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Published: Sunday May 25, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Sunday May 25, 2014 MYT 2:12:19 PM

RM1.2mil knowledge headhouse and propagation facility opens at biodiversity centre

KUCHING: A “Traditional Knowledge Head-house and Propagation” facility, built at a cost of RM1.2mil over 14 months, has opened at the Sarawak Biodiversity Centre (SBC).

Officially launched yesterday, it was built to house more types of plants collected from various locations throughout Sarawak, which require specialised care.

“Under the traditional knowledge documentation programme, communities have indicated to researchers that useful plants are becoming scarce,” said a statement from the centre.

The facility comprises several main components, including propagation, mist and fog rooms. Plants can be produced in bulk quicker and with consistency for research and development purposes. Scientific equipment is installed for plants to acclimatise.

“The mist room has an automated sprinkler system, which is important for carrying out experimental propagation of potential useful plants.

“The fog room has very high humidity at between 80% and 90%. When humidity reduces, water vapour is automatically released. All these facilities are important in the propagation of plants sensitive to their environments,” the statement added.

SBC acting chief executive Dr Yeo Tiong Chia, who is also the chief scientist, said the new facility was designed to mimic the rainforest.

“The roof was designed and built as a series of staggered layers, which imitate the canopies of trees in rainforests.

“It is airy inside, although it is warm and humid. Sunlight can pass through because the roof is transparent,” Yeo explained at the launching ceremony, held in conjunction with SBC’s “Island Biodiversity Day”.

Among key SBC research is on silvestrol, a compound derived from the Aglaia tree that grows in Sarawak.

Yeo said the tree is among plants to be housed within the new facility.

“It will also host plants unique to Sarawak that are fragrant, which we hope one day will be used in perfumes and personal care products,” Yeo added.

On a related note, under the traditional knowledge programme, a seminar was held between scientists and elder tribesmen from rural villages recently.

Yeo said the community leaders were briefed on SBC’s research, while the community leaders were asked to list the top three most used plants in their villages.

Tags / Keywords: Environment, East Malaysia, Sarawak Biodiversity Centre, plants, traditional knowledge

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