HEART OF BORNEO (HOB) SARAWAK, TAMA ABU SCIENTIFIC EXPEDITIOHEART OF BORNEO (HOB) SARAWAK, TAMA ABU SCIENTIFIC EXPEDITIO

A team of 93 scientists and researchers have departed the Miri city on the Aug 14 for the Heart of Borneo (HoB) Tama Abu Scientific Expedition in Baram. Flagged-off by the State Forest Department director Sapuan Ahmad at Imperial Hotel Miri, the team are from various government institutions, universities, and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) from all over the country as well as the United Kingdom, Australia, China, Denmark and Brunei. Compared to last year’s Long Banga Scientific Expedition, this year’s expedition has a significant increase in participation from international scientists and researchers.

Apart from confirming the existence of rhinoceros and ‘temadau’ (Bos javanicus), the expedition this year aims to document the variety, range and diversity of wildlife in order to assess the future needs for conservation of the HoB. It is also hoped to this expedition can create awareness on the importance of conservation, inspire local participation in flora and fauna conservation, study the effects of tourism in Tama Abu, increase the conservation value of the area, as well as to do a systematic study on the sociology and anthropology of local tribes.

Launching the 13-day Tama Abu Scientific Expedition on Sunday, Aug 13, the Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan have high hopes that this expedition would be beneficial not only for research purposes, but to also contribute to the wellbeing of the local communities and to enhance the flora and fauna conservation in Tama Abu.

“I hope the findings of the expedition would complement several scientific projects supported by the International Tropical Timber Organisation (ITTO), run since 2005. We are also expecting to find high levels of endemicity and it is almost certain that new species will be discovered,” he said in his text of speech, read by Assistant Minister of Urban Planning, Land Administration and Environment Datu Len Talif Salleh. However, he asserted that scientific expedition is not just about finding new species, as it is also about how to apply the results and data collected to good use to achieve greater scientific and conservation goals. Thus, the Deputy Chief Minister demanded the scientists and researchers joining the scientific expedition to come up with innovative ideas to advise and assist the government in enhancing biodiversity conservation, research and development in Sarawak.

Len Talif also affirmed that the state government always opens its door to any NGO that shares a common interest in safeguarding the biodiversity in the state. This approach allows NGOs to assist the government in biodiversity conservation and further enhances the capability of the state in managing its rich biodiversity. “A lot of NGOs have negative image of us because they come to the state government via the back door. We always welcome NGOs if they come through the front door, especially those that have the same interest with us on biodiversity conservation, to work with us and share information,” said the Assistant Minister.

Those attending the launching ceremony included Mulu assembyman Datuk Gerawat Gala, Telang Usan assemblyman Dennis Ngau, permanent secretary to the Ministry of Urban Development and Natural Resources Dr Wan Lizozman Wan Omar, state Forest Department director Sapuan Ahmad and deputy director 1 (Planning & Operation) Jack Liam.

Headed by Professor Emeritus Datuk Dr Mohamed Abdul Majid, the 13-day expedition will take place at an expedition site located about 130km from Miri city and is only accessible by four-wheel drive (4WD) vehicles and take about 11 hours through logging roads to reach the site. The site identification and site preparation at Tama Abu have started early this year and  involved the community surrounding the expedition area such as community in the Baram villages of Long Peluan and Long Beruang. The community are also involved in the expedition to assist the team.

All the valuable information that can be gained from the research findings of various discipline such as fauna diversity, flora diversity, water, geology, local communities, history/archaeology and eco-tourism will be used by multiple stakeholders, universities, NGOs and local communities for a better sustainable management, biodiversity conservation and land use of the Tama Abu forest. The Deputy Chief Minister also calls for the expedition’s result to be documented so it would benefit the state government in planning policies and as a reference for future generations. It is clear this Tama Abu Scientific Expedition plays an important first-step to enhance the state’s capabilities in managing the rich biodiversity.