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Friday December 12, 2008

Marine museum offers a glimpse into the South China and Sulu seas

FOR many years, the waters off Sabah have been known for their rich and diverse marine life making the state a divers haven and seafood paradise.

Now, visitors at a corner of the Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) campus overlooking Likas Bay can have a glimpse of the treasures of the South China and Sulu seas flanking the state.

Amazing sights: A sea urchin and other marine life on display.

This corner is the UMS Aquarium and Marine Museum, part of the university’s Borneo Marine Research Institute.

Visitors are greeted by a replica of a dive site in Sabah’s internationally- renowned diving precinct, Pulau Sipadan.

Inside the aquarium area, visitors encounter three free-standing tanks with more than 50 species of Bornean reef corals.

Exotic: Sponges and other marine creatures on exhibit.

Some of Sabah’s sea-horse species add dimension to the aquarium, as they glide through sea grass.

A major attraction is the three tanks showcasing marine life at different underwater levels.

In a shallow-reef exhibit are uniquely shaped and coloured fishes such as the copper band butterfly fish, squirrel fish, parrot fish, wrasses, damsel, surgeon fish and green turtles.

A grouper measuring more than 1m is the main attraction in the deep-reef exhibit.

Marine relic: The skeleton of the Cuvier’s Baked Whale.

The fish does not shy away and appears to welcome visitors by swimming close to the glass.

An underwater cavern houses several giant grouper while reflecting their natural habitat.

By emphasising this highly-prized fish, the management hopes to motivate interest in the species while discouraging destructive fishing like fish bombing and poisoning.

A side door at the aquarium leading to a staircase and landing gives visitors the opportunity to see what mangrove trees look like up close.

A plant known scientifically as Rhizophora spp helps protect coastal areas from erosion, recycles nutrients, removes toxic substances from water and controls sedimentation.

Vibrant colours: A coral reef on display at the UMS aquarium and museum in Kota Kinabalu recently

An eye-catching exhibit is a 4.43m skeleton of a Cuvier’s Beaked Whale.

The whale’s carcass was discovered by villagers at the Mimpian Jadi beach in Tuaran in 1997.

Marine scientists believe it was the first time such a whale was recorded in Malaysian waters.

The museum also has exhibits showcasing ongoing works under­taken by the UMS Borneo Marine Research Unit in areas like aqua­culture, oceanography, marine biotechnology, marine conservation and sustainable management of marine resources.

Call 088-320 000 ext 23621 or email bmru@ums.edu.myetails for details on the aquarium and marine museum.

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