Sarawak to open national parks, establish wildlife department by 2017

Sapuan said he was happy to note that the orang utan population in the state had increased, according to reports from the Wildlife Conservation Society. — AFP pic
Sapuan said he was happy to note that the orang utan population in the state had increased, according to reports from the Wildlife Conservation Society. — AFP pic

KUCHING, Aug 10 ― Sarawak will have its Department of National Parks and Wildlife by January next year.

State Forestry Department director, Sapuan Ahamad said its proposed structure and organisation were now ready and would be presented to the government for approval.

He was speaking to reporters after officiating at the three-day national-level protected areas conference on ‘Managing Beyond Boundaries’, attended by about 150 civil servants, private organisation personnel and representatives of local communities and NGOs.

Sapuan said the new department would be tasked with, among others, managing and conserving wildlife, creating new totally protected areas (TPAs) and putting the brakes on illegal hunting and the sale of bush meat.

“It will in particular look after the orang utan and the growing threat to humans from crocodiles threatened by food shortage and increasingly polluted rivers.

“We are in the process of creating another 31 new TPAs with a combined area of 451,819 hectares and the new department can play its part here.”

He said if this was accomplished by 2020, the state would have TPA areas totalling 1.3 million hectares.

He added that currently, the Forestry Department was hard pressed to do the work as it was occupied with timber licensing, the fight against illegal logging and other related activities.

“We have since July 2016, gazetted a total area of 903,769 hectares comprising 43 national parks (694,770 hectares), 14 natural reserves (2,539 hectares) and six wildlife sanctuaries (206,460 hectares),” he said.

On orang utan, Sapuan said he 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 the primates are found all over the state, which is not true,” he said.

He added that Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem too had wanted any new area with orang utan sightings to come under the TPA as well. ― Bernama