Letter to the Editor: Trained personnel lacking to manage protected areas
We refer to the issue of poorly-managed parks in Peninsular Malaysia raised by Wong Chi Lik of Batu Caves ("Peninsular parks lacking" -- NST, Feb 13). There has been much progress in Malaysia in recent years with regard to the establishment of new protected areas, which include national parks, state parks and other conservation areas.
Over the past year alone, the Selangor and Perak governments gazetted important conservation areas with high biodiversity, including the Selangor State Park (in January last year) and the Royal Belum State Park (in May last year).
However, as Wong pointed out, the establishment of new parks has also resulted in a growing need for effective management of the parks.
This can only be achieved by having good protected area strategies and co-ordination at the national level, as well as a pool of skilled protected area professionals.
World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)-Malaysia is currently assisting the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment to improve the management effectiveness of protected areas in Malaysia.
In 2005, the ministry commissioned WWF-Malaysia to conduct a nationwide assessment of the management effectiveness of national and state parks.
We are, among other things, also collaborating with the ministry on the Malaysian Parks Newsletter. But much more needs to be done to improve protected area management.
WWF-Malaysia agrees that there is a lack of properly-trained staff in protected areas and would like to urge the federal and state governments to give more emphasis to capacity-building in protected area management.
According to a report entitled "Capacity Building and Strengthening of the Protected Areas System in Peninsular Malaysia" by the Department of Wildlife and National Parks in 1999, there is no course specifically meant for the management of protected areas.
The Forestry Department of Peninsular Malaysia has a forestry school in Kepong. But to our knowledge, there is no specific component on protected area management although some training is provided in the management of recreational forests.
Protected area management is far more complex and requires a more diverse set of skills than the management of recreational forests.
One possible initiative that could be carried out to achieve this would be the setting up of a National Institute of Protected Area Management, considering that Malaysia is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world.
After all, our burgeoning tourism industry is very much dependent on our natural capital.
As it may take some time for this institute to be established, in the short term, a protected area component should be introduced as a module in existing courses, attended by staff of the Forestry Department and the Department of Wildlife and National Parks.
Another pressing issue is the retention of skilled personnel in protected area management.
Currently, most protected area staff have to work under challenging physical conditions.
In some cases, they are faced with poor job security, poor salary packages and poor prospects of promotion.
It is time to recognise park staff for their contributions to biodiversity conservation, invest in building their capacity while in service, and provide them with opportunities for career advancement.
From: Dr Dionysius S.K. Sharma, Executive Director/CEO, WWF-Malaysia
For further information, please contact:
Mr Mathew Maavak, Media and Public Affairs Consultant, WWF-Malaysia
Tel: +603 7803 3772 ext 6103, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org