Archive for the ‘Environmental Education’ Category

World’s tallest tropical tree in Danum Valley

Saturday, March 11th, 2017
The expedition team with the tallest tree. Standing (from left): Maclean Bosumil, Dr Arthur Chung, John B. Sugau, Juanis Runcin (tree climber), Joel Dawat, Dr Joan T. Pereira, Eyen Khoo, Viviannye Paul, Jemson Jumian, Martin Tuyuk and Postar Miun. Sitting (from left): Marty Marianus, Markus Gumbilil and Hamzah Rusitin.

TAWAU: In November 2016, at the Heart of Borneo Conference held at The Magallen Sutera Harbour Prof Gregory Asner, an ecologist at the Carnegie Institute of Science at Stanford University announced the discovery via air surveillance of the tallest tree in Danum Valley, Lahad Datu.

Asner, who is also the leader of the Carnegie Airborne Observatory (CAO), said the tree is in the genus Shorea, though the exact species has yet to be determined.

The tallest is a towering 94.1 metres tree with a canopy measuring 40.3 metres in diameter.

Asner and his colleagues also found 49 other trees taller than 90 metres spread all over Sabah (

Impressed with the announcement and with the hope that it would highlight the need to protect Borneo’s rainforests, Datuk Sam Mannan, the Chief Conservator of Forests instructed an expedition to be organised in 2017 to locate and determine the tree species.

Recently, a team of researchers and supporting staff from the Forest Research Centre (FRC) of the Sabah Forestry Department, led by its Forest Botanist (John B. Sugau), together with two guides from Danum Valley Field Centre (DVFC) carried out an expedition from February 20 to 24.

Prior to the expedition, the coordinates of the tallest tree, obtained from Asner were plotted on the map of Danum Valley Conservation Area (DVCA).

The map showed that the tree is located about 600m south west of Ulu Purut Research Station (UPRS) Camp.

UPRS is located about seven kilometres east of DVFC and can be reached by about 4-5 hours trekking through an existing forest trail.

The team commenced the search from UPRS Camp at about 8am on February 22 of this year based on the coordinates that were logged into the Garmin Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver.

Fifty minutes later, the team found the tree about 150m from the existing Ulu Purut Research Station Camp-Mount Danum Raleigh Camp trail, growing in an old forest gap of Lowland Mixed Dipterocarp Forest on a slope at about 359m above sea level.

Juanis Runcin, the tree climber from the Sabah Forestry Department, climbed the tree to obtain leaf samples for species identification and to manually measure the height of the tree for comparison.

The tree is botanically identified as Shorea faguetiana F. Heim of the Dipterocarpaceae family or locally called ‘Seraya kuning siput’.

The earlier record of the tallest tropical tree in Tawau Hills Park is also of the same species. The tree height was directly measured by the tree climber using line and extendable pole.

Two height measurements were taken, one is from the top to the ground at the upper slope (90.8 m) and another to the ground at the lower slope (95.2 m) of the tree. The CAO measurement of 94.1 m is within the range of the measurements. The bole girth is 214 cm diameter measured above the buttress.

Apart from the mission to locate and determine the tree species, other observations on the flora and fauna as well as on the presence of any key features were also made around the tallest tree.

Among the interesting findings were the discovery of many endemic Begonia species and two scenic waterfalls. Other studies such as soil and forest structure are also being carried out to obtain more information about the surrounding area.

Being the world’s tallest tropical tree, it surely becomes a heritage tree and will attract many local and overseas visitors.

Though it is already in a protection forest reserve, it may need extra protection such as a track from DVFC and checking station must be manned properly.

by John B. Sugau.

One in every five animals on earth a beetle, says author

Wednesday, March 8th, 2017

Kota Kinabalu: One in every five animals on earth is a beetle, says Dr Steven Bosuang, first author of the book ‘A Guide to Beetles of Borneo’, co-authored by Datuk CL Chan and Dr Arthur Chung, which was launched Tuesday at the Kinabalu Hyatt Regency.

Bosuang said there are an estimated 400,000 species of beetles worldwide but in preoccupation with large animals such as elephants, orangutan etc, small insects which are rare, endemic and abound in Borneo are often forgotten.

