KOTA KINABALU: Conservationists fear that a second bridge over the Segama River in the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary will cause further harm to the critically endangered animals there.
Indications of the pending construction of another bridge near Sukau include some privately-owned forested land being cleared, for what researchers believe is a site for the construction office and heavy equipment depot.
Kinabatangan was made Sabah’s Gift to the Earth 17 years ago and in 2005, the sanctuary was created to increase forest connectivity along the Kinabatangan River, said Danau Girang Field Centre director Dr Benoit Goossens.
“It was also to protect several charismatic species such as the orang utan, the elephant and the proboscis monkey, some of them becoming iconic species attracting eco-tourists to the state,” he said.
The Danau Girang Field Centre conducts research and training on tropical biodiversity. It is managed by Cardiff University and Sabah Wildlife Department.
Dr Benoit said the Elephant and Orangutan State Action Plans 2012-16 clearly states that any process that will further fragment the habitat of elephant and orang utan population such as highways and bridges must be prevented.
“For the past 12 months, we have clearly demonstrated with scientific facts and data that the bridge and the road would have a direct impact on wildlife populations, especially elephants, orang utan and proboscis monkeys,” he said.
The new road that would subsequently follow 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, added Goossens.
He said the construction of the road and bridge would lead to major human-wildlife conflicts and deaths such as elephant attacks on people and elephants shot or poisoned.
“Moreover, it will be easier for poachers to enter protected forests in search of ivory,” he said.
Sukau State Assemblyman Datuk Saddi Abdul Rahman said the RM69mil bridge and road project would include the construction of a 1,000m wide viaduct to enable wildlife to move from one area to another under the structure.