KOTA KINABALU: Efforts are underway to set up a corridor teeming with wildlife in Sabah’s east coast Lahad Datu district.
In a concerted effort to enhance biodiversity conservation and promote ecological connectivity within the Tabin Landscape, WWF-Malaysia and plantation company Kuala Lumpur Kepong (KLK) have joined hands for this project to connect the Tabin Wildlife Reserve (WR) and the isolated Silabukan Forest Reserve (FR).
Tabin WR, nestled amidst oil palm plantations, is home to the largest population of orangutans in the eastern lowlands, with a population of approximately 1,200.
This corridor stands as a lifeline for species’ movements, facilitating connectivity with the adjacent Silabukan FR, which shelters a small, isolated orangutan population.
WWF-Malaysia head of conservation (Sabah) Dr Robecca Jumin said the initiative by KLK sets a new precedent in corporate responsibility.
“We hope this will spur more movements within the palm oil industry to follow suit, recognising the importance of biodiversity and habitat restoration,” she said in a statement here on Friday (Sept 29).
She added the company's involvement in this project demonstrates the living landscapes approach and activity beyond certification in the instance of a private company reserving land for a wildlife corridor in Sabah.
KLK Sabah senior general manager Dinakaran Madhavan noted that conservation and preserving biodiversity were key priority areas in the company's sustainability commitments.
“Among others, we continue pledging to no new development on peat and adopting the approach of high conservation value and high carbon stock.
“Through these efforts, we hope to create a sustainable ecosystem that would ensure the survival of wildlife and maintain life-supporting systems essential to the ecological process,” he said.
Recent surveys by WWF-Malaysia underscore Tabin's immense conservation importance, showcasing the remarkable regeneration of an area once heavily logged for timber.
Additionally, it serves as a sanctuary for other Bornean endemic species, including Bornean elephants (350), Banteng (50), and Sunda clouded leopards (40).
The five-year project was formally inaugurated with a tree planting ceremony at Ladang Bukit Tabin on Tuesday (Sept 26) following a memorandum of agreement (MoA) signed in June 2023.
A symbolic gesture of planting over 300 tree seedlings marked the beginning of a five-year project to establish the physical wildlife corridor.
This initial phase will prioritise planting fast-growing native pioneer species and fig-plant to improve the food source for wildlife.
In addition to co-funding the initiative, KLK also dedicated 7.1ha of oil palm land and will continue to maintain the planted area.
Funded by Beiersdorf AG, a German multinational company that manufactures personal-care products, this project improves the restoration activities under the WWF-Malaysia Sabah Landscapes Programme to enhance connectivity and improve wildlife corridor establishment.