Tuesday, May 22, 2012

How Eco-tourism Can Help Save Endangered Wildlife in Sabah, Borneo

Sabah, land of 'eco treasures'

Sabah, part of the Malaysian Federation of states and of the island of Borneo, attracts thousands of tourists every year. Marketed as a land of 'eco treasures', it is a place where tropical rainforest and rare species of plant and animals survive. Largely commercially unexploited until the nineteenth century, Sabah (and Borneo in general) still contains primary rainforest and, consequently, a wealth of amazing scenery and wildlife. Sustaining natural treasures while promoting economic growth is a tricky balancing act in any part of the world and Borneo is no different. Eco or conservation tourism seeks to generate income while protecting the region's most endangered species.

Forest destruction and oil palm plantation
Borneo's rich natural resources have been exploited for decades and a boom in the timber industry in the 1950s apparently created millionaires. Forest clearance has been followed in many areas by a monoculture of oil palm plantations and the past decade or so has seen the rise of another generation of millionaires who got rich by wreaking havoc on the landscape.
How much more of this destruction can Borneo take? As development and infringements on the rainforest continue the future for some wildlife looks bleak. Clearance has put inexorable pressure on forest dependent species, in particular large primates, the native Bornean orang utan. Another, smaller, primate in trouble as a result of forest clearance is the proboscis monkey, a species found only in Borneo. The fates of these animals are intertwined as habitat destruction is having huge negative impacts on both populations. Conserving the shrinking rainforest is the key to their survival.

What is the hope for the future?
Aside from preventative measures that provide protection for the forest and their inhabitants, such as the designation of national parks, perhaps the greatest hope for the conservation of the orang utan and the proboscis monkey in Borneo is the ability to generate jobs and income from the attempts to save them. This is where revenue from tourism can play a part. Two tourist destinations in particular illustrate the hope for the future; the Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary and the Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre, both near the city of Sandakan in eastern Sabah.

Saving a part of the mangrove forest for the proboscis monkey
The proboscis monkey sanctuary at Labuk Bay is c. 40 km from Sandakan. It is set within a huge oil palm plantation. The owners of the land became fascinated by the proboscis monkey during development of their plantation and, in 1994, decided to set aside an area of mangrove swamp as a sanctuary. The monkeys are fed twice daily and these sessions are open to tourists. It's a charming place and a truly wonderful experience to watch these monkeys interact and to hear the guides' stories about the social organisation of all the monkey groups in the sanctuary. It is also possible to stay at the centre and to go on organised wildlife watching trips. The fact that the centre can earn revenue from tourists offsets the loss of income that the owners of the plantation had to absorb when they decided not to convert all their land to oil palm cultivation. And it is not just tourists and local people who benefit, research monitoring the behaviour of the monkeys is always ongoing at the sanctuary.

A safe haven in the forest for orang utan
The Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre is a more established stop on the tourist trail. Just outside Sandakan, this centre was set up in 1964 to help return orphaned orang utan to the wild. Twice a day rangers distribute food to waiting orang utan who need a little bit of extra help getting their meals from the forest. The feeding time is targeted at animals that are not yet fully rehabilitated; visitors to the feeding station are often young, and still learning to fend for themselves, or mothers with babies. The feeding time is a good opportunity to view animals that are making the transition from being human dependent to wild animals. The food is kept deliberately monotonous to encourage the orang utan to forage for themselves. Over 100 animals have been rehabilitated at the centre to date. Some of the apes have been so successfully rehabilitated that they have been relocated to protected areas elsewhere in Sabah, in a bid to manage population size in the forest at Sepilok and to contribute to population growth in areas where there is room for more apes. A visit to the rehabilitation centre is an excellent way to fund the rehabilitation centre's valuable work, which focuses on saving wildlife, education and research into the orang utan, and conservation. It's also one of the best ways to guarantee a sighting of an orang utan; they are shy, elusive animals in the wild, whereas at the rehabilitation centre there are usually at least two apes at the feeding station every day.
These stories demonstrates how tourism creates hope for the future of these primates, and for the ecosystem of Borneo in general. If tourism can generate enough income and, hopefully, wealth, for its people, we can dream that there will be no need to ravage the landscape in the future, or that development can co-exist in balance with habitat conservation.

Hope for Borneo's Threatened Biodiversity

ScienceDaily (Nov. 10, 2010) — To tackle species loss representatives of the Rhino and Forest Fund (RFF) and of the Forestry Department of Sabah / Malaysia launched a long-term reforestation project to restore forest in Borneo. Borneo's unique biodiversity is threatened by deforestation and habitat fragmentation. To save endangered species like the Sabah rhino, the clouded leopard, or the orangutan, it is necessary to restore and reconnect degraded and fragmented forest land.

On Nov. 8, 2011, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the Sabah Forestry Department and a German-based NGO, the Rhino and Forest Fund, giving the green light for a long-term forest restoration project in and around the Tabin Wildlife Reserve. The first trees will be planted in January 2011.  In the MoU the government of Sabah ensures that the reserve and the restored areas will remain protected, excluding any conversion or logging in the future.
The core area of Tabin remains still untouched and represents one of the oldest and most diverse rainforests in the world. The reserve is surrounded by oil palm plantations, restricting movements of large mammals. The restoration project of the Rhino and Forest Fund will increase habitat and reconnect patches of rainforest, enabling the movements and breeding of isolated populations, such as the pygmy elephant and the Sabah rhino.

The MoU was signed during the 'International Conference on Forests and Climate Change' held at the Magellan Sutera Hotel, in Sabah, Malaysia on Monday. Datuk Sam Mannan, Director of the Sabah Forestry Department stated during the conference: "Forests are important for Sabah's climate and its rich biodiversity. They provide fundamental services to human well beings and therefore need to be protected and restored."

