KOTA KINABALU: Efforts are underway to establish a corridor in a key area teeming with wildlife in Sabah’s 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 Bhd (KLK) have joined hands for this critical wildlife corridor to connect the Tabin Wildlife Reserve (WR) and the isolated Silabukan Forest Reserve (FR).
Nestled amidst oil palm plantations, Tabin WR is home to the largest population of orang utan in the eastern lowlands, with approximately 1,200 individuals.
This corridor stands as a lifeline for species’ movements by facilitating connectivity with the adjacent Silabukan FR, which shelters a small and isolated orang utan population.
WWF-Malaysia head of conservation for Sabah Dr Robecca Jumin said the significant 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 yesterday.
She added KLK’s involvement in this project demonstrates the living landscapes approach in Sabah and activity beyond certification in the instance of a private company reserving land for a wildlife corridor.
KLK Sabah senior general manager Dinakaran Madhavan noted that conservation and preserving biodiversity were key priority areas in KLK’s sustainability commitments.
“Among others, we continue to pledge to no new development on peat, as well as using the approach of high conservation value (HCV) and high carbon stock (HCS).
“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.
“We cannot achieve this alone and we are honoured to work alongside partners like WWF-Malaysia towards the common goal,” 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 Thursday following a memorandum of agreement (MoA) signed in June.
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 trees as a 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 that manufactures personal-care products like Nivea, this project improves restoration activities under the WWF-Malaysia Sabah Landscapes Programme to enhance connectivity and improve wildlife corridor establishment in Sabah.
This transformative partnership represents a significant stride, not just in safeguarding Sabah’s diverse biodiversity, but also as a testament to what is achievable through the living landscapes approach – a holistic approach to conservation that integrates the three key elements of protecting, producing, and restoring.