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Foster bonds with wildlife

7th November, 2019

LONDON: The UK-Sabah relationship dates way back to the days of British North Borneo (now Sabah), say Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Christina Liew.

“We even went through war together with some 600 British Prisoners of War (POWs) who perished on the infamous Sandakan to Ranau Death March 74 years ago.

“But not all is grey and gloom. We have had other great success stories which we have shared in recent years.

Notably, Sir David Attenborough (an English natural historian who had visited Sabah to do documentaries), who needs no introduction, had done great justice in portraying Sabah’s rich flora and fauna to the world,” she said at “An Evening with the Honourable Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment” here on Monday.

Liew hosted the dinner reception with the theme “Celebrating Sabah’s Natural and Cultural Biodiversity” at Hyatt Regency London – The Churchill in conjunction with the World Travel Market (WTM) London 2019, which ended on Wednesday.

The 30-odd guests comprised conservationists, naturalists, wildlife experts, presenters and owners of tour operators from the UK.

Present were the Director of Tourism Malaysia London, Mohd Shahrir Mohd Ali, George Jessel (great grandson of Sir Charles Jessel who founded Jesselton (now Kota Kinabalu), and representatives from Sabah’s tour operators participating in the WTM London under the auspices of Sabah Tourism Board (STB), namely Borneo Eco Tours, Borneo Nature Tours and Borneo Beyond Adventure.

The Minister also paid tribute to English TV presenter Kate Humble, who specialises in wildlife programmes, for documenting her trip to Sabah, and Dame Judi Dench (a renowned Oscar-winning British actress, who turns 85 this year) for a two-part series on her Wild Borneo Adventure.

Dench visited Sabah in April this year to film a documentary on the Danum Valley Conservation Area as part of her crusade to help save Borneo’s rainforest and its endangered species. She adopted three orang utans during her visit, which reportedly left her speechless.

Saying the Orang Utan UK Appeal has been a great companion to Sabah at the Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre in Sandakan since 2000, she said: “We thank you for the exchange of knowledge and also your immense contribution in helping us preserve the endangered Orang Utan.”

Liew said the State Government has conferred the title of Datuk on the Founder cum Chairperson of Orang Utan UK Appeal, Susan Sheward in recognition of her great work in raising funds for the protection and rescue of endangered wildlife in Sabah.

Orang Utan UK is a charity dedicated to the rehabilitation and preservation of orang utans, and conservation of their habitat.

In addition, Cardiff University’s students based in the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC), Kinabatangan, are also contributing great information on their field research.

Meanwhile, the Minister said the Sabah Government has reached a milestone through the formulation of wildlife-related policies such as the 10-year Elephant Conservation Action Plan (2020-2030) to prevent extinction of the Borneo Pygmy elephant.

“For instance, a pangolin sanctuary to be established within the protected Tawau Hills Park, is set to become Sabah’s new wildlife tourist attraction,” she said.

According to Liew, Tawau was picked as a suitable location for the pangolin sanctuary because it has a vast forest. “It will be a suitable place for pangolins because there’s plenty of food supply there such as insects (termites and ants),” she explained, adding that with a proper sanctuary, more effective and efficient conservation efforts will be made.

The occasion was an opportunity to promote Sabah books such as “Curry Leaves” compiled by the wife of Sabah Chief Minister, Datin Seri Shuryani Shuaib, “Wild Sabah” produced by wildlife expert Datuk Dr Junaidi Payne and “Opogi – The Bornean Crocodile” authored by journalist Jaswinder Kaur Kler. Liew presented copies of these books to all guests.

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