Monday, February 25, 2013

Plan to train tropical rainforest expertise

Imbak Canyon is home to more than 317 species of plants, out of which 32 species are found only in Borneo, and six species only present in Sabah.

WORLD-CLASS FACILITY: Imbak Canyon in Sabah to be strategic research centre

PLANS are afoot to make the Imbak Canyon Conservation Area (ICCA) in Sabah a strategic research centre for biodiversity to empower Malaysian researchers of tropical rainforest ecosystems.  
The 17,000ha of unspoilt rainforest in the heart of Sabah will also become a showcase for the local community's participation in the preservation of traditional knowledge on medicinal plants abundant in the area.

These were among the key issues being discussed during a brainstorming meeting on research programme strategy for ICCA, here, attended by senior lecturers of various departments from University Malaysia Sabah (UMS), Yayasan Sabah and the Academy of Sciences Malaysia (ASM).

Present were Yayasan Sabah Conservation and Environmental Division group manager Dr Waidi Sinun and Professor Mohamad Abdul Majid from the University of Brunei Darussalam.

ASM fellow Professor Emeritus Datuk Dr Abdul Latiff Mohamad, who chaired the meeting, said it was high time to build up and empower Malaysians researchers on tropical rainforest ecosystems.

"We need to build up the number of our local researchers and scientists on tropical rainforests. Right now, we (Malaysia) are not in a position to compete in the global market as far as tropical rainforest expertise is concerned.

"Once our local scientists and researchers have the capacity to understand our rainforests, they could perhaps go elsewhere and become consultants."

Participants of the one-day meeting also concurred that the development of ICCA as a full-fledged research facility for diversity studies should come with "national pride".

For the same reason, the funding for the ICCA research facilities and programmes should come from local sponsors because allowing foreign donors would mean the country would lose out in terms of producing home-bred researchers and scientists on tropical rainforests.

ASM has agreed to be appointed secretariat for the operational centre of a working committee. Memberships will be done by ASM.
Recognised as a genetic seed bank, Imbak Canyon is home to more than 317 species of plants, out of which 32 species are found only in Borneo, and six species only present in Sabah.

Efforts to develop the ICCA into a world-class education centre were intensified after the launch of the Yayasan Sabah-Petronas Imbak Canyon Partnership in 2011.

Petronas contributed RM6 million to create a master plan for Imbak Canyon, a priceless heritage site surrounded by sandstone cliffs more than 1,127 metres tall.

Facilities for the proposed Imbak Canyon master plan include a laboratory, research centre and staff quarters, an observation tower, conference room, galleries and a nursery.

Currently, the Tampoi Base Camp in Imbak Canyon has a hostel-type accommodation with washrooms, a camping site and a dining area.

"Although we want to develop Imbak Canyon into a world-class research centre, we will ensure that this area is environmentally friendly so that animals and trees are protected.

"We also want to preserve the traditional knowledge on medicinal plants of the Dusun Sungai and Murut living near the ICCA, for future generations," Waidi said. Bernama


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