The Rhino and Forest Fund aims to save biodiversity by reforesting degraded and fragmented habitat and has a special focus on the nearly extinct Sabah rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis harrissoni). The RFF gets scientific advice from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo- and Wildlife Research (IZW) Berlin, Germany and funding from the Zoo Leipzig in Germany.

Dr. Petra Kretzschmar, co-founder of the German-based NGO stated: "We see the charismatic Sabah rhino as a flagship species for the diverse lowland rainforest in Sabah. The signing is a major breakthrough to effectively combine the protection of endangered species like the rhino and the restoration of their natural habitat."

Robert Risch, co-founder of the Rhino and Forest Fund concluded: "Our reforestation project will support Sabah's outstanding efforts to preserve its extraordinary biodiversity for future generations. Sabah is a hotspot of biodiversity and therefore of global significance. If Sabah loses species, the whole planet will become poorer. So there should be global awareness, cooperation and action on an international level to stop species loss.“

The restoration work will start in early 2011 and will be expanded during the next years.

Monday, May 21, 2012

3 factors why investors love Sabah

RAPID ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: Right leadership, stability and sound policies drawing investors to the state. 

Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman welcoming Associated Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia president Tan Sri William Cheng Heng Jem at Sri Gaya in Kota Kinabalu yesterday.

KOTA KINABALU: SABAH'S political stability, sound policies and focused economic directions  are three key factors that have caught the attention of the country's business community.

Associated Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia president Tan Sri William Cheng Heng Jem said this here yesterday after leading a delegation for a meeting with Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman.

"Rapid economic development has taken place in Sabah. It looks different and the economic landscape is different," Cheng said, adding that the three factors were prerequisites investors looked for in a country or state.

"Sabah is rich in natural resources, such as timber, minerals, oil and gas. However, what is important is it takes the right leadership to take the state to greater heights."

Cheng said tourism and agriculture, including aquaculture, were doing well in the state and had the potential to grow.

"I am also told that Sabah has strong environmental conservation laws.

"This is also good in terms of ecotourism."

Meanwhile, Musa said investors were interested in Malaysia because of the conducive atmosphere, good government policies and stable politics under the able leadership of Prime Minister Dauk Seri Najib Razak.

He said the environmental laws on conservation had a long-term positive impact on the overall development of the state.

"Protecting the forests, phasing out logging and focusing on reforestation means that future generations can once again have tropical rainforests, which had been logged, in 30 to 40 years' time."

Similarly, he said a clean and unpolluted environment helped to draw investors to Sabah.

Citing a United States-based multinational company, Darden Incorporated, he said the food giant had committed about US$2 billion (RM6.3 billion) to develop lobster farming off the coast of Semporna because the water was not polluted.

"They also told me that another important reason why they chose to invest here was because of the prevailing economic and political stability in Malaysia."

Source: http://www.nst.com.my/nation/general/3-factors-why-investors-love-sabah-1.86030

Friday, May 18, 2012

Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle

The Kemp’s ridley turtle is the world’s most endangered sea turtle, and with a worldwide female nesting population roughly estimated at just 1,000 individuals, its survival truly hangs in the balance. Their perilous situation is attributed primarily to the over-harvesting of their eggs during the last century. And though their nesting grounds are protected and many commercial fishing fleets now use turtle excluder devices in their nets, these turtles have not been able to rebound.
For this reason, their nesting processions, called arribadas, make for especially high drama. During an arribada, females take over entire portions of beaches, lugging their big bodies through the sand with their flippers until they find a satisfying spot to lay their eggs. Even more riveting is the later struggle to the ocean of each tiny, vulnerable hatchling. Beset by predators, hatchlings make this journey at night, breaking out of their shells using their caruncle, a single temporary tooth grown just for this purpose.
Found primarily in the Gulf of Mexico, but also as far north as Nova Scotia, Kemp’s ridleys are among the smallest sea turtles, reaching only about 2 feet (65 centimeters) in shell length and weighing up to 100 pounds (45 kilograms). Their upper shell, or carapace, is a greenish-grey color, and their bellies are off-white to yellowish.
They prefer shallow waters, where they dive to the bottom to feed on crabs, which are their favorite food, and other shellfish. They also eat jellyfish, and occasionally munch on seaweed and sargassum. They may live to be 50 years old.
Females aren’t sexually mature until about ten to twelve years of age. They nest every one to three years and may lay several clutches of eggs each season. Highly migratory animals, they often travel hundreds of miles (kilometers) to reach their nesting beach, usually the same beach they hatched from.

Photo Source: http://oceana.org/en/our-work/protect-marine-wildlife/sea-turtles/species-at-risk/kemps-ridley-sea-turtle

Hawksbill sea turtle

Hawksbill turtles are found throughout the tropical waters of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. They avoid deep waters, preferring coastlines where sponges are abundant and sandy nesting sites are within reach.

Not particularly large compared with other sea turtles, hawksbills grow up to about 45 inches (114 centimeters) in shell length and 150 pounds (68 kilograms) in weight. While young, their carapace, or upper shell, is heart-shaped, and as they mature it elongates. Their strikingly colored carapace is serrated and has overlapping scutes, or thick bony plates. Their tapered heads end in a sharp point resembling a bird’s beak, hence their name. A further distinctive feature is a pair of claws adorning each flipper. Male hawksbills have longer claws, thicker tails, and somewhat brighter coloring than females.

