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SOS Rhino : In the News : Smart wildlife protection move

Smart wildlife protection move

  15 September, 2004
Sabah, Malaysia

Lahad Datu: The proposal to gazette about 3,000 hectares of the Lower Segama area into a Wildlife Conservation Area (WCA) is likely to become a reality soon - thanks to encouraging response from the various stakeholders there.

All the stakeholders, residents in the three villages involved (Kg Dagat, Kg Parit and Kg Tidong), developers, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and government agencies met to discuss the matter for the first time Saturday, since the idea was mooted two years ago.

They gathered at the "Integrating Local Community, Developers and Government Agencies in Protecting The Important Wildlife Habitat at Lower Segama Area" held at Tomanggong Club House, Tomanggong.

The workshop was the third organised for the same purpose by Habitat Management Component (HMC) and Public Awareness Component of the Bornean Biodiversity and Ecosystems Conservation (BBEC).

Its Director, Mahedi Andau @ Patrick, who chaired the HMC of BBEC, said the proposal was made under the Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997.

"Under the enactment, there are three categories of areas we can gazette, of which one is a wildlife sanctuary (highly protected area), conservation area (where the area can still be used for related development like eco-tourism) and protected hunting reserve.

"The move to gazette the said area as a WCA was based on a finding made in the study conducted last year showing it was a habitat for endangered wildlife animals like wild buffaloes (tembadau) and elephants," he said.

Therefore, the department had taken an initiative to gazette the area for the purpose of wildlife conservation, but not as a totally protected or strictly no-entry area "because we also have to take into account the stakeholders who are present in and around the proposed WCA concerned.

"These are especially the villagers from the three villages near the proposed WCA who we know depend on the natural resources in the surrounding forest for their daily needs.

"We will allow the stakeholders to continue using the natural resources in the proposed WCA but in a permanently controlled or sustainable utilisation manner."

We want to turn the proposed WCA as a permanent habitat for especially the said endangered wildlife animals. This will assist our department in ensuring we have a sufficient area for large wildlife animals like elephants to have free access between the existing wildlife forest reserves on the left and right sides of the Lower Segama river, said Mahedi.

There were two main purposes for the proposed WCA, the first of which is to use it as a corridor for these animals to go between the two wildlife forest reserves located on both sides of the Lower Segama.

Secondly, to facilitate the development of eco-tourism that involves especially the villagers (one of the stakeholders) and enable them to use the available natural forest resources in a sustainable manner.

"If you see at the National Parks, there are signs put up saying ‘take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints’ which we think is wrong.

"I think people should be allowed to use the gazetted area," said Mahedi. "We are also now in the process of identifying areas which we can gazette as a hunting reserve area for the surrounding local community.

"The villagers need to hunt for wildlife and use the wood inside the conservation area for building, particularly boats, to enable them to go to the sea to catch fish.

"What is important is that they can rely on each other and not abuse the privilege given to them."

Mahedi said the Department of Environment (DOE) could also play their role by working with the Wildlife Department to ensure no industries like palm oil mills are set up in areas which are protected.

It can also assist in terms enforcement by controlling the level of disposals by existing mills that are located near the protected area, he added.

Also present were BBEC Programme Chief Advisor, Takahisa Kusano, Japanese International Corporation Agency (JICA) Advisor on Habitat Management, Dr Toshinori Tsubouchi, and SOS Rhino Borneo Programme Officer, Dr Edwin Bosi, among others.

Kusano said he was quite happy as it was the first time all the stakeholders managed to gather and discuss the proposal.

"Conservation is not only meant for the purpose of protecting the wildlife but also for the benefit of all in the long term," he said.

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