Archive for the ‘Environmental Education’ Category

Landmark science project to expand Sabah’s forests

Sunday, April 23rd, 2017

CAMBRIDGE (United Kingdom): The Sabah Forestry Department has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the South East Asia Rainforest Research Partnership (SEARRP), launching a landmark project that will harness world-class science to support the Sabah State Government’s target of increasing protected area coverage to 30% of Sabah’s land area by 2025.

More than 60 scientists from leading universities in the UK, Europe, USA, Australia and Malaysia witnessed the MoU signing held at the Cambridge Conservation Initiative’s David Attenborough Building.

Speaking at the opening of this strategic meeting on the science of tropical rainforest research, Chief Conservator of Forests Datuk Sam Mannan emphasized how forest conservation is a major priority for the State Government of Sabah.

“Over the past 20 years, we have worked to increase the extent of protected forests in Sabah by a factor of 5 to almost 1.9 million hectares today. This is equivalent to 26% of the State’s land area, surpassing even the IUCN and CBD’s Aichi targets” he said.

“I am pleased to confirm that the Sabah Government is committed to increasing the extent of protected forests from the current 26% to 30% of land area by 2025. This will involve the protection of an additional c. 1 million acres of rainforest in Sabah.

“The locations of these new protected areas have yet to be identified. This is the work that lies ahead of us,” he added.

The MoU marks the launch of a landmark science project supported by the Rainforest Trust and based on a strategic partnership between the Sabah Forestry Department, SEARRP, the Carnegie Institution for Science, PACOS Trust and BC Initiative.

Leading the coordination of this project, Dr Glen Reynolds, Director of SEARRP, explained that “between now and 2020, the project will generate maps of forest carbon, biodiversity and functional composition that will be integrated with archived and new field observations including narrow-range endemic trees, and state-of-the-art meta-population models that identify critical habitat connections for range-shifting species.”

The project will also consider other species, including those that provide important ecosystem services such as pollination and dispersal to ensure the efficacy of forest protection over time, especially resilience to climate change.

“Integrating the livelihood requirements of forest-dependent communities will be a vital consideration in the selection of new protected areas. Led by our partners PACOS Trust and BC Initiative, the project will consult with local communities and stakeholders to generate cost-benefit options and reach consensus on an optimal scenario for rainforest protection,” Dr Reynolds added.

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More calls for shark hunting ban after photo of fins on jetty surfaces.

Saturday, April 22nd, 2017
Inhumane act: A fisherman laying out shark fins and tails at the Semporna jetty in Sabah.

Inhumane act: A fisherman laying out shark fins and tails at the Semporna jetty in Sabah.

KOTA KINABALU: Yet another picture has emerged of shark hunting and finning in Sabah, known as a dive paradise for its idyllic islands.

The Danau Girang Field Centre has put up a picture of rows of shark fins being laid out to dry on a jetty in the state’s east coast of Semporna.

The picture, which has triggered dismay and shock among netizens, is stirring up fresh calls for a total ban on shark hunting in the state.

Many have expressed anger and disappointment that it is still legal to hunt sharks in Sabah.

Anti-shark hunting and finning activist Aderick Chong said it was shocking to see so many fins laid out openly in the district that was home to one of the world’s top diving spots.

“Some sharks can be hunted but there should be a ban on hunting certain species like the hammerhead and the stingray,” said Chong, who is heading the Sabah Shark Protection Association.

“(But then) if the state government only bans the capture and killing of certain types of sharks, it will be difficult to identify which species the fins belong to,” he said.

The fishermen, said Chong, claimed that the sharks sold at the markets were from their catch that was part of their livelihood and not hunted.

“(But) why do they need to fin the fish and sell the body separately? This clearly shows that the shark fin trade is real and continues to exist in Sabah,” he said.

Chong said although there were some positive moves during a public consultation for the inclusion of several sharks and stingray species in Sabah’s protection list, this would be pointless if there were no strict rules.

“Sharks will disappear from our seas.

“As it is, sharks are already so hard to find in our dive sites,” he said.

In July last year, pictures of sharks being finned and slaughtered in the diving haven of Pulau Mabul near Sipadan went viral on the Internet.

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Borneo’s unique lanternflies feature through book

Friday, April 21st, 2017

KOTA KINABALU: A Guide to the Lanternflies of Borneo, a 127-page book launched recently, puts the spotlight on some of Borneo’s most elegant, attractive and often brilliantly coloured lanternflies.