They are normally found near reefs rich in the sponges they like to feed on. Hawksbills are omnivorous and will also eat mollusks, marine algae, crustaceans, sea urchins, fish, and jellyfish. Their hard shells protect them from many predators, but they still fall prey to large fish, sharks, crocodiles, octopuses, and humans.
Like other sea turtles, hawksbills make incredible migrations in order to move from feeding sites to nesting grounds, normally on tropical beaches. Mating occurs every two to three years and normally takes place in shallow waters close to the shore. The nesting procedure begins when the turtles leave the sea to choose an area to lay their eggs. A pit is dug in the sand, filled with eggs, and then covered. At this stage the turtles retreat to the sea, leaving the eggs, which will hatch in about 60 days. The most dangerous time of their lives comes when hatchlings make the journey from their nests to the sea. Crabs and flocks of gulls voraciously prey on the young turtles during this short scamper.

Like many sea turtles, hawksbills are a critically endangered species due mostly to human impact. Hawksbill eggs are still eaten around the world despite the turtle’s international protected status, and they are often killed for their flesh and their stunning shells. These graceful sea turtles are also threatened by accidental capture in fishing nets.
Source: http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/reptiles/hawksbill-turtle/

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Sabahans will be affected if sharks extinct – Masidi

KOTA KINABALU: Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun has called on Sabahans to support and protect the population of sharks that are heading towards extinction to ensure the tourism industry would not be affected badly.
He said the tourism industry, particularly diving activity, is depending on the sharks as most of the divers want to see them in the natural habitat.
Therefore, there is a need to protect the sharks population, which is now only 20 per cent remaining in the Sabah waters.
He said diving activity is contributing to the growth of tourism in Sabah. Last year, it contributed a turnover of RM237 million to the tourism industry.
“Just imagine if the sharks’ population is heading towards extinction, divers will move to other countries and it will affect the tourism industry,” he said after launching the Imperial Gourmet Soup Challenge-2012 Sabah Protect Sharks, organized by JCI Tanjung Aru at Suria Sabah Shopping Complex here yesterday.
Masidi said the only industry that is totally owned by Sabahans is tourism as almost 90 per cent of the tourism operators and staff are Sabahans.
“If we look at the other industries such as plantation, 80 per cent of the workers are Indonesians and 70 per cent of the construction workers also foreigners.
“If the tourism industry is affected because of the sharks extinction, the first persons affected are local people. Therefore, I would like to urge the people of Sabah to protect and take care of welfare of the workers in Sabah by protecting sharks.
“It is wrong for us probably to protect the sharks so that the future of Sabahans can be protected and they can make money from the industry.
“It is more on whether we love shark fins more or we love Sabahans less,” he pointed out.
Masidi stressed that without sharks, he assured the diving industry will just collapse because the Indonesians and Southern Filipinos are coming up with it. It is a matter of time before they catch up with us in Sabah.
Commenting on the enforcement of the Fisheries Act to protect sharks, he said it had not been done yet as they had proposed to the related federal ministry to carry out amendment to the Act.
“We would ask for amendment to protect all types of sharks in Sabah. Even now, there is existing protection on certain type of sharks. But we want all the sharks to be protected in Sabah to ensure we can the save the population of sharks.”
On the Imperial Gourmet Soup Challenge to find an alternative to sharp fin soup, Masidi said it was carried out by JCI Tanjung Aru to encourage people to have an option in soup other than shark fin soup.
“Shark fin is considered a very prestigious soup and normally served during wedding ceremony. What they are trying to show today is that there is other alternative prestigious soup and the reason why they have this challenge is to prove to the people that there are other soups to impress the guests.
“The challenge is to educate the people not to eat shark fin soup as the sharks are heading towards extinction,” said the minister.

Have agricultural expos in all districts in Sabah – Musa

PUTATAN: Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman wants agricultural expos to be held in all districts in Sabah as a platform to expose local farmers to the latest development in the sector.
Such events, he said, could help in disseminating information on new findings that could be applied by the agriculture communities to improve their income and help retain the sector as one of the major economic earners for the state.
Speaking at the launch of Putatan Agricultural Expo 2012 here yesterday, Musa said the agriculture sector had been identified as one of the major focuses under the state’s development Halatuju launched in 2003, alongside the tourism and manufacturing sectors.
Apart from reducing dependency on imported food products, further development of this sector would also help improve the income of Sabahans, he said.
“I believe the expo here today would benefit the target group and everyone involved … And I am confident that with the cooperation of all parties in this district, it will propel the growth of the agriculture and agro-based industry not only here locally but in the whole state, and make us a major food producer in the country.
“This is why I must propose that the ministry (of agriculture and food industry) expands this event to other districts so that agricultural potential of each district can be fully developed and utilized,” he said.
Musa stressed that it was the hope of the state government that farmers, breeders and fishermen communities across Sabah continue to improve themselves by incorporating new technologies into their operations.
By doing so, he said they would be able to significantly improve their output and revenues and prove the old perception that agriculture is a low income industry for the poor, is wrong.
“Agriculture could be a lucrative business if done right,” Musa asserted.
Met after the launching, he said many agricultural development projects and programmes had been successfully implemented in Sabah and had greatly benefited farmers and local agro-based businesses.
As such, Musa, who is also State Finance Minister, said he would request the federal government to provide more allocations to fund similar projects in the future.
The state government, he added, would also implement more programmes aimed at encouraging more people to participate and benefit from the sector, and promote awareness that agriculture is a lucrative industry.
“Improving the income of the farmers would translate to improvement of the overall economy of the state … we are on the right track to move forward,” he said.
He also said the promising potential in agriculture, coupled with political stability and vast fertile land in Sabah had attracted major international players to come in and invest in the sector.
Among the latest ones, he noted, was an American company which waslooking to develop a multi-billion fruit planting project in Sabah.
“Apart from the lobster project that I mentioned before this, there is also a US-based company who wants to come in. We are currently looking for a suitable site for the project and in discussions to find out which agency would be best to collaborate with them.
“Many investors are coming to Sabah because they are convinced of the political stability we have. That is why we do not encourage street demonstration that could undermine this stability, this will not benefit anyone,” he said.
Meanwhile, Deputy Chief Minister cum Agriculture and Food Industry Minister Datuk Seri Yahya Hussin in his welcoming remarks said the Integrated Agricultural Complex in Putatan could be developed into an attractive agro-tourism destination.
He said the complex dubbed as the ‘Green Lung of Putatan’ could be packaged as a tourism product to attract both local and foreign visitors.
“I was also made to understand that this five-hectare complex will be developed as a permanent food production park that will lead in intensive high-tech farming. This project represents an opportunity for the local community in Putatan to venture into this field and become agro entrepreneurs,” he added.

