Wednesday, 16 May 2012

More funding needed for Sg Ingei

File photo of World Wildlife Fund (WWF) official and Project Manager for the Sg Ingei Biodiversity Study Dato' Dr Mikaail Kavanagh (L) helping Melilas locals push the 'temuai', a traditional wooden boat, along the Ingei River at low tide. Picture: BT file
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
THE team working to make Sungai Ingei a wildlife sanctuary is seeking Public-Private Partnership (PPP) support in order to increase fundings to continue research at the pristine forests in the interior of Belait.

World Wildlife Fund (WWF) official and Project Manager for the Sg Ingei Biodiversity Study, Dato' DrMikaail Kavanagh said that to attain objectives to preserve and protect the flora and fauna found in the area requires solid financial support.

"We have to get the financial support for the protection, as well as community work, to start an ecotourism and also for the continuation of the research, including finding out what is in the buffer zone," Kavanagh said to The Brunei Times during a recent trip into Sg Ingei.

According to Kavanagh, the team is in talks with the Brunei Government on ways to raise funds for the sponsored two-year study, which will end this year.

"We hope there will be a PPP where corporations get together with the government (to raise funds forSg Ingei). We believe the prospects are very good," he said.

When asked if the results of the study that has been gathered so far is strong enough to support Sg Ingei in order for it to become a wildlife sanctuary, Kavanagh agreed.

"This area is extremely rich and interesting. The biological diversity here is definitely more than our best expectations," he said. "Sg Ingei has lived up to its prospects."

According to Kavanagh, the results of the study are not fully released yet as a lot of careful cross-checking and analysis have to be done.

He reaffirmed that Sg Ingei is indeed "an enormously diverse area".

"I am fairly confident, as we know there would be some new record for Brunei and maybe for Borneo as well," Kavanagh shared.

The WWF official stressed that Sg Ingei is important specifically to Brunei because of its enormous diversity and that the virgin forest is vulnerable as it is right next to the border. This makes Sg Ingei difficult to protect from poachers.

Kavanagh explained that when poachers from neighbouring countries have depleted of resources there, they will hunt out other areas and go further afield.

"I would say that it is absolutely critical that the area protection be upgraded here," he stressed.

One way to protect the forests is through honorary wildlife rangers.

Aside from being tasked with protecting Sg Ingei and its surrounding area, Kavanagh said honorary wildlife rangers will "involve the community because there is a very positive community here".

"This is their traditional land but since it is under government control now in the modern world, they therefore need modern authority," Kavanagh said.

Without authority, villagers living in Sg Ingei's surrounding areas will not be able to stop poaching activities should they encounter one.

Henceforth, a proposal to look into putting honorary wildlife rangers into Sg Ingei is currently in its finalising stage.

Kavanagh outlined that there are still more flora and fauna yet to be discovered in Sg Ingei as the team of scientists and researchers race against time to use the two-year findings to make a strong enough testament to push Sg Ingei towards becoming a wildlife sanctuary.

"At the core, some things need to be maintained as pristine as possible; it needs to be protected properly."

"There can be research from birds, mammals, spiders. Hopefully there will be a lot of other researches. For example, spiders produce one of the strongest materials known to the world. There are many other things that surprise us."

"So as far as this forest is concerned, protect the core. In the buffer zone, you have a community living there who we hope will also help protect the forest. There should be a traditional lifestyle for the community and also protection for the animals."

"You could build up ecotourism here without disturbing this very delicate core area, and it would allow people who would like to have an economic viable lifestyle here if there is a buffer zone."

Kavanagh calls for a landscape approach to see the bigger picture on the rationale of a wildlife sanctuary for Sg Ingei.

"We have to look at the whole landscape and say that we want to protect as much as we can to maintain the area of high conservation value." The Brunei Times

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Hanging out for forest conservation

BUNGEE JUMP: Student raises money for 'Heart of Borneo' project


  KUALA LUMPUR:  MALAYSIANS are a generous lot. We have all at some point or another donated to a good cause. But how many of us are willing to bungee jump for charity?
On Saturday, one brave Malaysian undergraduate student studying at Durham University in the United Kingdom took that leap.
Iskandar Kavanagh, 21, jumped from a height of more than 53 metres in a bid to raise funds for the Sungai Ingei Faunal Biodiversity Survey (SIFBS) expedition under the "Heart of Borneo" project.
"I've done bungee jumping before, but the rush you get when you jump into nothingness never gets old. It was an amazing experience," he told the New Straits Times yesterday.
The bungee jump, organised by the Durham University Charities Kommittee (DUCK), was a fundraising event open to all of the university's students who wished to donate to charity in an unconventional way.
Iskandar had asked the organising committee for special permission to raise money for the SIFBS as it "held a special place in his heart".
The jump also held a special significance as it took place on his 21st birthday.
"When I found out that they will be holding the jump on my birthday this year, I thought, 'why not?'
"Then I asked myself which cause I would most want to raise money for and the SIFBS came to mind, as I had volunteered for the expedition last year in March.
"It was one of my most rewarding experiences and I wanted to give something back."
Through his online fundraising page, Iskandar has so far raised STG690.53 (about RM3,400), surpassing his initial target of STG550.
Iskandar is an avid sportsman and is active in sports such as football, kayaking and wakeboarding.
His love for Mother Nature was what spurred him to take part in the expedition that had him trekking into the heart of the Borneo rainforest.
Iskandar, who is pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in Geography, hoped to encourage others to do their part for the environment.
"Environmental conservation is still something that is generally overlooked in Malaysia, but I do think more Malaysians are waking up to the importance of protecting and conserving the environment. So I hope we can continue to improve."
The "Heart of Borneo" project is an initiative under the World Wildlife Fund in collaboration with three countries -- Brunei, Malaysia and Indonesia -- to conserve 220,000 sq km of rainforest, which is home to several endangered animal species such as the orangutan, pygmy elephant, clouded leopard and Sumatran rhino.
Over the past 15 years, more than three new species have on average been discovered each month.
However, this treasure trove of flora and fauna is at risk due to commercial development and illegal wildlife trade.

