The Sabah Government announces a major expansion to protected forests in the Heart of Borneo
Good news from the field, the Sabah Government announced on the 24 August 2012 to further extend a network of fully protected forests in Sabah. The area extends to the east and west of Danum Valley Conservation Area and provides ‘corridor linkage’ to the nearby conservation areas of Maliau Basin and Imbak Canyon – all three areas currently being considered for World Heritage listing.
Sam Mannan, the Director of the Sabah Forestry Department, also declared that a further 183,000 hectares (700 sq.mile) of forest that are part of the Heart of Borneo (HoB) region zoned for logging concessions, will be re-gazetted as protected areas.
The new protected forests will help conserve precious biodiversity and the natural habitats of endangered species such as orangutans, pygmy elephants, Bornean clouded leopards and Sumatran rhinos.
“This re-gazettement will serve to secure habitat for Malaysia’s largest orangutan population, as well as for a wide range of biological diversity,” Marc Ancrenaz, Scientific Director of Hutan-Kinabatangan Orangutan Conservation Program, said in a statement.
This directive will link new conservation areas that will include all of the remaining forests of the Ulu Segama Forest Reserve to the east of Danum and a large fraction of the Gunung Rara Forest Reserve, which links Danum, Maliau and Imbak.
The Danum Valley on its eastern fringes will be buffered by totally protected forests, and in particular, the biologically rich Ulu Segama Forest Reserve (127,890 hectares ) which can no longer be logged now or in the future because of legislative protection .
At the same time, Northern Gunung Rara (55,000 hectares), which forms a vital wildlife buffer from Maliau Basin / Imbak Canyon to Danum Valley will also be accorded full protection.
The agreement now secures, under total protection, an unbroken swathe of forest that stretches for some 120 km from Mount Silam in the east to Maliau Basin in the west and covers a total area of over 450,000 hectares – and which includes more than 150,000 hectares of pristine forests.
The move boosts Sabah's protected areas to 1.3 million hectares, about 18 percent of its total land area. Oil palm plantations, a major driver of forest conversion in Sabah since the mid-1980s, cover about 1.4 million hectares across the state.