KOTA KINABALU: Sabah is expanding a protected forest near Mount Kinabalu to ensure the survival of a butterfly species that can only be found in the area.
Assistant Minister in the Chief Minister’s Department Datuk Elron Angin said the 1,243ha Bukit Hampuan forest reserve was expanded by another 26.3ha for this purpose.
“The area in question has high conservation value,” he told the State Legislative Assembly sitting here.
Tabling a Bill to amend the Forests (Constitution of Forest Reserves and Amendment) Enactment 1984, he said Bukit Hampuan was a a habitat for a butterfly species that were endemic to the area located about 3km from Ranau town.
Portions of Bukit Hampuan were excised as a forest reserve to make way for copper and gold mining operation in Mamut between 1975 and 1999.
Since then, the Sabah Forestry Department had sought to expand the forest reserve which state Chief Conservator of Forest Datuk Sam Mannan had described as among the richest in the world in terms of plant diversity.
Meanwhile, Elron said Bukit Hampuan was among the additional 5,066ha of forests that the state wanted to protect due to their high conservation value that include being water catchment areas.
He said another 32,509ha of Class II or commercial forest reserve and wetland areas would also be reclassified as Class l protected areas.
Elron said the amendment would see portions of five forest reserves to be removed as protected areas as these had been too degraded or were part of land exchange deals.
Among the affected areas was some 1,446ha of the Sugut forest reserve in the east coast Beluran district.
Elron said the land removed from the forest reserve would be handed over to individuals in exchange for their titled properties that were being converted into forest corridors to enable wildlife to move from one area to another.