Read more: Hanging out for forest conservation - General - New Straits Times

Brunei is Heart of Borneo catalyst

World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Special Advisor to the Heart of Borneo, Dato' Dr Mikaail Kavanagh (2nd R) with Singapore High Commissioner to Brunei, His Excellency Joseph Koh (Far L), and other visitors during a recent trip to the interior of the Belait forest for the Sg Ingei Faunal Biodiversity study. Picture: BT/Rasidah HAB
Saturday, May 5, 2012
BRUNEI'S involvement in one of the world's most important centres of biological diversity, the Heart of Borneo (HoB), was the catalyst that made the initiative take off, said World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Special Advisor to the HoB initiative, Dato' Dr Mikaail Kavanagh.

The HoB initiative calls for the protection of 30 per cent of the world's pristine tropical forests. It covers a network of protected forest areas and straddles the transboundary highlands of three countries: Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia. The three pledged in 2007 to conserve and sustainably manage the rainforests that span 220,000sq km.

"Brunei that was the catalyst that brought everyone together," said Dato' Dr Mikaail Kavanagh in an interview with The Brunei Times during a recent trip into the interior of Belait, where a team of scientists conducted a two-year faunal diversity study. Kavanagh is also the project manager for the Sg Ingei Faunal Biodiversity.

The team, led by Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD), hopes to push Sg Ingei's protected forest into a wildlife sanctuary.

Kavanagh said having three countries commit to the declaration was not as straightforward as it seems, as "a bilateral project works in a different way from a trilateral project".

In 2006, an exploratory workshop was co-organised by Brunei's Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources (MIPR) and WWF that brought together the three governments in Brunei .

The workshop resulted in a broad agreement for the HoB initiative with its "Three Countries and One Vision", which started step by step.

In 2007, the HoB Declaration was signed with the three countries committing to conserve the rainforests.

"We believe in the vision and I am very pleased to say WWF was asked to participate and support in it," Kavanagh said.

He emphasised that Brunei was the catalyst because it "did it so quickly and was able to show the two other countries how to get things started".

Since the HoB started, Kavanagh said the world has become increasingly more conscious of global environmental problems and is now moving towards a green economy by taking a "systematic economic approach to work out the real value of the goods and services you get from nature".

"This makes it all the more important for the world as a whole to understand the global importance of Borneo and HoB... It is a big forest, big enough to make an impact," Kavanagh stressed.

Kavanagh explained that the most fundamental rationale for HoB vision is "taking a pan-Borneo approach, a tri-lateral approach to joining together the protection efforts of Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei and with the goal of stopping the forest of being fragmented."

"Apart from anything else, the forests are safer from human encroachment. Furthermore, when you reduce the size of any natural habitat, you are rapidly collapsing the geometric progression of species. So size matters," Kavanagh said.

He added that it is important to ensure the "connection between the forest landscape, the core of the protected area and those around them, as a buffer zone that is compatible for human use".

With three countries sharing their commitment towards HoB, Kavanagh believes that it is a goal to have a transboundary protection between the three countries.

"It is definitely a goal to have some sort of transboundary protection which would allow transboundary tourism and transboundary hot pursuit that means no running against the border stealing gaharu, deer, monkey and so on."

"The World Heritage Convention is particularly interested in transboundary areas, so they will look at the totality."

According to Kavanagh, if the HoB works out, the rainforest that falls under its jurisdiction could be a marked as a world heritage site, adding that the three countries have helped made the initiative progress.

"We are moving faster than we could ever imagine due to the government's support."

"In Brunei, His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam has made sure than his people understand that he wants this to happen. That has really driven it. Furthermore, His Royal Highness Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister's Office has been appointed as the Royal Patron of the Brunei HoB Initiative, which has driven people to understand that this is very important. The former Malaysian Prime Minister and Indonesian President are also behind it," Kavanagh pointed out.

"Biologically, it works because you avoid the perils of breaking up the forest. Politically and globally, it works because you discover the world gets excited about it," Kavanagh said.

"The world would not be as excited about the Heart of Brunei as they would with the Heart of Borneo (as a whole)."

