Malaysia: More reasons to protect Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary forests

STEPHANIE LEE The Star 22 Aug 16;

KOTA KINABALU: Researchers have found more reasons for the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary forests, where a proposal for a road and bridge has met with protests, to be preserved.

Meaghan Evans, a PhD student at Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC) and lead author of the paper Small Carnivore Conservation, said the finding that there were 16 different mammalian carnivore species existing within the fragmented forests of the sanctuary was incredible.

“It also demonstrates the importance of even small forests in the persistence of rich biodiversity.

“We are especially excited to see the presence of a breeding population of otter civets - this represents a new locality for the species and suggests that the sanctuary may act as a species reservoir,” she said.

“We suspect that despite the large amount of industrial oil palm plantations within the floodplains, these blocks of protected forests might actually offset the immediate danger those landscapes represent to sensitive species such as the flat-headed cat or the otter civet,” added Evans.

DGFC director Dr Benoit Goosens said the study clearly showed that the lower Kinabatangan was a critical area for biodiversity.

The proposed project for a road and bridge in nearby Sukau, he added, would surely disturb this already precarious environment and increase the isolation of animal populations, which could ultimately lead to the extinction of some species.

“Kinabatangan is one of the last nature jewels of the state and the only hope of a corridor of forests to link the mangroves of the east coast to central forest reserves such as Segaliud Lokan, Deramakot, Tang­kulap, Malua, Ulu Segama and Kuamut,” he said.

A bridge, warned Dr Goosens, would certainly put into danger this corridor of life, which would instead become a “corridor of death”.

Conservationists have campaigned against the bridge and road project over the Kinabatangan river near Kampung Sukau.

Sabah Wildlife Department senior officer Soffian Abu Bakar said the sanctuary comprised 10 forest lots, most of which were degraded and isolated from other forest tracts.

Using camera traps, researchers had collected nearly 420,000 photos of wildlife throughout the study, representing the most extensive and longest running effort in the region, he said.

Some of the species found in the area were the Sunda clouded leopard, the Malayan sun bear and a host of incredibly understudied small carnivore species, he said.

The study, which also documented the endangered otter civet – a species considered to be sensitive to habitat quality – is supported by the Sime Darby Foundation and Houston Zoo.

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