Monday, July 22

Fungi not only supplementary food source, says Len Talif

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(Seated from second left) Chicago Botanic Garden chief scientist Dr Gregory M. Mueller, Univerisiti Malaysia Terengganu deputy vice chancellor Professor Dr Mazlan Abdul Ghaffar, Len Talif, Oswald, SFC officers and others in a photocall after the opening ceremony.

KUCHING: The fungi kingdom in Southeast Asia is one of the least studied field compared to the plant and animal kingdoms.

“The contribution of the fungi kingdom, though one of key components in the ecosystem, is still poorly known and acknowledged,” said Assistant Minister of Urban Planning, Land Administration and Environment Datu Len Talif Salleh when officiating at the opening ceremony of the 1st Southeast Asia Fungal Red List Workshop at Gunung Gading National Park in Lundu yesterday.

Len Talif, who is also chairman of Sarawak Forestry Corporation Sdn Bhd, said the workshop, from June 17 to 21, was important to understand better the status of fungi species in the region, and provide updated information to International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) database.

With proper assessment of data on the fungi species and better categorisation of the fungi red list, it would help to address the risk of extinction of some of the species due to habitat loss and degradation of natural habitat.

For the record, Sarawak has a total of 62 totally protected areas (TPAs) comprising both land and water bodies, of which 793,595 hectares are land mass that have been set aside for the conservation of habitat and ecosystem.

During the workshop, SFC general manager Oswald Braken Tisen also urged the participants to act fast in gathering information and baseline information as the majority of fungal species have not been assessed yet.

“We know that fungi are equally threatened like any other forest inhabitants by habitat loss, loss of symbiotic hosts, pollution, over exploitation and micro-climate change,” he said.

He said there are only 75 species of fungi published in IUCN globally but only one species in Malaysia is published in the IUCN website.

The workshop attracted participants from Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, the Philippines, Belgium, Germany, United States of America, and Malaysia.

Oswald was representing SFC chief executive officer Zolkipli Mohamad Aton at the function.

Meanwhile, Len said the workshop would be able to create a realisation in the mind of communities on the importance of fungi as not only a supplementary food source.

He also said that ethnic communities in Sarawak have long been consuming wild mushrooms.

The 1st Southeast Asia Fungal Red List Workshop is the first-of-its-kind conservation workshop in Southeast Asia that focuses on developing a regional red list for fungi, and to carry out assessment on the number of fungi species unique to the region.

The workshop is supported by Universiti Malaysia Terrenganu, SFC, Chicago Botanic Garden and the Mohamed Zayed Conservation Fund.