Saturday, 12 June 2010

'Right of way' for wildlife

'Right of way' for wildlife

Published on: Saturday, June 12, 2010

Tuaran: State Culture, Tourism and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun pledged to seriously push in the State Cabinet for the reconnection of fragmented forests deemed high value wildlife habitats.

"This is to make sure conservation works in Sabah, the most critical component is to reconnect the fragmented wildlife corridors," he said, when closing the two-day workshop on Species Action Plans for Orang-Utan, Elephant and Rhinoceros at Rasa Ria resort in Dalit Bay, Friday.

"The time to do it is now while we have all the experts here helping us because the window of opportunities may not come knocking at our door again," Masidi said.

"This is the challenge now. Even with a 55 per cent forest cover, we cannot conserve if we cannot reconnect the fragmented forests that are spread all over and without the forests and our iconic wildlife, tourists have no reason to come to Sabah," he told participants of the workshop organised by the Wildlife Department, the Bornean Rhino Alliance (Bora), Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC), French NGO Hutan and WWF-Malaysia.

He said the present wildlife predicament is a legacy of a spate of land alienation in the 1980s and 90s to meet a desire for fast development, especially in agriculture, as it emerged as the biggest revenue earner.

In the process, everyone "overlooked" the need to maintain animal corridors.

"The suggestion of creating a 500m riverine buffer in wildlife-rich areas is a good idea. We'll take it as a guideline but where to get it, I would like to think it will be donated by the planters. I know forcing is bad so we would like to give them ownership of the programme out of a desire and love to do it," said Masidi.

However, the Government will make sure all moves are politically correct as well. "We don't want to decide and create legal problems," he said.

Asked what if voluntary donations are not forthcoming, Masidi said that the Sabah Land Ordinance provides for riparian reserves, the only problem being it was not enforced.

"I don't think 500m is too much to ask for because we are talking about elephants which are big and need wider land to move and migrate from one place to another," he said. Masidi said the first line of action is to reconnect the fragmented forests but a time frame is needed to monitor its progress.

"The Action plans must ensure quantifiable progress," said Masidi who said he would not agree with the contention that anything green like oil palm plantation be called forest, no more than calling a green carpet a forest.

"All areas which are habitats of the Orang Utan, Elephant and Rhinoceros need to be kept under natural forest cover," he said.

"We need to create as much awareness as possible because we want to make sure that the Action Plans really work. If there are no more forests, there'll be no reason for the tourists to come to Sabah," Masidi stressed.