Guest of honour and Board of Directors of Gardens By the Bay Singapore, Tan Jiew Hoe, agreed: “It is acknowledged that beetles have the most mind-boggling diversity within the insect world but grossly understudied hence long term research to study and catalogue previously unnamed species proceeds only slowly.”

As such, Tan said he was “not surprised” that Borneo, despite “its incredible biodiversity in plants and animals, has truly little documentation of its beetles.”

“The guide serves to describe the wonders of some of the most colourful and strangely shaped beetles, with simple descriptions, notes on habitat, ecology and distribution aimed at the layman,” Tan said.

Bosuang hailed Sabah in particular as site of one of the richest diversity of rare and endemic beetles in the world because of its high mountains, especially the Crocker Range, he said.

However, he underscored this happy book launch with a word on the usual wildlife scourge that “illegal insect trading in the State has become increasingly serious and poses a threat to the rare and endemic forms.”

He singled out three important and spectacular beetle family groups for highlight ” The Stag Beetles; The Flower Beetles and The Longhorned Beetle.

“The Stag Beetles are the most famous where the males are easily recognisable by their over-sized mandibles but mandibles of the females are very small.”

Of 140 species of Stag beetles recorded in Sabah and of the total recorded in Borneo, 70pc occur in Sabah and most of them are only active at night, seldom day time, he noted .

Beauty wise, The Flower Beetles, most of them metallic green, black and red, are easy winners, he added.

In contrast, 95% of the 120 species of The Flower Beetles found in Sabah are active during the day with a few species sporting very impressive long horns on the head and thorax.

The Longhorned Beetles are among the most multi-coloured beetles characterised by their long antennae 60pc of which are active in the day.

“In 1980, there were about 1,200 species recorded from Borneo 800 of which came from Sabah,” Bousang said.

The estimate is Borneo has 2,500 species and Sabah houses at least 2000 of them, many of which are endemic to the State, he said.

But the down side is that the Longhorned beetles are known to be “serious pests” of timber trees in Sabah.

On why it is important for the public to learn more about beetles and conserve them, the reason is many rare and endemic species are “losing their habitats while some are facing extinction,” he said.

by Kan Yaw Chong.

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Clearing of mangrove threatening proboscis monkeys

Thursday, March 2nd, 2017

KOTA KINABALU: A long-term conservation plan on Sabah’s iconic proboscis monkeys will have to address the primate’s habitat loss in the eastern and northern part of the state.

Wildlife experts agree that populations of proboscis monkeys were most threatened by habitat loss by the clearing of mangroves in east coast districts of Lahad Datu, Semporna and Tawau.

Research NGO Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC) Director Dr Benoit Goossens said similar habitat loss was also affecting proboscis monkey populations in northern Kudat, Pitas and Kota Belud districts.

“The action plan on the primates would also have to address other issues affecting them including illegal hunting,” he said yesterday.

DGFC and the Sabah Wildlife Department recently organised a three-day conference to get input from dozens of wildlife experts and researchers for the action plan on the primate.

Goossens said other concerns raised at the conference include populations of proboscis monkeys being disconnected.

“So an immediate measure is to ensure that their existing habitat is totally protected especially mangrove areas,” he added.

He said researchers also agreed on the need for a population survey of the primates in Sabah had been estimated to number about 6,000.

DGFC was collaborating with the department in drafting the action which was expected to be launched later this year.

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Wetlands restoration reduces effects of natural disasters

Monday, February 27th, 2017

KOTA KINABALU: The restoration of wetlands can reduce the effects of natural disasters, acting as natural protective barriers against extreme weather conditions such as storms, cyclones and floods, said conservationists marking World Wetlands Day.

President of the Sabah Wetlands Conservation Society (SWCS), Datuk Hj Zainie Abd Aucasa highlighted well-managed, healthy wetland ecosystems reduce risk from natural disasters while being a refuge for wildlife as well as providing food security for communities.

“Sadly, wetlands are often wrongly regarded as wastelands, and are being cleared to make way for development,” he said, noting the SWCS played a leading role in conservation initiatives through mangrove replanting efforts to rehabilitate degraded mangrove areas.

According to Zainie, development continue to pose a major threat to wetlands despite their value and importance, with some countries making the wrongful decision that poverty alleviation is more important than conservation and protecting the environment.

