity, a form of attraction for birders and nature enthusiasts.
According to Kinabatangan-Corridor of Life Tourism Operators Association (Kita), there are over 205, 830 tourists who visited Kinabatangan in 2015, with a total revenue of more than RM100 million that year.
On average, groups who visit Sabah for birding activities are made up of six to eight persons and their length of stay lasts up to 12 days, Masidi said.
“The average tour price per day is about RM900 (USD 232), per person. If this is multiplied with the average length of stay (12 days), then each birder will spend at least RM10, 800 here.
“This does not even include their stay in the city. Birders are big spenders.
“God has given us the capital (the birds). All we have to do is to preserve these birds and to attract birders and visitors and the money will eventually come. This is the best business deal in the world,” Masid said.
Masidi also commented on the government’s progress in ensuring the preservation of the state’s forest.
“Sabah is committed to ensure that 60 per cent of the state will remain forested. Out of that 60 per cent, 30 per cent of the state’s land area will be classified as a totally protected area by or before 2025.
“At the moment, we have reached about 25%. We believe we can reach that 30 per cent quota before 2025,” Masidi said
This year’s BBF marks the ninth edition of the annual festival and it is the first edition to ever be held in the state capital.
Among the highlights that will be held in the three-day-programme (October 20 to October 22) are Nature and Wildlife talks, booth exhibits and the showcase of birding equipment at Imago Mall.
In addition, a photography contest, the Guided Birding Walks at Tanjung Aru Park as well as the much-anticipated Sabah Bird Race at the Crocker Range Park will also be held over the weekend.
As next year will mark the festival’s tenth anniversary, Masidi announced that his ministry would continue to give its support to BBF.
The BBF was organized by the Sandakan Borneo Bird Club, with support from Sabah Parks, Sabah Tourism Board, Tourism Malaysia and the Sabah Wildlife Department.
Also present at the event were Mayor Datuk Yeo Boon Hai, Sabah Parks director Dr Jamli Nais, Sabah Parks Board of Trustees chairman Tengku Zainal Adlin, Sandakan Borneo Bird Club president Gary Albert and Paradise Birding Tours Oregon USA owner cum BBF guest speaker Stephen Shunk.