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UCSF study on wildlife roadkill

24th November, 2020

KOTA KINABALU: Roads across key habitat areas pose risks to wildlife species and University College Sabah Foundation (UCSF) is conducting a study to understand the problem.

Explaining the background of the study, Lawrence Alan Bansa, a lecturer in the Faculty of Natural Science and Sustainability of UCSF, said roadkills are a sign of imbalance between development and the natural ecology.

“Our work seeks to inform road development projects to avoid the problem. Infrastructure development without considering natural heritage increases the likelihood of Sabah’s already fragile environment degrading further and could jeopardise the state’s reputation as a premier ecotourism destination”, he said yesterday.

The UCSF study comprises road surveys in Telupid (56km), Kinabatangan (20km), Kalabakan (106km), Sook (30km) and Crocker Range (26km) to identify critical areas where the roads bisect forested areas.

The preliminary study places special focus on stretches of roads known to have frequent roadkills.

For example, in the existing Ranau-Sandakan and Kalabakan-Keningau trunk roads that bisect Ulu Payau Forest Reserve and Sg Sumagas Forest Reserve, respectively, roadkills involved species such as Malayan civets, snakes, and white-breasted waterhen.

And, in roads bisecting human settlement areas, however, roadkills comprised common and domestic species such as monitor lizards, cats and dogs.

The current Pan Borneo Highway’s planned new alignment for the Telupid section runs through 30km of Bornean elephant range, including their usual path through Tawai Class 1 Protection Forest Reserve.

Lawrence said this may result in an endless stream of high-profile harrowing incidents in which people and elephants are harmed on the road – potentially generating global criticism and impacting the ecotourism industry.

“In Sabah, the elephant is endangered and totally protected under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997,” said Cynthia Ong, chief executive facilitator of Forever Sabah Institute (FSI), a partner in the research initiative.

She said the Bornean Elephant Action Plan for Sabah (2020-2029) stated that fencing the forest reserves to retain elephant herds was not an option since fencing would worsen the current fragmentation situation and the fencing cost would be prohibitive.

“If the planned alignment through Tawai Forest Reserve is constructed, business owners operating along the existing road and the Telupid town are concerned the number of visitors may diminish.

“This is evidenced by the current socio-economic lackluster in Tanjung Malim, Bidor and Bagan Serai in the peninsula where the PLUS Highway bypasses the previously vibrant towns,” she said.

Cynthia said instead of building a new road through the Tawai Forest Reserve, some locals felt that improving the existing road may be a better option.

“There is a need to review and identify an option which can deliver optimal socio-economic benefits and prevent major wildlife-vehicle collision risks,” she said.

The research findings will be presented by the researchers in a public youth forum entitled “Envisioning Green Infrastructure Development for a Sustainable Future” From Nov 23-26 via the Zoom webinar platform.

Additionally, philosophical and futuristic visions will also be presented by other research teams from various faculties in UCSF to suggest how infrastructure can be friendly to wildlife and people of Sabah.

Information on the public youth forum can be viewed at https://www.facebook.com/humanshabitatshighways

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