“They are wrong; both issues are equally important because they are linked and they forget that one of the root causes of poverty is environmental destruction,” he said, noting degraded ecosystems would be no longer be able to support life and threaten food security for communities.

In her officiating address, Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Environment, Hjh Mariam Omar Matusin noted the SCWS has played an instrumental role in spreading the message of conservation and protection of wetlands.

“I’d like to extend every success for the SWCS in its effort to protect wetlands by carrying out impactful on-the-ground programmes,” she said in her speech, delivered on behalf of the Ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Datuk Rosmadi Sulai.

Through its mission in the rehabilitation of wetlands, Hjh Mariam commended the NGO for its relentless efforts in forming a network among wetland protection agencies in the state as well as nationally while pushing for international recognition of KK Wetlands to continue its role as a model educational site.

With mangrove restoration and rehabilitation being the SWCS’ core activities, Zainie said the SWCS has successfully planted over 25,000 mangrove trees on the total area of 10.52 hectares provided by the Sabah Forestry Department (SFD) located in the Sulaman Lake Forest Reserve, within the last five years.

“With the success of the programme, SFD Director Datuk Sam Mannan has agreed to allocate an additional five acres for replanting of an additional 25,000 mangrove trees within the reserve under the programme which saw active participation of students from local and international universities as well as local schools.

This year’s programme held at the Kota Kinabalu Wetlands on Saturday featured various interactive activities and competitions which was participated by secondary students from surrounding schools in Kota Kinabalu, as well as volunteers from local universities and the SWCS.

During the fun-filled occasion, Hjh Mariam took the opportunity to present the top prize to champions of the video making competition toSMK La Salle, while runners-up goes to SMK Bahang , followed by SMK Peter Mojuntin in third place. The competition received submissions from more than 30 schools as well as individuals, with five shortlisted teams making it to the final round.


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Protecting proboscis monkeys

Thursday, February 23rd, 2017
Born to be wild: A collared male proboscis monkey being released in the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary.

Born to be wild: A collared male proboscis monkey being released in the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary.

KOTA KINABALU: Local and international experts are collaborating to come up with a plan to protect the proboscis monkey in Sabah.

Malaysian and international scientists, government agencies and industry players will congregate at the three-day Proboscis Monkey Workshop, which starts today, to draft a policy for the purpose.

The workshop is organised by the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC) and Sabah Wildlife Department.

DGFC director Dr Benoit Goossens said several experts would propose recommendations at the event for the primate’s conservation based on findings from an extensive five-year research on the endangered species.

A proboscis monkey action plan for Sabah would be drafted following the recommendations, he said.

“I hope the plan will be adopted by the state government to save the species endemic to Borneo, which is threatened by habitat loss and forest fragmentation in Sabah,” Dr Goossens said.

On the research, he said both the centre and department had collected crucial information on the primate’s population in Sabah, including data on demography, behaviour, genetics and health over the past five years.

Surveys were carried out on proboscis monkeys along several rivers such as the Kinabatangan, Segama, Klias and Sugut, with many blood samples collected for genetic analyses.

“Information on genetic isolation, lack of gene flow between populations, risks of inbreeding and extinction will be discussed during the workshop,” Dr Goossens said.

He said the workshop will see input from relevant stakeholders – government department officers, representatives from NGOs, tourism and palm oil industries, local communities, scientists and experts on proboscis monkeys – to formulate pragmatic solutions to preserve the proboscis monkey.

These researches were made possible with the support of Yayasan Sime Darby, which had committed RM3.96mil over six years since 2011.

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Freezing weather conditions

Thursday, February 9th, 2017

Ranau: Unusual cold weather conditions are sweeping areas here, especially Mount Kinabalu, freezing water in some places.

According to personnel on the mountain Wednesday morning, water in holes in the Low’s Peak area became frozen and formed ice of one-centimetre thick.

Members of the Auxiliary Force Mountain Search and Rescue (Mosar) said the temperature at Laban Rata at dawn was about 5 degrees Celsius.

It is believed that water in rock holes on the mountain became frozen between 2am and 4am during which the temperature was likely to fall to 0 degree Celsius.

Kinabalu Park Manager Yassin Miki said this is a rare occurrence but not the first.

“Actually, for those who have long served on Mount Kinabalu, they consider it as an ordinary occurrence.

