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Restoring Tabin: WWF-Malaysia and KLK Joined Hands to Establish Bukit Tabin Wildlife Corridor

Lahad Datu, 29 September 2023: In a concerted effort to enhance biodiversity conservation and promote ecological connectivity within the Tabin Landscape, WWF-Malaysia and Kuala Lumpur Kepong (KLK) Berhad have joined hands to establish a critical wildlife corridor connecting the Tabin Wildlife Reserve (WR) and the isolated Silabukan Forest Reserve (FR). 

Tabin WR, nestled amidst oil palm plantations, is home to the largest population of orangutans in the eastern lowlands, with approximately 1,200 individuals. This corridor stands as a lifeline for species’ movements, facilitating connectivity with the adjacent Silabukan FR, which shelters a small, isolated orangutan population. 

Recent surveys by WWF-Malaysia underscore Tabin's immense conservation importance, showcasing the remarkable regeneration of an area once heavily logged for timber. Additionally, it serves as a sanctuary for other Bornean endemic species, including Bornean elephants (350), Banteng (50), and Sunda clouded leopards (40).

The project was formally inaugurated with a tree planting ceremony at Ladang Bukit Tabin on 26 September 2023 following a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) signed in June 2023. A symbolic gesture of planting over 300 tree seedlings marked the beginning of a five-year project to establish the physical wildlife corridor. 

This initial phase will prioritise planting fast-growing native pioneer species and fig-plant to improve the food source for wildlife. In addition to co-funding the initiative, KLK also dedicated 7.1 hectares of oil palm land and will continue to maintain the planted area. 

Dr Robecca Jumin, WWF-Malaysia Head of Conservation Sabah, expressed her optimism about the collaboration, stating, "This significant initiative by KLK sets a new precedent in corporate responsibility. We hope this will spur more movements within the palm oil industry to follow suit, recognising the importance of biodiversity and habitat restoration." 

KLK's involvement in this project demonstrates the living landscapes approach in Sabah and activity beyond certification in the instance of a private company reserving land for a wildlife corridor in Sabah. 

KLK Sabah Senior General Manager Mr. Dinakaran Madhavan said, “Conservation and preserving biodiversity is one of the key priority areas in KLK's sustainability commitments. Among others, we continue to pledge to no new development on peat, as well as using the approach of high conservation value (HCV) and high carbon stock (HCS).” 

“Through these efforts, we hope to create a sustainable ecosystem that would ensure the survival of wildlife and maintain life-supporting systems essential to the ecological process. We cannot achieve this alone and we are honoured to work alongside partners like WWF-Malaysia towards the common goal,” he added.

Funded by Beiersdorf AG, a German multinational company that manufactures personal-care products like Nivea, this project improves the restoration activities under the WWF-Malaysia Sabah Landscapes Programme to enhance connectivity and improve wildlife corridor establishment in Sabah. 

This transformative partnership represents a significant stride not just in safeguarding Sabah’s diverse biodiversity, but also as a testament to what is achievable through the living landscapes approach, a holistic approach to conservation that integrates three key elements: protect, produce and restore. KLK and WWF-Malaysia's unwavering commitment to improving the conservation and rejuvenation of the Tabin Landscape demonstrates the living landscapes approach implementation for sustainable development in Sabah.

WWF-Malaysia’s Dr. Robecca Jumin (left) and KLK’s Mr. Dinakaran Madhavan. The Bukit Tabin Wildlife Corridor project was formally inaugurated with a tree planting ceremony at Ladang Bukit Tabin on 26 September 2023 following a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) signed in June 2023.

WWF-Malaysia and KLK staff members who took part in the tree planting ceremony to officially kick-start the five-year project to establish a critical wildlife corridor connecting the Tabin WR and the isolated Silabukan FR.

Dr Robecca Jumin, WWF-Malaysia Head of Conservation Sabah.

Mr. Dinakaran Madhavan, KLK Sabah Senior General Manager.

All photos (c) WWF-Malaysia

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