Sarawak to have largest protected area system in Malaysia, says Abg Jo


Len Talif (centre) with (from left) Aini, Ratsimbazafy and others pose during the launch.

KUCHING (Aug 20) Sarawak will have the largest system of protected areas including National Parks, Nature Reserves and Wildlife Sanctuaries in Malaysia through its conservation efforts, said Premier Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg.

He said in the early 1990s, Sarawak had less than 15 protected areas comprising 10 National Parks and three Wildlife Sanctuaries, covering about 300,000 hectares.

“At that time, there were no Natures Reserves or Marine Protected Areas. In the last 25 years, the protected areas both on land and in our marine landscapes have grown to over 2.1 million hectares.

“And the Sarawak government has intentions to create more, including to have over one million hectares in terrestrial protected areas and over 1.6 million hectares in our marine landscapes.

“With this, Sarawak will have the largest system of protected areas in Malaysia, under the categories of National Parks, Nature Reserves and Wildlife Sanctuaries,” he said when launching the International Primatological Society – Malaysian Primatological Society (IPS-MPS) Joint Meeting 2023 themed ‘Primates And People: A New Horizon’ at Borneo Convention Centre Kuching here today.

His text of speech was read out by Natural Resources and Urban Development Deputy Minister Datu Len Talif Salleh.

Abang Johari noted that orangutans were recently sighted bordering the Gunung Lesong National Park and Sebuyau National Park.

He said the state’s conservation effort does not just include protecting the animals within the park but also outside the park.

He pointed out that orangutans in Borneo were first mentioned in western records in the 1600s when several variations Orang Hutan, Orang-outang and Orang-utan were used.

“Orangutans became such an attraction that by the end of the 1800s, over 200 orangutans were exported to Europe from Sarawak by early 1900s.

“A separate 1950s survey by Harrison (1961) estimated that a further 125 orangutans (minimum) were in captivity of private hands in Southeast Asia,” he said.

The Premier said a global estimate by Zoological Society of London in 1960 estimated that there were at least 248 orangutans in captivity in zoos worldwide.

“By the 1960s, it was assumed that an animal in captivity meant three having died in the process of capture and transport. According to the Sumatran Orangutan Society 2014 report, however, the ratio is actually higher; for every single orangutan in captivity, at least six to eight died during capture and transport.

“If the 2014 ratio is used, between 1800s and 1960, at least 1,950 to 2,600 Sarawak orangutans perished in the wild or during transport as at least 325 animals were reportedly exported.

“This is a minimum figure as the 325 animals do not include those in the global estimate by Zoological Society of London,” he added.

Abang Johari said by 1983, the first protected area for orangutans in Sarawak was constituted – Lanjak-Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary, with an area of approximately 168,700 hectares, more than 2.5 times the size of Singapore.

He said the state government had in 2020 decided to have a full-fledged entity to conserve wildlife and the protected areas.

“We then made an executive decision to have Sarawak Forestry Corporation working on all Totally Protected Areas and Wildlife. For the past 3 years, they have created more protected areas, conducted enforcement patrols to protect the habitats, monitored and caught people conducting illegal wildlife trade, opened greater avenues for field research both locally and internationally and found new species of birds and insects with our collaborators,” he said.

Among those present were International Primatological Society president Dr Jonah Ratsimbazafy and organising chairperson Dr Aini Hasanah Abd Mutalib.