Hunt for croc in drain

KOTA KINABALU: A crocodile was recently spotted in the monsoon drain near the Rainforest Park at Jalan Penampang.
State Wildlife Department chief veterinarian Dr Sen Nathan said wildlife rangers conducted a search at the area and spotted the crocodile, believed to be about three-meter long on Monday.
“We searched the area with a spotlight and saw the crocodile. Once it is caught, we will relocate the crocodile away from the state capital,” he said yesterday.
According to Dr Sen, there were reports of a crocodile being sighted in the monsoon drain near Wisma Khidmat several years ago.
“We are not sure if this is the same animal although it is part of the drainage system that runs along the Rainforest Park,” he said, adding that historically there were crocodiles in rivers running through Kota Kinabalu.
“At the moment, we are uncertain about the origin of this particular animal,” Dr Sen said when asked if it was possible the reptile could have escaped from captivity.
City police meanwhile had not received any report of crocodile attack here in the state capital.
Dr Sen said wildlife rangers had also set a trap in Kota Belud, about 90km from here, to catch a crocodile that attacked a 74-year-old woman in Kampung Tampasuk on April 17.
It was reported that the woman, Luayoh Kindurus, fought off the crocodile with a cane after it bit her feet as she was crossing a drain to a padi field in Kampung Sondikut

Read more: http://www.theborneopost.com/2012/05/10/hunt-for-croc-in-drain/#ixzz1utQKK8QV

Photo Source:  http://www.coloring-pages-kids.com/coloring-pages/animal-coloring-pages/crocodiles-coloring-pages/crocodiles-coloring-pages-images/crocodile-aligator-coloring-page-04.php

RM419 mln Tawau Geothermal Power Plant ready by 2015

TAWAU: The phase one of Tawau Green Energy Geothermal Power Plant involving generating capacity of 36MW is expected to be completed in 2015.
The power plant at Apas Kiri, which is the first renewable and sustainable project of its kind in Malaysia, will supply 30MW to the Sabah Electricity Sdn Bhd (SESB) grid.
Sustainable Energy Development Authority of Malaysia (SEDA Malaysia) chairman Tan Sri Dr Fong Chan Onn, who visited the project site yesterday, said  the plant will be Malaysia’s first grid-connected geothermal power plant.
Fong said the renewable power plant is a unique prospect in the district and it is also acceptable to everyone in the community.
The project undertaken by Tawau Green Energy Sdn Bhd (TGE)  will reduce the utilization of fossil fuel for power generation in the state grid in line with Malaysia’s sustainable development policy and global greenhouse gas emission reduction.
According to Fong, the process of producing electricity with a geothermal power plant is similar to other thermal power plants that use coal, oil or gas except that it does not require burning any fuel.
Instead, geothermal plant utilizes energy from the natural steam and hot water drawn from the geothermal reservoir, he explained.
The geothermal power plant is a form of green energy which does not require any fuel burning or combustion to produce heat or electricity, he said.
It emits little carbon dioxide, no nitrogen dioxide and very low amounts of sulfur dioxide, he added.
The project is estimated to cost RM419 million and it has also qualified to receive a grant of RM35million from the Private-Public Partnership Unit of the Prime Minister’s Department for the access road and water treatment plant.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Turtle watching in Sabah

David Bowden gets the rare opportunity of observing a wild turtle lay its eggs on the shores of Selingan Island

THE call came two hours after sunset and eagerly we filed into the darkness behind the ranger’s solitary torchlight to experience one of nature’s great spectacles.

The wait had been long. But in the end, it was well worth the opportunity to see firsthand a female Green sea turtle lay a clutch of over 100 eggs and then, to experience the privilege of releasing some baby turtles into the Sulu Sea.

Turtle Island Park, 40km off Sabah’s northern coastline, is one of the region’s best places for seeing wild turtles. The 1,760ha park comprises three islands — Selingan, Bakungan Kecil and Gulisan — and its protection as a conservation area is making a valuable contribution to the survival of turtles.

Selingan Island is the only one accessible to the public but all three participate in the Sabah Parks turtle hatchery programme. The conservation area extends into neighbouring Philippines under a transboundary management arrangement between the two nations. This means that both countries appreciate that turtles do not recognise international borders and that both island groups need to be protected.

On most evenings, turtles venture from the sea onto the shores of the Turtle Island Park to lay their eggs.

Maritime eco-adventure

We arrived into Sandakan on the first flight from Kota Kinabalu. Once we were in the open waters of the Sulu Sea, the fast boat was soon skimming the surface.

The simple accommodation on Selingan is restricted to 30 visitors but is very comfortable considering the isolation. All rooms are equipped with either air-conditioning or fan and there are communal showers and toilets.

Our meals were provided in the package and they included a good selection of simple but filling dishes.

There is an informative display and video presentation in the visitors’ centre.

I spent the afternoon snorkelling in the shallow waters and taking a leisurely stroll around the island. While the island’s birdlife is limited, I spotted white-collared kingfishers, grey herons, doves and white-bellied sea eagles.

After an early dinner, it became a waiting game where we eagerly anticipated the rangers’ announcement of the arrival of the first turtle.

Cameras and torches are not allowed while watching the turtle lay its eggs so that it is not disturbed. We also had to keep well back from the reptile.

