Malaysia: Sabah ‘conservation area will be four times Penang island size’

RUBEN SARIO The Star 26 Nov 16;

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah is piecing together a conservation area that will eventually become a key biodiversity zone about four times the size of Penang island.

State Forestry Department director Datuk Sam Mannan said the Kuamut Forest Reserve would be expanded by 14,000ha as part of efforts to realise this massive conservation area that was an important habitat for orang utan and other wildlife.

“It is like piecing together the parts of a jigsaw puzzle. It will eventually be assembled,” he said yesterday.

On Thursday, the Sabah state assembly passed an amendment to the Forests (Constitution of Forest Reserves and Amendment) Enactment 1984.

The amendment, tabled by Assistant Minister in the Chief Minister’s Department Datuk Ellron Angin, will see Class 1 totally protected forest reserves being increased from 1.26 million hectares to 1.35 million hectares.

The area for Class VI virgin jungle reserves has also been increased from over 106,000ha to more than 107,000ha as well as wildlife forest reserves from nearly 138,000ha to over 139,000ha.

However, the amendment will also provide for the removal of over 19,400ha of land from the existing forest reserves.

The department, said Mannan, was assembling a complex of protected areas comprising Kuamut, Ulu Segama, Dermakot and Segaliud Lokan forest reserves as well as the existing Maliau Basin and Danum Valley conservation zones.

The addition of areas, he said, was aimed at protecting water catchment areas in Sabah’s interior Keningau and Tambunan districts.

“We did this at the request of the villagers who wanted to ensure water supply to areas was sustainable by protecting the forests around them,” he said.

While some of the areas to be added had been logged about 20 to 30 years ago, these had since been regenerated, such as that in the northern Kota Belud district, said Mannan.

The removal of over 19,400ha, he said, was to correct some anomalies such as village land gazetted in the past as forest reserves.

“Some of the affected land were also titled properties and we had to remove these from the forest reserves,” he added.