Sometimes the temperature on the summit can reach below 0 degree Celsius,” he explained.

However, he said the frozen water scene in the open is an interesting phenomenon, especially when it occurs here in the Southeast Asian region which only has the hot and humid weather throughout the year.

What matters, said Yassin, is the experience and safety of Mount Kinabalu climbers as well as all personnel on the mountain, while reminding all those concerned to bring along suitable clothing to protect themselves from the unusual cold weather.

Ranau Fire and Rescue Department Chief Jimmy Lagung said despite the freezing weather conditions on Mount Kinabalu, Mosar members are always prepared for any eventuality.

“The cold temperatures can cause climbers to be exposed and vulnerable to hypothermia (extreme cold) if they don’t wear clothes that are adequate to regulate their body temperature.

“Our advice to all climbers is to always prioritise on safety, while enjoying the beauty of the mountain and also the unique natural event like what is happening at the moment.”

Meanwhile, the State Meteorological Department said Sabah is experiencing cold weather with some districts recording low temperatures of 15 to 21 degrees Celsius between 5am and 7am.

Its Director Azemi Daud said February is one of the coldest months in the country, including Sabah, due to the Northeast Monsoon which is expected to end in March.

He said Ranau recorded the lowest temperature of 15 degrees Celsius, followed by Keningau (16), Kudat (20) and Kota Kinabalu (21) on Wednesday.

by Clarence George Dol.

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Making a green impact

Monday, February 6th, 2017
Ecklyn says people do not realise that microplastics are just as dangerous as other plastics to the environment.

Ecklyn says people do not realise that microplastics are just as dangerous as other plastics to the environment.

Youths are empowered to exchange ideas, develop leadership capabilities and drive solutions for issues.

CLEANING up the mess left by others may be one way to save the environment, but Muhammad Adzmin Ab Fatta recognises there are more sustainable ways of getting the job done.

With Asean’s threatened mangroves on his mind, Muhammad Adzmin is bent on educating the public to stop causing harm to these fragile ecosystems in the first place.

Last December, he launched #Mangrove4U.

“It is one of the initiatives under the Project Rebuilding Asean Wall or simply known as Project RAW,” says the 23-year-old project leader from Semporna, Sabah.

Muhammad Adzmin chose Pulau Omadal, located off Semporna, on the eastern coast of Sabah, as the launch point for #Mangrove4U. He plans to replicate the project throughout Asean with the experience he gained from Pulau Omadal, populated mainly by the Bajau.

His vision for mangroves was given a huge boost when he was recognised as one of the few promising young leaders by the Young Southeasat Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI), a three-year-old effort by the American government.

The inspiration for #Mangrove4U came when he attended the YSEALI Generation Ocean Workshop in Jakarta last March.

There, he says, he realised how interconnected the mangroves are with the marine ecosystem, and how important it is to preserve them.

“They may look like other trees, but they are very unique and highly important in their own way. “Mangroves are the feeding, breeding, and nursery grounds of many different flora and fauna meaning they’re home to both marine and terrestrial wildlife,” he says, adding that mangroves are “coastal protectors”.

Children from the local Bajau community helping to plant mangrove seedlings together with YSEALI volunteers in Semporna.

Children from the local Bajau community helping to plant mangrove seedlings together with YSEALI volunteers in Semporna.

“It has been proven in some Southeast Asian countries that the presence of mangroves has reduced the impact of natural disasters such as typhoons and storm surges. Also, mangrove forests are the most efficient carbon sink compared to other vegetation,” he says.

He says this is because mangrove forests absorb and store a large amount of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, effectively making them key weapons in the war against global warming.

“Sadly mangroves are now in danger of extinction due to coastal and unsustainable development, aquaculture industry and human disturbance.”


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Elephant tusks believed from Sabah

Monday, January 23rd, 2017

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) has contacted the Indonesian CITES Management Authority about the elephants tusks that were taken from a woman in Nunukan, North Kalimantan a week ago.

The five pieces of tusks were believed to be from Sabah, a news portal reported.

SWD director Augustine Tuuga when commenting on the report said that the department did not know exactly where the tusks came from.

It can only be ascertained when statement from the person who carried them was taken by Indonesian wildlife authorities or DNA analysis can be done and compared to the specimens of the animals killed in Sabah, he said.

