LAHAD DATU: Surrounded by thousands of rainforest tree seedlings, students from Kolej Vokasional Lahad Datu were eager to explore and learn more about Malaysia’s rainforests in the environmental education gallery Tropical Rainforest Living Collection Merisuli (TRLC).
The gallery was established through a collaboration between Yayasan Sime Darby (YSD) and Tropical Rainforest Conservation and Research Centre (TRCRC).
TRLC Merisuli is TRCRC’s flagship conservation site that sets out to protect Malaysia’s endangered tree species by taking action on the ground to address biodiversity loss and restore rainforests.
The site was established in collaboration with Sabah Forestry Department, and currently holds over 15,000 saplings, mostly threatened tree species, grown from seeds TRCRC has collected to propagate and restore degraded forests.
Many tropical tree species in Malaysia face an elevated risk of extinction due to forest degradation, fragmentation and land use change.
This is particularly important for Borneo, which has the greatest proportion of threatened tree species in the tropics.
In Borneo, 191 tree species from the dipterocarp family have been assessed in collaboration with the International Union for Conservation of Nature and have found to be near threatened, vulnerable, endangered, critically endangered or extinct.
TRCRC rescues these endangered tree species, nurtures them in their Tropical Rainforest Living Collections and then uses the seedlings to restore Malaysia’s forests.
“Teaching our youth about the importance of forest conservation and how we can manage and restore our rainforests is vital, ” said Tropical Rainforest Conservation and Research Centre executive director Dr Dzaeman Dzulkifli.
“We are proud to have strong support from Sabah Forestry Department and Yayasan Sime Darby for our restoration commitment in Sabah and hope that others will also join in our effort to restore Malaysian rainforests.
“We hope that the gallery will serve as a focal point to educate the community, volunteers, and visitors about rainforest trees and what can be done to protect them.”
Present at the gallery’s opening ceremony was YSD chief executive officer Dr Yatela Zainal Abidin, who believed that the gallery will help to increase awareness of the many tree species in Malaysian rainforests, and the importance of biodiversity and environmental conservation.
“YSD also believes in building awareness towards sustainable environment conservation. We believe that by opening the doors of the TRLC Merisuli Environmental Education Gallery to the public, more visitors especially the youth, will be able to learn about the importance of preserving tropical rainforests and be inspired to play an active role in conservation work, ” she said.
YSD’s support for the TRLC Merisuli in collaboration with TRCRC is RM2.9mil for three years. The project which is fully funded by YSD focuses on preserving endangered, rare and threatened tree species; germinating, planting and stocking up of seedlings within the nursery; and improving the conservation capacity and awareness of stakeholders.
“YSD’s support also includes supporting 16 TRCRC project team members who are from the local communities in Merisuli, ” said Yatela.
YSD’s previous collaboration with the Sabah Forestry Department to reforest and rehabilitate 5,400ha of the northern Ulu Segama-Malua area, had also included collaboration with the local communities.
Since 2009, the foundation has committed more than RM153mil under its environment pillar, out of which RM90.5mil is for Sabah; towards the protection of high conservation value ecosystems, vulnerable and endangered species as well as initiatives promoting the preservation of the environment and biodiversity.