KOTA KINABALU, July 15 — Sabah said today it wants to expedite its Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Conservation blueprint in order to reduce human-wildlife conflict in the resource rich east coast area.
Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Christina Liew said that the proposed wildlife food corridor within the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary — covering an area of 27,000 hectares of forest — will become a reality soon.
“It’s high time to take affirmative action. We have to start planting food for the wildlife now. We cannot afford to delay.
“The Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary is a great natural asset and an ecotourism hotspot that needs to be protected and conserved for tourism operators, the local community and for posterity,” she said in a statement here.
She said the plan needs to be put into place to reduce the increasing human-elephant conflict that has caused an alarming number of elephant deaths in the state in recent years.
“With the Wildlife Food Corridor in place, it will prevent elephants from encroaching into the oil-palm plantations and destroying the crops,” she said.
Liew, who is also Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment, said the blueprint will be longer than the 10-Year State Elephant Action Plan (from 2020-2029) which was approved by the state government in February this year, and will also encompass conservation of the orangutan, proboscis monkey and other species of animals.
The blueprint will also incorporate a bigger role for non-governmental organisations (NGOs) like the Kinabatangan-Corridor of Life Tourism Operator Association (KiTA) and WWF-Malaysia.
“We will be seeking the active participation of relevant NGOs in growing a variety of food in the Wildlife Food Corridor, for example, Napier grass and figs for elephants and bananas for the orangutans,” she said.
The Ministry’s Permanent Secretary Jamili Nais said that the first draft of the blueprint will be ready by early September this year, with input from Sabah Wildlife Department director Augustine Tuuga.
In 2005, the Lower Kinabatangan region was gazetted as a wildlife sanctuary under Section 9 of the Sabah Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997. The wildlife-rich region is grounds for the “Borneo Big Five”, namely Borneo pygmy elephant, orang-utan, proboscis monkey, rhinoceros hornbill and the crocodile.
Tourism receipts for the Kinabatangan destination surpassed RM100 million per year before the movement control order (MCO).
Meanwhile, Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) president Datuk Tan Kok Liang and KiTA chairman Alexander Yee warned against the negative environmental impact of the proposed second Sukau Bridge.
“Inevitably, it will kill the ecotourism industry in Sabah. The bridge will restrict the movement of elephants, while the orangutan habitat in the area will vanish. If that happens, no tourists will want to come to Sabah to visit the wildlife sanctuary,” they said during a meeting with Liew.
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