“The lanternflies, known to be one of the most ornate and extravagant species of the insect kingdom will be featured in this book in high quality photographs of 31 species and 3 subspecies of Lanternflies in Borneo,” said Managing Director of Natural History Publications (Borneo) Datuk C.L Chan at the launch held at Hyatt Regency here, on Wednesday.

The beautifully-illustrated book written by Dr Steven Bosuang, a senior author and Proprietor of Kipandi Park, with two French co-authors, Cederic Audibert and Thierry Porion, was officially launched by Guest of Honour Tan Jiew Hoe, who is the Director of the Board of Gardens By The Bay Singapore.

“Hailing from the insect family Fulgoridae, lanternflies are moderate to large sized insects, and are represented by some of the most spectacular plant hoppers and this book features Borneo’s 31 species and 3 subspecies which also includes one newly discovered taxon, Samsana Chesioniana Borneana from Sabah,” said Chan.

According to Chan, at least 20 species of lanternflies are found only in Borneo, which represents 63 per cent of the species.

“Lanternflies, characteristic of their longish snout, found throughout the year, are weak flyers and active during the day, they are general sap-feeders and doesn’t seem to be host-specific,” he said. On the other hand, the species bright display of colours – red, orange and blue serves as a vivid warning of their bitter taste to potential predators such as frogs, snakes, birds and small mamals.


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Struggles of our sea turtles

Sunday, April 16th, 2017

FOR DISCUSSION: Describe what you would do if you found a turtle that needed help.

BLINK. Blink. After a deep, peaceful sleep, he must have felt like he’d just woken up to a circus. Surrounding his temporary home in the bright blue plastic tray are curious humans, pushing at each other to have a closer look. He must have been glad to be hidden under the matching blue blanket as he thought about his escape.

The young Hawksbill turtle, the star attraction on this pleasant morning, is due to be released into the sea after having spent several days at the Gaya Island Resort’s Marine Conservation Centre. He’d found himself trapped in a fisherman’s bubu (fish trap) and was brought here by the fishermen for further action.

The Hawksbill, considered by many to be the most beautiful of all sea turtle species for their colourful shells, is a critically endangered species. Their population has dropped more than 80 per cent in the last century, due to the trade in their exquisite carapace (shell), also known as “tortoiseshell”.

The star Hawksbill regally climbs out of his sanctuary and onto the warmth of the soft sand.

Waiting across from him in the warm, shallow grey-green water, is the resort’s marine biologist Scott Mayback. Zig-zagging his way across the sand, the Hawksbill finally reached his destination, as the waves caress his body, and float him further away from the shore.

“Stay safe, little one,” I mumbled to myself, as I feel my eyes tearing up.

Gaya Island is set within the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, a group of five islands surrounded by corals off the coast of Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. The Marine Centre is situated on Tavajun Bay, reachable either by a five-minute boat ride from Gaya Island Resort’s jetty or through a 45-minute trek.

The centre was set up in 2013 and has since then, rescued, treated and cared for numerous endangered green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) and one critically endangered Hawksbill (Eretmochelysimbricata).

Outside the turtle rescue centre is a 14,000-litre recovery tank for housing sick or injured sea turtles. This recovery tank also holds a coral nursery that will be used to breed coral fragments to be returned to the sea, and help rejuvenate and improve the natural reefs.

Mayback, the 39-year-old New Yorker in charge of YTL’s marine conservation efforts at Gaya Island Resort grew up in Long Island, USA. A graduate in marine biology from the University of Oregon, he travelled to Central America where he got his diver’s licence before coming over to Sabah.

“I fell in love with the reefs and decided that I wanted to be somewhere where I could do this all the time,” said Mayback.

The Marine Centre, shares Mayback, plays its part in the protection of sea turtles by rescuing and rehabilitating injured or sick sea turtles, and is the first of its kind in the country. This project was initiated with research results showing six out of seven species of sea turtles are endangered or critically endangered worldwide.

Why? Due to fishing, over-development, pollution, or turtles getting stuck, caught accidentally by fishermen or becoming sick or injured.

“Malaysia has been doing turtle conservation for 50 years but the focus has mostly been on hatchlings — eggs, nesting etc. But not much has been done for adult turtles or injured juveniles,” said Mayback.

Through the course of his work here, Mayback said that he has seen everything, from turtles with fractured skulls as a result of being hit by a boat, to those with fractured shells, and others that are so sick that they can’t even dive down into the water.

