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Yayasan Sabah’s small steps, big results
Published on: Saturday, March 25, 2017

Second of a series
FOR decades, the rainforests are home to a multitude of flora and fauna. Millions of species take refuge in the towering trees, making a world of their own.

A natural reservoir, rainforests are our strongest ally in combating natural crises.

It is only right to protect its richness in biodiversity and give a chance for the next generation to appreciate its beauty.

According to Yayasan Sabah Director Datuk Sapawi bin Haji Ahmad:

“Yayasan Sabah Group, an organisation that aims to uplift the quality of life of Malaysians living in Sabah besides being an advocator of conservation, sets aside five conservation areas namely Danum Valley, Maliau Basin, Imbak Canyon, Silam Coast and Taliwas River to be preserved.”

Imbak Canyon Conservation Area (ICCA), situated north of Maliau Basin, is about 30,000ha, encompassing a sweeping 25km-long valley, probably the largest contiguous pristine lowland dipterocarp forest left in Sabah, flanked by high sandstone ridges. At their highest point, the ridges exceed 1,000m with the highest reaching 1,120m. Numerous scenic waterfalls are found in Imbak Canyon.

Sharing the uniqueness of ICCA, Sapawi said, “The area is rich in flora and fauna, including medicinal plants.

Imbak Canyon is an important botanical gene-bank for conservation and future forest rehabilitation.

As a pristine forest, it also forms a vital component in the biodiversity corridor linking Maliau Basin to the south and Danum Valley to the east, as well as the headwater for Sabah’s longest river, the Kinabatangan.”

He added, “Imbak Canyon differs from Danum Valley and Maliau Basin in that there are communities living adjacent to the Canyon with the nearest village, Kg Inarad about 20km away from ICCA.

Most of the communities are of Dusun Sungai and Murut ethnic groups.”

Taking this into consideration, Yayasan Sabah Group envisioned for ICCA to be developed together with partners which have strong sustainability agenda. Hence, a team from Yayasan Sabah Group presented the idea to Petroliam Nasional Berhad (Petronas) in realising the vision to develop ICCA to be another success story through collaboration with the national oil company.

The Yayasan Sabah-Petronas Imbak Canyon Conservation Partnership, which started in 2010 aims to promote ICCA as a Centre of Learning for indigenous community in biodiversity conservation and for gene-bank conservation as well as the exploration of pharmaceutical and biotechnological potentials.

Under the partnership, Petronas provided sponsorship of RM6 million for the development of ICCA specifically to implement eight core programmes namely Environmental Education, Public Awareness, Community Outreach, Ethno-Forestry Study and Documentation, Research, Capacity Building, Formulation of Imbak Canyon Management Plan and construction of Imbak Canyon Studies Centre (ICSC).

Sapawi also shared his thoughts on ICSC. “The vision to build ICSC became a reality.

With additional funds from Petronas amounting to RM77 million, the construction of ICSC was completed in late 2016 and is expected to be launched this year,” he said.

Covering 27ha, construction of ICSC began in 2014 and incorporates green technology in addition to the usage of renewable energy in the form of solar. ICSC houses an office complex, laboratories, research stations, environmental education complex, accommodation facilities, staff quarters, resthouse, VIP Lodge, conference hall, hostel, Café & Gallery, Surau, researchers’ quarters, research assistant quarters, service buildings and a sports and recreational complex.

He added that ICSC is poised to be a landmark in the Tongod district and a gateway for local and international researchers and nature enthusiasts to explore the virgin jungle. Through ICSC, it will be a platform to promote awareness among the local community on environmental education as well as providing job opportunities in areas such as hospitality, research and tourism.

Sapawi highlighted that the construction of ICSC proves the strong collaboration between Yayasan Sabah Group and Petronas towards the development of Tongod as well as efforts in conserving ICCA.

In 2009, ICCA was upgraded to a Class I (Protection) Forest Reserve by the Sabah State Legislative Assembly.

The day-to-day management of ICCA is carried out by Yayasan Sabah Group on behalf of an inter-agency Imbak Canyon Management Committee which also includes Sabah Forestry Department, Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Environment and several other agencies.

ICCA is conserved both for its function as a gene - bank as well as in helping to protect the quality of our river system. The grounds for the protection of ICCA also includes biodiversity value (particularly botanical) of forest over typical and ecologically limiting soils. This was illustrated by the discovery in 1992 of a new species of keruing, Dipterocarpus megacarpa.

Sapawi said Imbak Canyon has rich plant biodiversity with over 600 species recorded to date but it can be expected that this figure will multiply with further exploration and research.

ICCA has recorded 81 species of mammals that includes the Clouded leopard, Marble cat, Proboscis monkey and Borneo pygmy elephant.

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