Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Heart of Borneo needs extra monitoring

Heart of Borneo needs extra monitoring

Published on: Tuesday, June 30, 2009 Daily Express, Malaysia


Kota Kinabalu: WWF-Malaysia's Borneo Species Programme team has captured images of a female Sumatran rhino believed about 20 years old in the Heart of Borneo, further strengthening the need to sustainably manage the forest in this part of the region that is shared by Indonesia, Brunei and Malaysia.

Raymond Alfred, Senior Manager of the programme, stressed the importance of strong and coordinated enforcement in the forest reserves involving the Forestry Department, Wildlife Department and Sabah Foundation, with the support of the police, to ensure the survival of this endangered species.

The current enforcement and survey work in this area is supported by Honda Malaysia. Consistent monitoring of the rhino population here has so far identified the presence of two rhino calves.

Raymond said the future of the rhinos in Borneo now depends on how serious the forest reserves could be managed sustainably and how the enforcement and monitoring could be carried out effectively and be supported with appropriate activities.

WWF-Malaysia is now looking into how Forest Management Units (FMUs) could be sustainably managed since the forest stand and condition in most of the FMUs in Sabah are poor.

He said based on long-term field survey data, the rhino monitoring and survey activities in other forests by the programme shows that the home range of the rhinos is also affected by oil palm expansion near the eastern coastline of Sabah.

Raymond said the rhinos' key habitat in this forest may still or could be connected especially between the Tabin Willdife Reserve and Lower Kinabatangan River region.

Some of the rhino habitat in this area is very poor and already isolated, and the only option to manage these rhinos is through translocation and keeping them in a more secured forest area.

"Further conversion of the natural forests especially those located adjacent to swamp-mangrove forests in this area into mono plantation (particularly oil palm) would further eliminate the important corridor connecting these two key rhino areas," he said.

"So far, no specific management plan has been developed to address the issue of how the landscape corridor between Tabin Wildlife Reserve and Lower Kinabatangan River region could be identified and maintained since Tabin is already isolated from the main forest in the Heart of Borneo," he added.

WWF-Malaysia believes that full support and cooperation from the relevant oil palm companies (whose lands are adjacent to the swamp-mangrove forest) to allocate and restore corridors including tackling the illegal setting up wildlife traps along the oil palm-forest boundary and hunting activities in the forest reserves could support the survival of the rhinos in Sabah in long term.

Meanwhile, more than RM500,000 has been contributed to the State Wildlife Department by WWF-Malaysia to step up and enhance conservation work at the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary.

From this amount, more than RM100,000 would go to equipment used for patrolling and enforcement work against encroachment and illegal activities within the sanctuary's protected area covering 26,000 hectares.

On Monday, the WWF handed over patrolling and enforcement equipment comprising two fibreglass boats, four sets of VHF Radio Communication Centre and Reapter, computers and GPS units to the department at its office here.

The WWF enforcement team has been working closely with the wildlife officers for the past three years by patrolling together to protect the sanctuary from encroachers who regularly venture into these areas to extract logs, clear land for illegal planting activities as well as hunting.

"There has been tremendous success thus far," said team leader for WWF's Kinabatangan Corridor of Life (K-Col) Project, Julia Makajil.

"There is a very visible presence of enforcement in the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary area, the level of which was previously unseen," she added.

WWF aim to address problems like degradation of the riverine eco-system resulting in habitat fragmentation, human-wildlife conflict, excess sedimentation and flooding due to over logging and development of agriculture plantations, mainly oil palm.

To see the article with a photo and map please click this link