Before ending the interview, I ask Mayback for a “take-home” message. His immediate reply was: “Every single piece of plastic you drop, whether you live in the city or high up in the mountains, will eventually find its way into the ocean. And what do you think will happen?

“Just do this simple thing. If you have plastic, dispose of them properly.

by Intan Maizura Ahmad Kamal.

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House built with 3,500 plastic bottle waste

Saturday, April 8th, 2017

Sandakan: Based on the concept of using recycled materials, a lodge operator in Pulau Libaran near here built a house using 3,500 plastic bottles (pic).

The waste was collected from the island beach in the past three years under the lodge company’s beach cleaning programme. The programme is aimed at encouraging turtle landings on the island following the opening of a turtle hatchery, an initiative of the tour company, Trekkers Lodge Sdn Bhd.

Its Managing Director Alexander Yee said it took five weeks to build the gallery with the waste materials.

“One-litre plastic water containers were used as the wall and fence of the gallery,” Yee, who is also Friends of Sea Turtles Research and Education (Foster) President, said here.

According to him, the gallery now served as an information centre on turtle conservation and awareness programme carried out in Pulau Sibaran.

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Sultan Nazrin laments over-commercialisation of nature tourism.

Tuesday, April 4th, 2017
Sultan Nazrin delivering his speech during the opening ceremony at the Perak state assembly in Ipoh. Also present is Raja Permaisuri Perak Tuanku Zara Salim. SAIFUL BAHRI/The Star

Sultan Nazrin delivering his speech during the opening ceremony at the Perak state assembly in Ipoh. Also present is Raja Permaisuri Perak Tuanku Zara Salim. SAIFUL BAHRI/The Star

IPOH: The Sultan of Perak, Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah, has expressed concern that nature tourism activities are being damaged by over-commercialisation.

Citing the example of the state park in Pulau Sembilan, which is famous for the bioluminescent phytoplankton, he said the beauty of the place is under threat by irresponsible operators who fail to respect the rules and restrictions imposed by the authorities.

Therefore, he said the state government decided to officially close the island to visitors until stricter rules are drafted to protect the ecosystem and bio-diversity in the area.

“The same goes for the Ubudiah mosque in Kuala Kangsar, which is listed as among the top five most beautiful and fabulous mosques in the world. Its authenticity must be protected as part of heritage.

“The mosque must not be altered in the name of expansion that would destroy its beauty,” Sultan Nazrin said when opening the fifth session of the 13th Perak State Legislative Assembly at the state secretariat building.

He said that development must be balanced between the needs of the people and the environment.

“Schools are the best institutions to instil awareness to cherish, and conserve the environment,” he added.

Sultan Nazrin also said that an average of 33,000 tonnes of solid waste is disposed daily, accumulating to some 12,000,000 tonne a year.

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Sun Bear Conservation Centre impresses US Ambassador

Sunday, April 2nd, 2017

Wong (left) and Kamala (right) briefing the schoolchildren at the Borneo Sun Bear Conservation Centre, yesterday

SANDAKAN: United State Ambassador to Malaysia, Kamala Shirin Lakhdir who visited the Borneo Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) in Sepilok, here praised the impressive work of rehabilitating the endangered sun bear species.

Kamala was amazed to see the enthusiasm shown by Dr Wong Siew Te, the founder of BSBCC along with his team in setting up this kind of rehabilitation for protection and conservation of the Malayan sun bear.

“I’ve been here in Malaysia for approximately two months. I came to see the amazing work of Sabah Wildlife, Sabah Forestry and the impressive work of Dr Wong to rehabilitate the sun bear and educate people that sun bears are not pets.

“As we saw, the sun bear cub needs to be feed every three hours. Their commitment in nurturing the cubs to keep them alive is impressive.

“However, I was informed that sun bears are killed for their claws and gall bladder, and such event is devastating for the people of Sabah and certainly will affect the biodiversity and the forest here,” she said to reporters after visiting the BSBCC, yesterday.

Kamala said the US embassy particularly the American people are happy to help and support the conservation effort, educational program and protection works carried out by the Sabah people.

“It is important to educate the people of Sabah especially the younger generation on the importance of conservation and wildlife.

“Therefore, it is really inspiring to see the passion of the people here who go beyond the ordinary job by putting conservation as their passion. It is wonderful to see the commitment of these people and their hope to achieve results that will benefit Sabah,” she added.

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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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