Green and Hawksbill turtles visit the island after dusk to lay their eggs in shallow holes which they laboriously dig in the sand. Adult turtles can grow up to a length of about half a metre and weigh up to 40kg.

Each turtle lays about 100 eggs and then slowly crawls back towards the Sulu Sea. In the morning the beach was lined with turtle tracks trailing into the water.

The rangers selected just one turtle for us to observe. We huddled in a semi-circle behind it and managed to see its eggs slowly popping out.

The park rangers took measurements of each turtle to monitor the success of the programme. The eggs were then transferred to the safety of a turtle hatchery for the 50 to 60day incubation period.

While the new eggs were safe in the hatchery, other eggs were being hatched elsewhere. The activity in these holes was feverish as the newborn struggled to the surface of the soft sand and their chance to face the world.

The highlight of our evening was when we assisted the rangers to release the young hatchlings into the sea. Watching the excitement on the faces of the kids gave one a sense of optimism that we were making a valuable contribution to the survival of the turtles.

Not only are the turtles protected and egg-laying numbers maintained, but the programme is also an economically viable eco-tourism activity. 

Source: http://www.sabahtoday.com.my/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=3543:turtle-watching-in-sabah&catid=53:place-of-interest&Itemid=61

Photo Source: http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/reptiles/kemps-ridley-sea-turtle/ 

Teaching the young to love and respect Mother Earth

Earth is alive. It bleeds, sweats and cries. The trees are its lungs, the rivers are its veins, the sea is its flesh and its inhabitants – the flora and fauna – are its tissue.
These inhabitants flourish the ecosystem and nourish the Earth to keep it alive.
Humans are of a different kind of beings. We are new. While the Earth depends on its inhabitants to live, we depend on the Earth.
We plow through its lungs for cash, clog its veins with waste, tunnel through its flesh for oil and consume its tissues to live; greedy and ungrateful for Mother Earth’s offering.
We are a lot like cancer – a disease caused by mutated cells on the Earth’s body. But we were not always like this. We were all once symbiotic. We relied on the Earth without being excessive. We lived harmoniously within it, taking only what we needed and leaving what we did not.
In Sabah, our ancestors survived by settling next to the sea or rivers. Their predecessors are still here, living deep within the jungle, always next to a river.
“I respect the Sabah culture. They have a culture that is in tune with the environment,” said Ai Kinoshita, a member of the Japanese Overseas Volunteer Cooperation (JOVC), who has lived in Sabah for the past two years.
“Human lives will always benefit from the environment,” said Ai in Malay, complete with a Dusun accent.
Ai, 27, works closely with Sabah Parks at Crocker Range Park to educate the new generation on how to preserve the environment. They include four primary school pupils and one teacher from five schools around the Crocker Range to educate them to keep the rivers and jungles clean.
All of these schools are located within the indigenous community of Sabah.
Her work focuses on education administration and research of catchment areas along the rivers of the Crocker Range.
Ai’s work is part of the River Environmental Education Programme (REEP) which is an activity under the Borneon Biodiversity and Ecosystem Conservation Phase II (BBEC Phase II).
BBEC Phase II is an initiative by Sabah Parks and Sabah Biodiversity Center with the cooperation from Sabah Environmental Action Center (EAC), Japan International Cooperation Agency, the Environmental Department, Water and Irrigation Department, Sabah Education Department and University Malaysia Sabah (UMS) and it is organized and implemented by the Penampang District Office.
Crocker Range Park is also under nomination for Crocker Range
Biosphere Reserve (CRBR), Man and Biosphere (MAB) under UNESCO. The nomination was applied for by the BBEC Phase II initiative together with Sabah Parks and Sabah Biodiversity Center.
All of this is to study our close relationship with our rivers in hopes to generate an action plan that can be achieved by students and the community to preserve and protect the rivers.
“These (indigenous) communities have a wealth of knowledge on how to co-exist with the environment through their culture and history. We can learn a lot from them,” she said, adding that this culture should be carried down from generation to generation.
She said we could all benefit from the convenience of money but the most important things in life cannot be bought.
“You can’t buy family or friends, the good heart and the support of others, culture and tradition that is inherited from history, knowledge of co-existing with the wild.
“I believe our lives cannot be complete if we only think of ourselves.
“I’m not relating this to Malaysia alone. Japan is also going through the same thing,” said Ai.
Ai has learned a lot from her two-year stay in Sabah; ideas and memorable experiences that she will bring back to Japan when she leaves next month.
“I hope to find ways to help promote a culture that incorporates living peacefully with the environment that is respected and based on the teachings of our ancestors,” she said.
Another similar initiative to BBEC Phase II is also conducted by the Global Diversity Fund (GDF) in the Ulu Papar area, including Buayan and Kionob. GDF conducts research, training and social action to promote agricultural, biological and cultural diversity around the world.
The villagers of Buayan and Kionob are trained to collect data that include GPS mapping of its surrounding jungle, video and photography training, monitoring of traditional medicine and the needs of the community, just to name a few.
GDF’s main goal in Ulu Papar is to raise awareness on how to fully
utilize jungle resources by compromising its value.
These are just a few examples on initiatives to help educate people from all walks of life on our home’s health.
This growth of awareness among the residents of Earth is especially apparent among the Y Generation who are now mostly in their 20s. When the newer generation are educated too, there is so much more hope left to cling on.

Selangor records highest number of dengue cases

KUALA LUMPUR: Selangor recorded the highest number of dengue cases so far this year with 3,615 and nine deaths up until yesterday, Deputy Health Minister Datuk Rosnah Abdul Rashid Shirlin said today.

Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya recorded 868 cases with three deaths, while Perak registered 563 cases with one death, she said this when replying to a supplementary question from Senator Mustafa Kamal Mohd Yusoff. 
"From the data, we can conclude that urban areas have high dengue prevalence compared with rural areas," she said, adding that Sabah, which has a vast rural area, recorded 151 cases with one death for the same period. 
She said the trend, however, could change from time to time depending on the efforts by local community to ensure a dengue-free environment. 
Eighteen deaths from 8,052 dengue cases were reported nationwide between January and April 24 this year, up from 6,594 cases with 12 deaths during the same period last year.  -- BERNAMA 

Why shark numbers off Sabah down almost 100pc

Kota Kinabalu: Reef shark populations have fallen by 98 per cent in 15 years and Technical Advisor of The Green Connection (Aquarium and Science Discovery Centre), Prof Steve Oakley, attributed this to the Government having allowed shark fishing for many years.
"Unfortunately, due to the increase in demand, the shark populations cannot support the fishery any longer. Most shark species have a relatively small range. Hammerhead sharks around Sipadan are being caught when they move away to feed at night," he said in a press statement, Saturday, in response to those who oppose the "Say No To Shark Fins Soup" Campaign.
The Green Connection is a partner in the campaign organised by JCI Tanjung Aru. Disclosing that there are no sharks in most of Sabah's national parks, Prof Oakley said six of our competitor tourist countries (Palau, Guam, Seychelles, Maldives, Honduras and Hawaii) have banned catching sharks.
He added that Bahamas have the most sharks in the world because of a 20-year-old ban on longline fishing. "Bans are being prepared for California, Oregon and other coastal US areas."
According to him, sharks contain toxic amounts of methyl mercury, which causes brain damage. "Please don't feed them to pregnant ladies or children. For an infant, poisoning is mental development disturbances and for an adult heavy damage to the central nervous system.
These express themselves by headache, memory difficulties or depression, besides kidney damages, cancer and massive damages of the brain, he said.
Prof Oakley warned that there are 420 micrograms of methyl mercury in a normal 300gm shark steak portion and this is 60 times more than a 70kg heavy consumer per day may have.
"The danger value is 0.1 microgram per kg body weight and day.
This value was specified by EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) in a toxicologist committee and is considered as new international standard.
A consumer might take only 5 gram blue shark steak or 12.7 gram of smoked rock salmon (smoked dogfish) per day," he said, adding each higher dose can have serious consequences.
Meanwhile, JCI Tanjung Aru's "Say No To Shark Fins" Campaign Project Chairman, Aderick Chong expressed confidence that when Sabah joins the rest of the popular diving destinations to ban sharks from being harvested, the State will be in the forefront of the best dive destinations, attracting tourists all over the world.
"Portraying Sabah as 'A shark fins free state' would be a good marketing tool for Sabah tourism," he said.
Chong said conserving sharks in Sabah ensures that sharks will still be in our waters for our next generation to see.
"Sabah's unique marine beauty is a heritage to be treasured and protected.
It is a heritage to be inherited by our next generation and for them to be proud of".
He thanked all those who agree to conserve sharks, especially the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment, Datuk Masidi Manjun.
"For those who oppose, I hope that in time you would understand the importance of sharks to business. More Sharks = More Tourists and More Tourists = More Business," he said. 

Photo Source:  http://www.fantom-xp.com/en_11__Shark_Swarm.html

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Miss Earth Sabah gives green talk

KOTA KINABALU: Miss Earth Sabah 2011 Olivia Vun Kai Li made a special appearance during the Sabah Pharmaceutical Society Health Expo in Suria Mall Sabah on Sunday.
The reigning queen gave her green talk on the impact of environment to one’s health. In her talk, Olivia reminded the crowd to always be mindful of the amount of rubbish they produce and she emphasized that doing things out of convenience will save a lot of trouble but it will definitely harm the environment and subsequently is detrimental to health.
She conducted a question and answer session with the crowd after the green talk session and the response from the crowd was very good.
In conjunction with Earth Hour 2012, Miss Earth Sabah will be involved in a few events. On March 30, prior to the Earth Hour, Miss Earth Sabah will be conducting the Earth Hour programme at SM St Michael Penampang. This programme is a collaboration between MNE Productions, the main organiser of Miss Earth Sabah 2012 and sponsored by Gardenia Sabah.
During that program, Olivia will be giving out her talk to the students of SM St Michael in Penampang and the Miss Earth Sabah team will conduct fun environmental activities with students such as Earth Hour Quizzes Session, Collecting Old Newspaper Inter-Class Competition, Environmental Essay Competition and Eco Recycle Costume Competition.
These competitions have been going on since Monday and the official event and prize giving ceremony will be held on March 30. This is an effort to help the youngsters to understand the real meaning of ‘Earth Hour’ and what they can contribute to help the earth by practicing green initiatives in their daily lives.
On March 31, Miss Earth Sabah will be taking part in the Earth Hour event which is a joint effort of Sutera Harbour Resort, Dewan Bandaraya Kota Kinabalu (DBKK), Sabah Environmental Action Centre (EAC) and World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
Again, the brainy beauty reigning queen will be sharing her thoughts and pledge to go ‘beyond the hour’ at Tanjung Aru first beach.
All these involvements show a continuous effort and commitment by Miss Earth Sabah towards promoting environmental awareness, instil ecological knowledge, attitudes, values, commitments for actions, and ethical responsibilities for protecting and caring for the environment.
Miss Earth Sabah encourages all fellow Sabahans to support and be part of Earth Hour by switching off non essential lights on March 31 from 8.30pm to 9.30pm. A small effort could make a big difference.
Miss Earth Sabah 2012 is tentatively scheduled to kick start in April where the regional auditions will be held in Tawau (April 7- 8), Sandakan (April 14-15), Keningau (April 11–12) and Kota Kinabalu (April 27–29) in the quest to find the next green ambassador.

