KOTA KINABALU: Increased protection should be accorded to the biodiversity-rich lower Kinaba-tangan in Sabah’s east coast by providing sufficient resources to the Forestry and Wildlife departments, says WWF-Malaysia chief executive Datuk Dionysius Sharma.
He said the incidents of poachers intruding into the protected area and starting fires there were worrying.
He said lower Kinabatangan was a sanctuary for Bornean orangutans, elephants and other wildlife.
Dionysius said reports of poachers starting fires came on the heels of the IUCN’s Red List recent upgrading of the Bornean orangutan from endangered to critically endangered status.
WWF-Malaysia will continue to work closely with enforcement agencies and other NGOs to call for better protection and management of the sanctuary, he said.
“We urge better coordination of the multi-stakeholder Kinabatangan Management Committee to ensure that the sanctuary is managed effectively,” Dionysius said.
He said a huge amount of time and money had been spent by many groups to conserve Kinabatangan’s biodiversity.
There is still more that needs to be done to ensure that wildlife, forest, and people in Kinabatangan can exist in harmony and benefit each other, he said.
Everybody loses if decades of hard work and dedication goes up in smoke, he added.
Forestry Department director Datuk Sam Mannan said poachers destroyed about 100ha of forest in the area after starting a fire to cook a deer they had hunted.
The fire began late Tuesday around Lot 2 of the sanctuary and spread to parts of Lot 1 before firemen including rangers from the forestry and other departments took steps to douse the fire aided by a heavy downpour on Thursday.
Mannan said most of the areas damaged were a mix of peat, swamp and mangrove forests between Sukau and Abai.
The fire also damaged almost 2ha of the Trusan Kinabatangan Forest reserve that borders the sanctuary.
Sabah Wildlife Department deputy director Augustine Tuuga said the proboscis monkeys and other animals in the area were not harmed by the fire, since most of them had fled.