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Sabah ‘biobank’ way to help save rainforest

 | March 26, 2012

A RM15 donation will go a long way in helping to restore and protect critical wildlife habitat and forest ecosystems in Sabah.

KOTA KINABALU: After years of watching their precious rainforests disappear due to logging and now oil palm plantations, the public is being asked to help protect what is left by contributing to a fund through a project set up by the government.

The Malua BioBank project is pioneering a new approach to conservation which recognises that deforestation is driven by the profitability of alternative land uses. It is a unique joint-venture between the Sabah Forestry Department, Yayasan Sabah and the Eco Products Fund.

For as little as RM15, anyone can help protect the rainforest in Sabah which is critical for the long-term survival of orang-utans, pygmy elephants, sun bears and other threatened wildlife species.

The amount, equivalent to US$5, saves 50 square metres of forest, about the size of a large garage, or you can contribute RM300 (US$100) to conserve 1,000 sq m.

This can be done within minutes using a new online tool developed by Malua BioBank, a Sabah-based project restoring and protecting critical wildlife habitat and forest ecosystems.

The new approach is being touted as a way for the public to take part in rainforest habitat restoration of the 34,000 hectare (80,000 acre) Malua Forest Reserve.

Malua BioBank said the facility allows contributors to personalise their gift through online certificates featuring orang-utans, sun bears, pygmy elephants, clouded leopards, rhinos and hornbills.

Malua BioBank manager, Merril Halley said that the Protect Malua site makes it easy for everyone to contribute towards rainforest conservation.

“This has to be one of most costs effective and enduring ways for individuals to contribute to the restoration and protection of prime rainforest real estate anywhere in the world.

“The new online tool also lets users learn about the importance of Malua and decide how much rainforest they would like to protect – in just one click.”

Contributions will be used to restore the degraded forest which was logged until a ban was placed on logging in 2008 by the Sabah government.

The funds will be used both for forest restoration activities over the next five years and 20% will go into the Malua Trust, an endowment that will fund protection of the site in perpetuity once the restoration work is completed.

Restoring the forest will not only provide food for wildlife, but estimates suggest it will also help lock up a massive additional eight million tonnes of carbon dioxide over the next 50 years, a statement from the project organisers said.

Innovative mechanism

Meanwhile, Sabah Forestry Department director Sam Mannan said agriculture, logging and crops like oil palm are huge and profitable sectors which cannot be stopped.

“We cannot expect to keep the rainforest standing unless there are financial drivers to do so. The Malua BioBank project works by putting a price on the region’s ecosystems,” Mannan said.

Malua’s Advisory Committee chairperson Cynthia Ong urged Malaysians, particularly in Sabah, to support the Malua BioBank, a ‘first of its kind initiative’ in the tropical rainforest world.

“Sabah has pioneered a ground-breaking and innovative mechanism for sustainable conservation financing and we would like to see individuals, families and corporations stepping up to support its success.

“The global conservation and financial worlds are watching us as we move forward with this initiative,” Ong, who is Land Empowerment Animals People (LEAP) executive director, said.

To find out more about how you can help preserve this Malaysian rainforest, visit www.protectmalua.com.


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