On Monday, 7th February 2011, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the State Government of Sabah (Malaysia), represented by the Sabah Forestry Department (SFD) and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) of Germany. This MoU will pave the road to continue an already successful collaboration of the IZW, an internationally renowned wildlife research institute, with the SFD by assisting the SFD in their efforts to monitor the biodiversity in Forest Management Units (FMUs) in Sabah.
Wildlife conservation beyond borders of parks or other fully protected areas is paramount for the effective and comprehensive conservation of biodiversity in the landscapes of Sabah. Forests are a key habitat in Sabah, since more than half of Sabah’s area is covered by them. As most forests are commercially used for the production of timber, a sustainable management of these forests is of great importance to ensure the long-term conservation of some of the most threatened species in Sabah, such as the SundaClouded Leopard.
During the signing, Datuk Sam Mannan, Director of the SFD, pointed out that the collaboration with the IZW has proven to be impressively successful during the last years and that he is very pleased that this collaboration will now be continued and expanded in the near future. The results obtained during previous studies by the IZW in FMUs included pioneering findings such as the first film of a SundaClouded Leopard released in spring 2010, or the rediscovery in Sabah of the Hairy-Nosed Otter – previously thought extinct – after a gap of more than 100 years.
“The research by the IZW assisted us to show how diverse some of our FMUs are” mentioned Datuk Sam Mannan during the signing of the MoU. “We know that there are orang-utans or elephants living in our forests but our knowledge about other, highly threatened wildlife species such as the endangered Otter Civet was very limited. With their research the IZW showed us that these species occur in our forests and how to find them.” Previous studies of the IZW mainly focussed on Deramakot Forest Reserve and its neighbouring FMUs; the new MoU paves the way to expand these efforts to other FMUs in the coming years.
Heribert Hofer, Director of the IZW, added “the biological richness of Sabah’s forests is a great treasure and a heritage of worldwide importance. It is therefore an important responsibility to manage these forests in a sustainable way. Therefore, up-to-date scientific research and wildlife surveys are important to understand the needs of threatened species. Knowing and appreciating the diversity of these forests will help to protect their richness for the benefit of all.”
Earlier in November 2010, the IZW signed anMoU with the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD), agreeing on close collaboration on research and conservation of Sabah’s wildlife, particularly the highly endangered Sabah Rhino. The MoU with the SFD now expands the research efforts of the IZW to FMUs. “Very little is known about the ecology of wildlife species in Sabah’s forests and how they respond to timber extraction. Such research is of a very high practical value because the appropriate management and protection of wildlife species requires such knowledge” Heribert Hofer added. By 2014 the SFD aims to have all FMUs in Sabah certified for Sustainable Forest Management. Wildlife monitoring and the conservation of the forest’s biodiversity is one of the main components of sustainability and therefore the SFD is optimistic that this collaboration with the IZW will assist their efforts to reach this goal.