It's Time to Give Back – The Amazing Kinabatangan!
By: Fredinand P. Lobinsu
“Your application as a Programme Assistant under Forest Rehabilitation Work at Matarop Area Project, in Kinabatangan is successful. Congratulations!”
That day in June 2005 was the happiest moment in my life. I have been accepted to work with WWF-Malaysia, after six months of job-hunting since my graduation.
I grew up in the highland area. I am used to waterfalls, small streams, small fruit farms, hilly areas, and the Dusun language. I had mixed feelings – nervous, excited, sad – as I will be in a different environment, people and expectations. This marked the beginning of my life as a conservationist.
In October 2005, I went on my first field trip. It was a long two-hour car drive and throughout the journey on poor conditioned roads, my supervisor kept sharing stories about tiger, leeches, crocodiles, “jamban atas air”, and flood occurences in Kinabatangan. We finally reached one of the villages in Kinabatangan at 10.00pm. I was so tired and I was wondering to myself then: “What have I gotten myself into?”
However, the next morning was amazing!!! The sound of wildlife, birds, Bornean Gibbons, macaques, insects and most of all, elephants and orangutans made me feel so connected with them. I was so amazed with the scenery and the sound of nature which captured my heart. “I’m so going to like this place”, I whispered to myself.
The Kinabatangan River (Sungai Kinabatangan) is located in Sabah, eastern Malaysia. It is the second longest river in Malaysia, running 560 kilometers from its headwaters in the mountains of southwest Sabah, to its outlet at the Sulu Sea, east of Sandakan.
Kinabatangan is known for its remarkable wildlife and fascinating habitats such as limestone cave and limestone forest, dry land dipterocarp forest riverine forest, freshwater swamp forest, Oxbow lakes and salty mangrove swamp forest near the coast.
It is also home to more than 250 species of birds and the only place that is home to 11 primates. This includes the Bornean Elephant, Clouded Leopard and the rare Sumatran Rhino. It has a vast biodiversity and it is said to be the only forested flood plain area. (almost like Amazon in Brazil!!) In addition, the local settlement that lives there has a mixed culture of Orang Sungai (River People).
Despite the vast biodiversity in Kinabatangan, it’s actually a small strip of forest that has been fragmented due to unorganized agriculture planning and massive land exploration causing damage to the wildlife movement such as the Bornean Elephants and especially the orangutans. The fragmentation of the forest also led to human-wildlife conflict. I once witnessed an elephant entering an oil palm plantation. Can’t fault it as its pathway was blocked by an oil palm plantation.
WWF- Malaysia effort!
WWF-Malaysia has embarked on a tree planting programme to reconnect the fragmented forests for wildlife movement and to enhance the habitat quality for orangutans and all the other wildlife. Besides that, the programme aims to create awareness for the Kinabatangan community that their area is rich in biodiversity and worth every saving effort.
It’s time to give back! To be part of us, sign up as a WWF-Malaysia KAWAN at: www.org.my
Fredinand P. Lobinsu is the Forest Restoration Officer.
WWF-Malaysia (Sabah Office)