Deforestation due to forest conversion
WWF-Malaysia works with oil palm plantations and the local community to carry out reforestation projects. While it is not possible to reforest the whole area, the project aims to identify crucial areas and carry out replanting work to maximise the impact.
Currently, the Kinabatangan - Corridor of Life team operates in two areas doing reforestation work:
- Lot 3 of the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, close to our nursery in Kampung Bilit
- The Matarob area, close to Kampung Abai at the river mouth of the Kinabatangan
In 2005, a total of 26,000ha of land in the Lower Kinabatangan was gazetted as the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary (KWS) under the Wildlife Conservation Enactment (WCE) of 1997. The KWS is now under the protection and management of the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD).
WWF-Malaysia works closely with SWD to protect the sanctuary from encroaches who regularly venture into these areas to extract logs, clear land for illegal planting activities as well as hunting.
WWF-Malaysia project team members are Honorary Wildlife Warden’s under the WCE, empowered to arrest and confiscate materials from those who encroach or hunt within the protected areas.
Our enforcement team, patrol together with officers from SWD covering Lot 1 to Lot 10 of KWS. These regular patrols are done by boat, with a four-wheel drive vehicle and also on foot through the forest.
Funding for sustainable forest management
Management of such a vast area as the Kinabatangan is a costly affair. WWF-Malaysia is working with tourism operators in carrying out a pilot project called Voluntary Conservation Levy to establish a fund which would finance the cost of protecting and reforesting (in essence ‘managing’) the area.
Human-elephant conflict affecting the livelihood of local communities
WWF-Malaysia is carrying out an experiment to find out if the Borneon Pygmy Elephant has an adverse/allergic reaction towards chillies. If this is true, then the chilli plant can be used as a way to prevent human-elephant conflict with local villagers whose crops are sometimes damaged by raiding elephants. In addition, the planting and marketing of the chilli could then be a source of alternative livelihood for the local communities.
Oil Palm – an important source of income
Being a floodplain, the Kinabatangan is a very fertile area, making it an ideal location for large scale agriculture such as oil palm. Large scale conversion of land into oil palm plantations actually began in the early 1980s. Oil palm fast became the dominant commercial crop in the area, and still is today.
Malaysia is currently the number one producer of oil palm world wide. Sabah is the largest producer of oil palm in Malaysia with a big portion originating from the Kinabatangan region.
Oil palm is an important source of income for the state and the country, which is why WWF-Malaysia works closely to engage this sector and campaigns for the adoption of sustainable practices/principles such as those advocated by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).