“We just pray that the Indonesian wildlife authorities will conduct a thorough investigation into the case.We already contacted the Indonesian CITES Management Authority regarding the matter through the assistance of Traffic Southeast Asia. We just wait for the outcome of their investigation. They may contact us if they need our assistance,” he added.

The online portal which quoted Indonesian press reports as saying that officials stopped a woman carrying five pieces of elephant tusks in Nunukan, North Kalimantan, a week ago.

Though the reports mentioned (country) Malaysia, the tusks are believed to be from Sabah.     Officials at the Customs, Immigration and Quarantine station at Nunukan let her go as her reason was that she did not own the items but was just entrusted to carry it.

The nationality of the woman was not disclosed but the tusks have been seized and sent to higher authorities in Tarakan.

KOMPAS, the Indonesian news portal that first published the report said the woman who was heading to Flores had said that the tusks were from Malaysia and that they were meant to be used as a dowry.

The tusks were found hidden in the woman’s bag as it passed through Indonesian Customs x-ray machine and Indonesian authorities valued the contraband at RM33,000 (or Rp 100 million).

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Conservationists: New road and bridge project will harm Sabah’s protected animals

Monday, January 16th, 2017
A group of elephants crossing a highway in Peninsular Malaysia. Similar conflicts will happen in Sukau area if a bridge and road are developed.

A group of elephants crossing a highway in Peninsular Malaysia. Similar conflicts will happen in Sukau area if a bridge and road are developed.

KOTA KINABALU: Conservationists fear that a second bridge over the Segama River in the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary will cause further harm to critically endangered animals there.

Indications are that construction of another bridge and road is under way near Sukau with some privately owned forested land being cleared for what researchers believe are the construction office and heavy equipment depot site.

Danau Girang Field Centre director Dr Benoit Goossens said he is distraught over the latest development.

He said the Kinabatangan was declared Sabah’s “Gift to the Earth” 17 years ago and the sanctuary was created in 2005 to increase forest connectivity along the Kinabatangan River.

“It was also to protect several species, such as the orang utan, the elephant and the proboscis monkey, and some of them have become iconic for attracting eco-tourists to the state,” Dr Goossens said.

He said the 2012-2016 action plan supported by the state government clearly state that any process that will further fragment the habitat of elephant and orang utan populations such as highways and bridges must be prevented.

“Therefore, the proposed bridge and road in Sukau are directly conflicting with the content of those two policy documents,” Dr Goossens said.

“For the past 12 months, we have clearly demonstrated with scientific facts and data that the bridge and the road will have a direct impact on wildlife populations,” he said.

“The new road and the bridge will cut off the last remaining uninhabited route for elephants near Sukau, which will have catastrophic consequences for both the animals and the people,” Dr Goossens said.


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Home / Sabah Local News Poachers turning to Sabah for ivory?

Monday, January 2nd, 2017

Kota Kinabalu: Killing elephants for their ivory is unheard of in Sabah who have previously been poisoned to death for being a “nuisance” in plantations or ended up dead after being stuck in a quarry pit at the most.

However, the grim discovery of a decapitated bull pygmy elephant in the vicinity of the Ulu Segama Forest reserve may be an indication that the world crackdown on the ivory trade lately is making poachers try their luck in Sabah.

It was learnt that a single shotgun was fired at a male jumbo at an oil palm plantation boundary next to the Ulu Segama Forest Reserve. Its trunk was chopped off, its head hacked and tusks had disappeared without a trace.

The latest killing field was a plantation road next the collapsed bridge of the Segama River, said Conservator of Forest, Datuk Sam Mannan.

“We got to know this through a tip off from the plantation owners.

“No question that this was the job of a professional hunter who came up most probably from the Segama River and executed a quick kill and quick get away by boat,” Mannan said, quoting the opinion of Sabah Wildlife Department personnel.

The Sabah pygmy elephant may have become another statistic in the estimated 35,000 elephants killed worldwide each year for their tusks which can weigh a maximum 250 pounds at a market price of US$1,500 per pound, raising more questions on how to stop the jumbo killing rampage fuelled by a highly lucrative illegal wildlife trade.

Many nations like Kenya have seized tonnes of ivory and destroyed them in bonfires and places like Hong Kong continue to intercept shipments of ivory.

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