Sarawak to have National Parks and Wildlife Department next year

KUCHING: The management of national parks and wildlife in the state is expected to be more systematic and effective with the establishment of the National Parks and Wildlife Department that would be in operation from January next year.

State Forest Department director Sapuan Ahmad said the state government had recently agreed to the establishment of the new department.

“It will be a separate department (from Forest Department) that will be similar to the one in Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah. It will most likely be in operation in January next year and I have already prepared the structure.

“This new department will focus on wildlife protection and accelerate the gazettement of totally protected areas (TPAs) in the state,” he told reporters after launching a workshop themed ‘Managing Beyond Boundaries: Enhancing multi-stakeholder participation towards effective protected areas management in Sarawak’ here yesterday.

The three-day workshop beginning yesterday was jointly organised by the state Forest Department and WWF-Malaysia.

Sapuan said as of July this year, Sarawak had gazetted 903,769 ha of areas as TPAs that consisted of 35 national parks (694,770 ha), 14 nature reserves (2.539 ha) and six wildlife sanctuaries (206,460 ha).

“The Chief Minister’s (Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem) target is to have 1.2 million ha as TPAs. Based on the mandate given by the state government, the Forest Department is trying to gazette an additional 31 areas with the area of approximately 451,819 ha as TPAs. If the gazettement can be fully implemented, Sarawak will have TPA areas of 1.3 million ha.

Sapuan said the main objective of the government’s policy in gazetting an area as national park is solely to develop the local folk to be parallel with the development in the state.

“The people should be informed that when the government wants to gazette an area to be TPA, it does not mean that the original residents in the area will lose or be denied their rights on the area.

“They will continue to be allowed to enjoy all the available resources but through systematic and prudent ways. This is because the government wants to ensure the beauty and originality of the forest is maintained.”

Despite the government’s intention, Sapuan said the initiative to establish national parks is not an easy matter, as it requires strong commitment from everyone because various factors have to be taken into account.

“We want to ensure that the gazettement of a national park is not only according to what is fixed but will not marginalise the interests of the local residents as well as to ensure that their rights and privileges continue to be safeguarded.”

Therefore, he said the gazetting process would sometimes take a long time to be implemented, adding that the gazetting process of Santubong National Park took not less than 20 years.

On Orang Utan, Sapuan was happy to note that its population in the state had increased, according to reports from the Wildlife Conservation Society.

“We have some 1,600 of the primates living in the Orang Utan Sanctuary in Lanjak Entimau (some 200,000 hectares of natural habitat), besides those in Ulu Sebuyau and Sedilu. Certain critical western NGOs tend to believe that the primates are found all over the state, which is not true.”

Sapuan added that Adenan too had wanted any new area with Orang Utan sightings to come under TPA as well.

Meanwhile, the state Forest Department presented ‘Tokoh Renger 2016’ award to 91-year-old Sami Nor from Kpg Bako.

Among those present were WWF-Malaysia Sarawak Programme leader Dr Jason Hon, Sarawak Forestry Corporation deputy general manager Oswald Braken Tisen and Sabah Park deputy manager Ludy Apin.-BP

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