Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Wildlife Conservation: Wildlife Conservation Top Priority for Sarawak Government

Source: Asia Newswire

The Government of Sarawak is intensifying wildlife conservation and protection activities as part of its commitment to sustainable development. It is implementing major development plans throughout Sarawak that will create jobs, improve basic infrastructure and create a high income economy by 2030. In doing so, it has pledged to follow sustainable development policies and responsibly manage Sarawak's resources for future generations.

Chief Minister Taib Mahmud said: "We must plan our development in a sustainable manner, to ensure that the prosperity of the State will not only be sustained but can be handed down to our children and grand-children."

In the last few years, the Government of Sarawak has ramped up its conservation efforts and has taken significant steps to ensure that the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE) project, which will see the development of five major growth nodes stretching 320km, will have as minimum an impact as possible on the state's biodiversity.

For example, a programme was put in place to save the flora and fauna affected by the construction of the Bakun Hydro Electric Dam. A total of 349 species of flora, 65 species of fauna, 27 mammals and 38 bird species were identified and relocated to higher ground. There is now a conservation programme in place in the Bakun Dam catchment area and it is anticipated that the growth in eco-tourism will provide economic opportunities for local communities.

Other programmes include the Heart 2 Heart orang-utan campaign which invites the public to get involved with orang-utan conservation; orang-utan and turtle adoption; protection of the dugong (a large marine mammal) and the Irrawaddy dolphin, which are both endangered species; and the Reef Ball project that will rehabilitate Sarawak's ocean ecosystem by placing artificial reef modules in the sea to form new habitats. Reef balls have also proven their effectiveness in protecting turtles in Sarawak. In the early 1990s, between 70 to 100 turtle deaths were reported every year. Now, the number of deaths has been reduced significantly to less than 15 reported cases. Reef balls also protect traditional fishing areas and are used to create recreational diving sites.

The government has also received RM 605,000 (US$192,000) from companies and organisations within Malaysia and abroad to ensure the success of these conservation projects.

Sarawak has one of the most extensively protected environments in Malaysia. The State has 22 national parks, four wildlife sanctuaries and five nature reserves covering a total of 710,884 hectares. The orang-utan population lives within totally protected areas at Lanjak-Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary and Batang Ai National Park. These two sanctuaries cover approximately 250,000 hectares, amounting to more than three times the size of Singapore.