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WWF-Malaysia hosted Sabah Environmental Seminar to heighten Biodiversity conservation awareness in the State

3 August 2015, Kota Kinabalu:World Wide Fund for Nature – Malaysia (WWF-Malaysia) recently held a seminar titled “WWF-Malaysia Seminar: Challenges and Opportunities for Biodiversity Conservation in Sabah” on 30 July 2015.

3 August 2015, Kota Kinabalu:World Wide Fund for Nature – Malaysia (WWF-Malaysia) recently held a seminar titled “WWF-Malaysia Seminar: Challenges and Opportunities for Biodiversity Conservation in Sabah” on 30 July 2015.

Held at Shangri-la Tanjung Aru Resort (STAR), which co-sponsored the seminar, it set out to share experiences and knowledge of WWF-Malaysia on environmental conservation issues in Sabah, as well as to develop a consensus on the necessary interventions to ensure a thriving biodiversity in Sabah. The speakers at this seminar were made up of WWF-Malaysia’s team of in-house experts, each with extensive experience in the field of biodiversity conservation.

Datuk Dr Junaidi Payne, Executive Director of Borneo Rhino Alliance (BORA) and Advisory Council Member for WWF-Malaysia, delivered the keynote address with an overview of forty years of conservation in Sabah and its gains and losses.

He highlighted the biggest gains for conservation in the past decade: significant net positive improvement in permanent forest estate; external funding for forest restoration; and fractious NGOs becoming more interactive and united. In his view, an absence of focus on specific endangered species by competent and independent biologists willing and able to convince NGOs and governments on what should be done is likely to be the ultimate cause of the extinction of those species.

Dr Yoganand Kandasamy of WWF-Malaysia, spoke on “Terrestrial Biodiversity Conservation in Sabah: opportunities and challenges”. He highlighted the Sabah government policy of keeping 30% of Sabah's land as protected natural forests as a great opportunity to protect what is left of the best areas for endangered species, diversity of forest types, and still intact forests.

Dr Yoganand also highlighted the huge challenge of managing conflict between elephants and humans in the context of ensuring long-term elephant survival in landscapes containing a mix of forests and oil palm and other tree plantations.

WWF-Malaysia’s Head of Marine, Ms Robecca Jumin, enlightened the seminar on “Current issues and opportunities in Marine conservation in Sabah”. Ms Jumin explained habitat protection and the organisation's commitment in achieving the Aichi Target of 10% marine and coastal area protected and managed, long presence of threats towards marine conservation, and its solutions; creating a platform to stress that awareness raising alone is simply not enough.

“The gazettement of the proposed Tun Mustapha Park (TMP) will significantly contribute towards habitat protection. WWF-Malaysia continues to hope that TMP will be gazetted by 2015 to realise its objectives for habitat and species protection and sustainable development,” she concluded.

Participants of the seminar also had the opportunity to listen to WWF-Malaysia’s Head of Conservation for Sabah, Mr Bernard Tai, who shared the benefits of harnessing market forces for conservation.

“Removing the perverse incentives present in our economy is a way to achieve this,” said Mr. Tai.  Citing the fuel subsidy programme for the fisheries sector as a form of perverse incentive, he pointed out that the programme would not bring long-term economic transformation of coastal fishing communities, but instead would contribute to excess fishing capacity and over-fishing.

Under the State Sales Tax Enactment 1998, green taxes should be introduced based on the polluter pays principle and user pay principle and the revenue generated should be used mainly for conservation purposes.

“All this should be looked at in totality in the context of national and state’s tax systems. Introduction or hiking of green taxes should be balanced by reduction in personal income tax rate and corporate tax rate as well as import duties to avoid adding extra financial burden to consumers and businesses.”

“We should also intensify our effort in promoting green certification and eco-labelling for our tourism, agricultural, forestry and fishery products. Such schemes help to improve market access and export competitiveness yet at the same time ensuring sustainable utilization of Sabah’s natural resources,” he added.

Ms Sheelasheena Damian, Policy Analyst of WWF-Malaysia, enlightened the seminar concerning federal and state conservation legislations - Bringing clarity to complexity.

“The insertion of the term ‘environment’ as part of the Federal Constitution as the supreme law would have immense impact towards conserving the environment, as it would give the environment the necessary legal superseding effect. Public participation in development planning will instil a sense of belonging and ensure adherence by the public” said Ms Damian in her moving forward note.

WWF-Malaysia plans to periodically share research information and experiences gathered in its conservation efforts through such seminars, which also provides an opportunity to strengthen current partnerships and forge future collaborations for advancing the goal of a greener future for Sabah.

For further information:
Kimberly Chung, Communications and Campaigns Officer, Marine Programme, WWF-Malaysia (Sabah office), Tel: +60 88 262 420, Ext.37,    Email:  kchung@wwf.org.my
Rumaizah Mohammad Abu Bakar, Head of Communications, WWF-Malaysia
Tel:   +603 7450 3773          Email: RBakar@wwf.org.my

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