26th November, 2008
KINABATANGAN: Nature lovers in Malaysia, especially those in Sabah have welcomed the announcement that the Lower Kinabatangan-Segama Wetlands have been recognized as a Ramsar site.
The recognition is significant, as the wetlands comprise rarely-found coastal mangrove swamps and peat jungles.
This recent development would add impetus for efforts on conserving the world’s almost extinct animal species like the Sumatran rhinocerous, proboscis monkey and pygmy elephants.
The recognition was announced at the 10th conference of the Ramsar Convention signatories on wetlands held at Changwon, South Korea last Oct 28. Ramsar Convention Deputy Secretary General Dr Nick Davidson presented the certificate of recognition to Sabah Biodiversity Centre (BSC) Director Abdul Fatah Amir.
Any wetlands that obtained the recognition would be able to obtain assistance from the Ramsar Fund for implementation of biodiversity conservation programmes.
The Ramsar Convention is an informal name accorded on the convention on wetlands that have international significance, particularly concerning habitats of water fowls.
The Ramsar Secretariat shares its headquarters with the World Conservation Union in Gland, Switzerland.
For the SBC, that took shape only last May, the recognition accorded on the Lower Kinabatangan-Segama Wetlands as a Ramsar site is the agency’s maiden experience towards implementing biodiversity conservation programmes in Sabah.
According to Abdul Fatah, the SBC was established under the Sabah Biodiversity Council as a result of the Borneo Biodiversity and Ecosystems Conservation Programme II that involved the collaboration between the Sabah government and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
He said SBC played a significant role in moving and coordinating the operations of agencies in Sabah in the biodiversity conservation aspect.
According to Abdul Fatah, the primary objective behind the setting up of the SBC was to work towards achieving the Ramsar recognition for the Lower Kinabatangan-Segama wetlands.
“This had been achieved”, he said.
“We have planned several biodiversity programmes at this Ramsar site including that on managing, developing information system and formulating rules and regulations in this area,” he said.
He said achieving the Ramsar recognition for the Lower Kinabatangan-Segama Wetlands was a momentous moment as the wetlands comprises coastal mangrove swamps and peat jungles rarely found in the world.
“It is also the home of almost extinct wildlife like the Sumatran rhinocerous, Borneo pygmy elephant and proboscis monkey”, he told Bernama during a media visit to the wetlands recently.
During the visit, journalists were taken in a boat ride along the Kinabatangan River to view the biodiversity there.
He said the Lower Kinabatangan-Segama Wetlands was the first Ramsar site in Sabah and the biggest in Malaysia.
The area is Malaysia’s sixth Ramsar site. It spreads over more than 78,803 hectares (ha) of peat jungles and mangrove swamps at the east coast of Sabah.
The Lower Kinabatangan-Segama Wetlands has three forest reserves—Trusan Kinabatangan Reserve Forest (40,471 ha), Kulamba Wildlife Forest Reserve (20,682ha) and Kuala Maruap-Kuala Segama Forest Reserve (17,650ha).
Hence, the Lower Kinabatangan-Segama Wetlands was significantly larger than the other five Ramsar locations in Malaysia that measure a total of 55,355 ha, he said.
The other Ramsar sites in Malaysia are the Taman Negara Wetlands Kuching (Sarawak), Pulau Kukup (Johor), Sungai Pulai (Johor), Tanjung Piai (Johor) and Tasek Bera in Pahang.
The recognition of the Lower Kinabatangan-Segama Wetlands as a Ramsar site is good news to the residents who stay in areas fringing the jungles there.
Among the villages located near this location are Kampung Abai, Kampung Sri Ganda, Kampung Mumiang, Kampung Tidung and Kampung Dagat.
The headman for Kampung Abai, Jamal Ingeu, 58, said the new status of the wetlands would augur well for the conservation and protection of the coastal mangrove and peat jungles and the wildlife habitat there.
He said the wildlife at the wetlands was important, as it is an attraction for tourists and nature lovers.
The tourists came to view closely the Borneo pygmy elephants, proboscis monkey and Orang Utan.
“This is also good for villagers like us who are fishermen and who depend on the mangrove swamps and rivers at the wetlands in this newly-declared Ramsar site”, Jamal told Bernama.
He said the wetlands provided the fishermen with crabs, fish and prawns enabling them to earn a living.
There are some 200 people in this village, the majority of them being fishermen.
Jamal also said the villagers should refrain from chopping down trees in the wetlands to make the traps and snares for the aquatic life there.
They should be using traps made from plastics instead of wood, he added.
Kampung Mumiang headman, Basrah Putrah, 60, said the Ramsar recognition accorded on the mangrove jungles near the village enables stricter enforcement by the authorities to curb encroachment and illegal felling of trees in the area.
“Mangrove jungles at this Ramsar site have to be protected for the conservation of the fish crab and prawn habitats.
“This is important as the fishermen here are depending on this area for their livelihood,” he said, adding that the village has a population of some 400, most of them fishermen.