Farm Project at SK St Francis Convent, KK

Sustainable Farming at SK Convent St. Francis, Kota Kinabalu

President of SEPA Wong Tack, Secretary Paul Chang and Consultant of the project Shum went to SK St Francis Convent to witness the corn harvest of the sustainable farming that was started few months ago

The farm project yield a good quality corn harvest.

Headmistress Sim Cho Kein, teachers and students join together to harvest the organic corn and taste the first hand quality.

Wong Tack and Paul also gave few organic corn yield for sampling to the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Environment Sabah YB Datuk Masidi Manjun and his Permanent Secretary Datuk Michael Emban

SEPA would like to thank to SK St Francis Convent Headmistress Sim Cho Kein, Teachers and Students for their good respond of this sustainable farm project and hope the health awareness of organic vegetables benefits can be applied to their everyday life

Source: http://wikisabah.blogspot.com/2012/05/farm-project-at-sk-st-francis-convent.html 

Emerging disease threat to proboscis monkey

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD), Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC) and EcoHealth Alliance (EHA) recently organised a one-day training workshop on zoonotic diseases, or diseases transmitted between wildlife and humans, at Lok Kawi Wildlife Park.

Staff from SWD Wildlife Rescue Unit (WRU), DGFC, WWF and the Institute for Tropical Biology and Conservation, Universiti Malaysia Sabah, attended the training provided by EHA.

“We recently started a collaboration with the EcoHealth Alliance and the PREDICT programme on emerging diseases, funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID),” explained Dr Laurentius Ambu, director of SWD.

The PREDICT project is a component of the USAID-funded Emerging Pandemic Threats program, which works globally to pre-empt and combat diseases that could spark future pandemics.

“Emerging diseases are very important to consider because wildlife and people get closer and closer due to habitat loss and degradation. Diseases are driven by stressed ecosystems, expanding human populations and fractured natural habitats, something more and more common in our environment,” added Ambu.

“The objective of PREDICT is to build a global early warning system for emerging diseases that move between wildlife and people,” explained Tom Hughes, project coordinator for EHA in Malaysia.

“Zoonotic pathogens often don’t cause disease in natural hosts, it is therefore very important to conduct surveillance of ‘healthy’ animals. This is what we are starting in Sabah in collaboration with the Sabah Wildlife Department, Danau Girang Field Centre and other institutions such as Universiti Malaysia Sabah and the NGO HUTAN,” said Hughes.

“It is important to remember that most animal viruses spill over into human populations because of our own activities that bring us into closer contact with wildlife, added Hughes.

“One of our goals with PREDICT is to identify which viruses in wildlife are most likely to infect people, which human activities bring people into contact with wildlife in a way that increases risk of disease transmission and work with our partners to reduce the risk of people and wildlife coming into contact, so that these viruses never make the leap into human populations, he added.

DGFC director Dr Benoit Goossens said the training provided by EHA to SWD Wildlife Rescue Unit and DGFC staff was put into practice recently during proboscis monkey sampling in the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, a conservation programme fully sponsored by Sime Darby Foundation.

“Five individuals were captured for blood, saliva and parasite sampling and then released into the forest. We used personal protective equipment (PPE) consisting of Tyvek coveralls, shoe covers, respirators, goggles and gloves. We also followed strict safety procedures for washing hands and equipment after the captures,” he said.

Ambu added: “EHA is supporting the department in establishing and training a Wildlife Health Unit based at SWD, in helping develop local laboratory capacity for viral diagnostics at the newly established Wildlife Rescue Centre in  Potuki (Lok Kawi), and in providing technical expertise and assistance for lab and field activities.

“Our department is delighted to have set up this collaboration with EHA. Wildlife and people’s health need to be considered in our conservation management plans.”

Source: http://www.theborneopost.com/2012/05/14/emerging-disease-threat-to-proboscis-monkey/
Green Sabah says: We have to be more cautious with our activities that involve some contacts with the wildlife in order to prevent the risk of disease transmission.


KINABATANGAN : ‘A valuable piece of natural heritage’ – this epithet best describes the Imbak Canyon conservation area located in Ulu Kinabatangan, right in the heart of Sabah.

The 30,000-hectare virgin dipterocarp forest lies between two other conservation areas – the Danum Valley and the Maliau Basin.

One may wonder, however, whether the landscape here resembles the Grand Canyon in Arizona, United States. Not exactly, but the word ‘canyon’ in the name refers to the 750-metre deep and 3-kilometre wide ravine carved out of the rock cliffs by the Imbak River, which makes part of the landscape look like a canyon.

The Imbak Canyon is surrounded by sandstone cliffs reaching a height of 3,700 feet, and the numerous flora and fauna thriving in this rain forest represent a rich biodiversity.

The Imbak Canyon, located at a five-hour drive away from Kota Kinabalu, is managed by Yayasan Sabah (YS), which is involved in the conservation, research, training, education and nature recreation activities conducted there.

The Beauty Of The Canyon

The Imbak Canyon is a catchment area for two important rivers in the state – the Imbak and the Kinabatangan Rivers – which not only provide water but also serve as a mode of transport and livelihood source for those living in the area.

Nestled between the Maliau Basin and the Danum Valley, the Imbak Canyon is regarded as an important buffer zone for wildlife, according to Yayasan Sabah’s head of Conservation and Environmental Management Dr Waidi Sinun.

Three expeditions conducted in 2000, 2004 and 2010, respectively, explored the natural treasures of the area, identifying 312 plant species in the region, of which 32 were endemic to Borneo, including six species which are found only in Sabah.

With regard to the fauna, Dr Waidi remarked that more than 200 species of birds live in Imbak Canyon, five of which are endemic to Borneo and found only in the conservation area.

These expeditions have also recorded the presence of pygmy elephants, leopards, bears, mouse deer and the Sumatran rhinoceros in this region.

