Tuesday, January 22, 2008


Conservation needs huge funds


Funds are always in need, especially when environmental conservation is concerned. WWF-Malaysia Chief Technical Officer Dr Rahimatsah Amat in stressing this said it is a never ending issue and need every individual’s attention all the time. “It is what keeps us employed. .A new (enyironmental-related) problem will emerge even before we could solve the earlier one ... it is a cycle. For instance, we need at least RM6 million to do forest restoration for just 50 hectares of land, and it is not easy to raise such big amount of funds,” he said. Speaking to media representatives during a luncheon dubbed ‘An Afternoon with WWF-Malaysia’ here yesterday, Rahimatsah said similar problem is faced with other conservation programmes concerning wildlife and marine. “Efforts are being made to save our rhinos whose numbers are in a worrying state. At least RM2O million is needed to protect the Sumatran Rhinoceros, which include to track them down in the forest, to bring them out and to keep them in a big area, which needs to be monitored at all times to avoid poachers from poaching them. “All this is cost and needs huge funds,” he reiterated. Rahimatsah in sharing their experience, disclosed that their first project was to gazette the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park in 1974. “It only cost about RM3,000 and a year to get the area gazetted. Today, it would take us millions and over 20 years to gazette an area. We need to tell the Government why this place is important and should be gazetted the scale has gone up, therefore, when it comes to conservation, we need to have an open cheque,” he said. During the briefing, Rahimatsah said since WWF-Malaysia sat foot in Sabah, they have many success stories to tell and various conservation programmes were implemented, which include the Borneo Species Programme (BSP). He explained that the research on Borneo Pygmy Elephants, Sumatran Rhinoceros and Orang Utan is carried out under BSP that covers the whole Borneon land area. The newly-formed programme will begin work by focusing on the three large terrestrial mammals found on the island, where WWF-Malaysia will run the BSP from its office here and work directly with the Sabah Wildlife Department and other stakeholders. Previously, the Sabah Orang-Utan Rhinoceros Elephants Landscape (SOREL) project managed the species work of the WWF-Malaysia in Sabah. “The time is now right to start the BSP, which cross cuts the Kinabatangan - Corridor of Life and the trans-boundary heart of Borneo. Before, SOREL limited our work in Sabah,” said Rahimatsah. He disclosed that work on the three mammals started in 1979 with the ‘Faunal Survey of Sabah’ conducted by WWF-Malaysia which confirmed that the habitats of the three animals are threatened by forest loss and land development. Currently, a total of 11 pygmy elephants have been collared with tracking devices since three years back for scientific studies and the satellite tracking data has had huge influence on land use planning, particularly at Ulu Segama Malua. Since the WWF-Malaysia’s orang-utan work is in partnership with the Government and nongovernmental organisations, work on the near extinct Sumatran rhinos get additional support from the private sector such as Hinda Malaysia.
“Today, WWF-Malaysia was tasked to lead in the preparation of management plan for rhino conservation in Sabah,” said Rahimatsah. There is an estimated of 25-20 rhinos left in Sabah and work is currently being planned to find out whether a rhino population exists in Sarawak as they did thousands of years ago. The method used in Sabah has been successful with infrared camera traps generating never before seen images and footages of the Sumatran rhino and WWF-Malaysia hopes to apply the same concept in Sarawak. WWF-Malaysia Borneo Programme’s species work is supported by WWF-Netherlands, WWF-UK, WWF-Germany and WWF-US, US Fish and Wildlife Service. Rahimatsah said Sabah is indeed fortunate that the global WWF network pays huge attention to Borneo. “We believe that we have the resources to expand our work to our neighbouring Sarawak soon,”he added. WWF-Malaysia chairman Datuk Tengku D Z Adlin, who also attended the briefing, stressed that conservation need not be too expensive if the people understand the importance of preserving the environment. “If we have enough awareness among the people and everybody plays a role in preserving and conserving the environment, there will be no destruction and we need not spend much to maintain the environment. “If we manage the forest properly, there is no need to clean up. I am glad that the Government, the corporate sector and individuals are showing interest in conserving the environment. The only thing is to get all this people to work together for the good of the environment and for the future,” said Adlin, who is also the Sabah Tourism Board chairman.