Tuesday, October 29, 2013

World Heritage Status to Benefit Carnivore Survival in Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia

Joint Press Release from Sabah Wildlife Department, International Union for Conservation of Nature - IUCN and Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia 23rd June 2011: The Sabah State Government is taking steps to secure Maliau Basin, Danum Valley and Imbak Canyon in perpetuity by applying for joint World Heritage status for all three Conservation Areas.

“The reason behind this is simple, we want to protect our forests so no future corrupted politician can take it away,” stated Datuk Masidi Manjun, who disclosed the decision of the State Cabinet at the opening of Part II of the 1st Borneo Carnivore Symposium (BCS) held at Shangri-la's Rasa Ria Resort on 23rd June 2011.

Masidi, the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Tourism, also stressed that it is crucial to protect Sabah’s forest and wildlife to benefit future generations and ensure its position as a tourism destination.

“Eventually, tourism will be the number one earner for Sabah and people will come from all over the world to see Sabah’s nature and it makes business sense to protect our jungles,” said Masidi.

In his speech, Masidi addressed delegates representing 15 countries and comprising scientists, conservationists and representatives from Government agencies coming together during the one week long Symposium to work towards the future survival of Borneo’s 23 carnivore species.

According to scientists at the BCS, the areas being put forth by the State Government are also home to the very mysterious and endangered species of carnivores such as the Borneo Bay Cat (Pardofelis badia) and Hose’s Civet (Diplogale hosei).

“The Borneo Bay Cat is found only in Borneo and has been recorded by camera traps as being in Danum Valley at relatively high frequency compared to other areas in Sabah,” said Andrew Hearn of Oxford University’s WildCRU.

The first photograph in the wild of the Borneo Bay Cat was taken only in 2002 in Mulu National Park in Sarawak.

Meanwhile, another elusive carnivore, the Hose’s Civet was not found during any camera trap surveys in the lowland of Eastern Sabah including Danum Valley, but was found instead only in Maliau Basin, which is the most “eastern” record of this species.

“This highlights the fact that it is probably found in low densities and supports the notion that it is restricted to the highland forest of Borneo,” added Dr Jerrold L. Belant, Chair of the IUCN/SSC Small Carnivore Specialist Group who presented the introduction to Bornean carnivores during the opening ceremony.

This in turn, points to the fact that it is crucial to protect different types of forest that support different communities of both wildlife and plant life diversity.

“Maliau Basin, Danum Valley and Imbak Canyon are part of the larger contiguous forest concession area belonging to the Sabah Foundation. This area as a whole is vital because it has different types of forest types such as lowland and highland and supports a number of different species,” elaborated Dr. Laurentius Ambu, the Director of the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD).

Ambu said any change of forest landscape within this Sabah Foundation area has to take into account such factors and provide for corridors and setting aside of High Value Forests such as those of Maliau Basin, Danum Valley and Imbak Canyon.

“The extremely high conservation value of this three areas cannot be maintained without thought being put into having buffers and corridors to connect them should the Sabah Foundation clear parts of its concession areas for monoculture such as oil palm,” cautioned Ambu.

The Symposium was organised by the SWD, IUCN Species Survival Commission’s Cat, Small Carnivores & Otter Specialist Groups and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research from Germany.
Funding and support was provided by a dedicated group of partners and sponsors; Benta Wawasan Sdn.Bhd., British Ecological Society, Chester Zoo / North England Zoological Society, The Clouded Leopard Project, Columbus Zoo, Flora Blossom Sdn. Bhd., Houston Zoo, Karl Mayer Foundation, KTS Plantation Sdn. Bhd., Malaysia Airlines, Nashville Zoo, Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, Shared Earth Foundation, The UsitawiNetwork, Wild Cat Club, WWF – Germany, WWF – Malaysia.

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