“The Class 1 Forest Reserve also boasts of a unique landscape, with the ravine – which appears like a canyon – being the most striking feature,” Dr Waidi told Bernama at the recent inaugural ceremony of the Ulu Kinabatangan Information Centre and Jetty project at Kampung Imbak.

The Imbak Canyon is also home to two panoramic waterfalls – the Imbak Waterfalls and the 8-tier Waterfall.

Conservation Efforts With Petronas

In its efforts to conserve Imbak Canyon, Yayasan Sabah has collaborated with the national petroleum giant Petronas to gather information about the area, undertake biodiversity conservation efforts, preserve the genetic pool and explore the pharmaceutical and biotechnological potential of the flora there.

“The Information Centre and Jetty project will open new economic opportunities for local communities to improve their livelihood without affecting the environment,” Dr Waidi explained.

The information centre will display informative posters on Ulu Kinabatangan and exhibit a 3D model of the canyon.

The information centre will also be of use to the Imbak Canyon Porter and Tourists Guide Association, and the locals would be able to sell their handicrafts at the centre.

Dr Waidi noted that the establishment of the information centre and the association for porters and guides was a step in the right direction towards involving the local communities in the conservation efforts. (Bernama)

Green Sabah says: Imbank Canyon is one of the areas along with Maliau Basin and Danum Valley where the government has roped off as forest reserves. The logging and mining activities are also stopped. Its a good job from the state government, the three areas of forestry reserve add up is the 3 times the size of Singapore.

Friday, May 11, 2012

What Good Are Mosquitoes?

There isn't much love lost between people and mosquitoes. At the very least, these bloodthirsty insects are major annoyances, biting us with a persistence that can be maddening. If insects can be credited with evil intent, mosquitoes seem determined to wipe the human race out. As carriers of deadly diseases, mosquitoes are the deadliest insect on Earth. Each year, millions of people die from malaria, dengue fever, and yellow fever after being bitten by a disease-carrying mosquito. Mosquitoes also carry diseases that pose serious threats to livestock and pets.
With all these strikes against them, it's hard to imagine that mosquitoes fulfill any useful purpose. We forget that mosquitoes populated this planet long before man; the oldest mosquito fossils date back some 200 million years, to the Cretaceous period. Clearly, mosquitoes fill an important ecological niche. So what good are mosquitoes?
Mosquito larvae are aquatic insects, and as such, play an important role in the aquatic food chain. According to Dr. Gilbert Waldbauer in The Handy Bug Answer Book, "mosquito larvae are filter feeders that strain tiny organic particles such as unicellular algae from the water and convert them to the tissues of their own bodies, which are, in turn, eaten by fish." Mosquito larvae are, in essence, nutrient-packed snacks for fish and other aquatic animals.
Their role on the bottom of the food chain doesn't end at the larval stage, of course. As adults, mosquitoes serve as equally nutritious meals for birds, bats, and spiders.
As much as we loathe them, mosquitoes represent a considerable biomass of food for wildlife on the lower rungs of the food chain. Their extinction, were it even achievable, would have an enormous adverse affect on the entire ecosystem. 

GreenSabah says: A commentator post a question whether there are any purpose of mosquitoes under the article: Do cockroaches have a purpose in life? Yes, mosquitoes like cockroaches may be some irritating pest to human beings, but they do serve an important role on earth as well.  However it is fine to break out the mosquito spray when these little buggers gets on your nerves, they are unlikely to go extinct anyway and some mosquitoes does carry diseases, so have no mercy on them.

Collared elephant provide hope in finding vital corridors in fragmented habitat

A female Borneo pygmy elephant recently fitted with a satellite collar is expected to become her herd’s ambassador in determining important migration corridors between forested areas currently cut off by development, including the Sandakan-Lahad Datu road.

The collar on the 1.9-metre tall elephant captured in the Segaliud Lokan Forest Reserve is expected to transmit data on possible further migration into the Pin Supu Forest Reserve, or from the Lower Kinabatangan region to Segaliud Lokan.

Borneo Conservation Trust (BCT) Conservation and Research head Raymond Alfred said the estimated 290 to 310 elephants in the Kinabatangan region are currently separated from the main population in central Sabah, including the Segaliud Lokan Forest Reserve, by a main road.

Alfred said the solution to habitat fragmentation lies in the creation of a network of wildlife “corridors” that link forest reserves.

“This collaring activity is one of the components of the Mega Biodiversity Corridor programme initiated by BCT, which aims to enhance forest ecosystem connectivity and ecological corridors within key habitats of the Bornean elephant and Orang Utan in Sabah.

“The Mega Biodiversity Corridor will allow elephants and Orang Utan to safely migrate, access food sources and establish crucial genetic links between populations,” Alfred said in a joint statement issued by BCT and the Sabah Wildlife Department here today.

The elephant named “Segaliud” is estimated to be between 25 and 35 years old. She was observed to be physically healthy and was in lactation with a calf of around five to six months old.

The collaring exercise is the first to be carried out by BCT and the Sabah Wildlife Department’s Wildlife Rescue Unit in collaboration with KTS Plantation Sdn Bhd.

Alfred said there was a need to develop a long-term action plan to address the issue of fragmentation.

“Steps may include land purchase and the securing and restoration of riparian reserves (at river banks) to re-establish the vital wildlife corridors that link key habitats and protected areas,” Alfred said.

Sabah Wildlife Department director Dr Laurentius Ambu said the department is working closely with BCT and its partners from the private sector to reinstate and maintain crucial elephant corridors.

“Wildlife corridors offer one of the best long term solutions facing the endangered Bornean elephant,” Ambu said.
According to the Elephant Action Plan recently released by the department, there are an estimated 2,040 elephants in Sabah.