KOTA KINABALU: Conservationists fear that a second bridge over the Segama River in the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary will cause further harm to critically endangered animals there.
Indications are that construction of another bridge and road is under way near Sukau with some privately owned forested land being cleared for what researchers believe are the construction office and heavy equipment depot site.
Danau Girang Field Centre director Dr Benoit Goossens said he is distraught over the latest development.
He said the Kinabatangan was declared Sabah’s “Gift to the Earth” 17 years ago and the sanctuary was created in 2005 to increase forest connectivity along the Kinabatangan River.
“It was also to protect several species, such as the orang utan, the elephant and the proboscis monkey, and some of them have become iconic for attracting eco-tourists to the state,” Dr Goossens said.
He said the 2012-2016 action plan supported by the state government clearly state that any process that will further fragment the habitat of elephant and orang utan populations such as highways and bridges must be prevented.
“Therefore, the proposed bridge and road in Sukau are directly conflicting with the content of those two policy documents,” Dr Goossens said.
“For the past 12 months, we have clearly demonstrated with scientific facts and data that the bridge and the road will have a direct impact on wildlife populations," he said.
“The new road and the bridge will cut off the last remaining uninhabited route for elephants near Sukau, which will have catastrophic consequences for both the animals and the people,” Dr Goossens said.
He also said that the road and bridge will make it easier for poachers to enter protected forests, especially those in search of ivory.
“We just lost three bull elephants to poachers. Can we decently increase the pressure on the elephant population in Sabah?” he said.
Sukau assemblyman Datuk Saddi Abdul Rahman said the RM69mil bridge and road project will include the construction of a 1km-wide viaduct to enable wildlife to move from one area to another under the structure.