Malaysia: Sabah government should release rhino conservation funds - Musa Hitam

STEPHANIE LEE The Star 8 Dec 16;

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah government should release federal funds meant for the conservation of the state's Sumatran Rhinos soon, said Sime Darby Foundation chairman Tun Musa Hitam.

Musa said that RM11.9mil was supposed to reach its target group early this year, adding that the funds seem to have been halted for reasons that were unclear.

The RM11.9 mil from the Federal Government is meant to support Advanced Reproductive Technology (ART) to keep the rhinos from going extinct.

"There seems to be a halt in the disbursement of the funds to the relevant bodies,” he said during a field trip to the Ulu Segama forest reserve in Lahad Datu on Wednesday.

Musa said that before the announcement of the funding, the Foundation had been supporting programmes to help protect and rehabilitate rhinos in Sabah since 2009.

He added that the Foundation had ceased funding in July 2016 but resumed funding conservation efforts when they were told that the funds had yet to arrive.

Musa added that there were signs that rhinos were still living in the wild in the Danum Valley conservation area and said that various efforts have been drawn up to prevent their extinction.

“I am not sure where the problem is as we were told that the funding had already been released to the Sabah government,” he said.

Musa said that he hoped the funds would allow the Borneo Rhino Sanctuary programme to continue.

The Borneo Rhino Sanctuary programme is under the care of the Borneo Rhino Alliance (BORA).

“We also hope that the three rhinos under BORA - Puntung, Iman and Kertam - will remain under BORA’s diligent care as the survival of the species depends on it,” he said.

Musa also said that the Foundation would continue replanting trees in the Bukit Piton forest reserve in Ulu Segama, Lahad Datu as the 10-year reforestation project is set to come to an end next year.

He added that he was very surprised and amazed to know that their efforts were paying off as orangutans were returning and making the forest reserve their home with nests seen in many areas.

"We partnered with the Sabah Forestry Department and Sime Darby Plantation to reforest 5,400 hectares of forest reserve, with RM25mil committed by our foundations towards the project over a period of 10 years," Musa said.

He added that the tree planting is scheduled for completion by 2017, and said this would be followed by maintenance of the planted trees until the end of 2018.

A total of 4, 724 hectares of degraded forest has been reforested with 350, 000 seedlings of various trees.

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