Brunei was earlier given the task to liaise with the Indonesian and Malaysian governments to conserve the remaining forest cover of Borneo Island for the well-being of the inhabitants and form a network of protected forests within the designated HoB area.

Brunei's commitment to HoB is more than 50 per cent of the country's total size. The Brunei Times

Sg Ingei offers more than just floral and wildlife biodiversity

Members of the Sungai Ingei Faunal Biodiversity Survey team boarding the boat to the base camp. Sg Ingei, the Magic of Brunei, is a biological diversity treasure where so much has yet to be discovered. Picture: BT/Rasidah Bakar
Saturday, May 5, 2012
Dear Editor,

THERE has been an increasing coverage on the two-year Sg Ingei faunal biodiversity study reporting on the need to preserve the virgin forests towards a wildlife sanctuary.

I am writing to praise the extensive coverage as it gives the readers an insight into what is coined the Magic of Brunei. I have never heard of Sg Ingei before. So, I was amazed after reading reports on it to discover that the pristine forests has so much to offer to Brunei.

The dedicated team of scientists who had pledged their time to volunteer for the study deserves an outstanding applause for the effort they put into the study. They are doing this voluntarily for what they strongly believe in preserving the rich forests of Sg Ingei.

This is understandably so, as what I can see, Sg Ingei is a biological diversity treasure where so much has yet to be discovered.

In another report, it said "preserving the rich forest of Sg Ingei holds more interest for the people than they are aware of, as it is a foothold for hydrological management, currency in the international carbon trade market and a transboundary security buffer." This shows that Sg Ingei has more to offer than just floral and wildlife biological biodiversity.

For those who have yet to acquaint themselves with Sg Ingei, I strongly encourage them to read up on it and be surprised that right here in the heart of Brunei, our pristine forests are something we should be proud of as well as the envy of our counterparts. To see our government committed more than half of the total size of our country is the right action towards a sustainable future and I hope our government's commitment will continue the same for Sg ingei.

For Sg Ingei to be preserved as it stands centuries ago, it needs the full support from our government as well as private corporations to see that it is an invaluable treasure we have to protect for the future. Here, I look forward to read on the day when Sg Ingei is endorsed as a wildlife sanctuary.

Sg Ingei, Bandar Seri Begawan

Bungee jumping for Sg Ingei funds

File photo of Iskandar, son of Sg Ingei Faunal Biodiversity Survey Project Manager and WWF Special Advisor to the HoB project Dr Mikaail Kavanagh, walking past a large tree during a "VIP" visit of the UBD-led faunal biodiversity survey to Sg Ingei from March 25-27, 2011. Picture: BT file
Thursday, May 3, 2012
A MALAYSIAN student, Iskandar Kavanagh, is set to bungee jump to raise funds for Brunei's Sg Ingeibiodiversity faunal survey project on May 5.

Members of the public can donate and find out more information at

Iskandar, 20, a student at Durham University, UK will bungee jump on May 5, to commemorate his 21stbirthday and for the two-year Universiti Brunei Darussalam-led (UBDSg Ingei biodiversity faunal biodiversity survey, a project under the Heart of Borneo (HoB).

Iskandar shared with The Brunei Times via email on what inspired him to take the leap.

The bungee jump, which will be organised by Durham University Charities Kommittee, or DUCK, is an annual event, and this year it happens to be on his 21st birthday. Iskandar thought bungee jumping would be a fun way to celebrate his birthday right before his exams.

"If I were going to raise money for anything and do something that terrifying, what would I raise it for? The Sg Ingei Faunal Expedition came to mind, as I was a volunteer for them during my Easter break last year and I honestly feel like it was one of the most rewarding things I have ever done!" he said.

And fortune has it, DUCK gave him the green light to raise money for the cause.

"I became really excited and basically acted on impulse from there," he said.

DUCK exists to help Durham Students raise funds and awareness for local, national and international charities.

As of 7pm (Brunei time, May 2), the donation stands at £384 ($771); Iskandar hopes to reach his target of £550 ($1,104).

Donations had been pouring in when he started on April 24 with, his initial target at £100 ($201). He decided to raise the target to £200 ($402), and that too was reached.

The donation reached £300 ($602) on April 30.

An excerpt taken from his website said, "I am absolutely ecstatic right now as the £300 target has been surpassed! This has really exceeded my expectations, thank you to everyone who has donated so far! I've been very happily surprised a few times already, so I've decided to REALLY raise the bar this time, with the new target of 550!".

The donation will be channelled to the UBD team through WWF, which manages the funds for the SgIngei Faunal Survey.

The second year Geography BSc undergraduate said the environment has always been his passion and it was this passion that compelled him to do more.

"I have loved animals since I was a little kid. It definitely stems from my parents taking me to the zoo and nature parks and growing up with pets in the house. That love just grew into a passion for conservation as I got older and once I started to understand the importance of such things to a higher degree," he said.

"My dad (WWF special advisor to the Heart of Borneo Dato' Dr Mikaail Kavanagh) who was going for the expedition, let me know about the trip and I showed how interested I was about it. He pointed this out to some of his colleagues and they said, 'Cool, bring him along!'," he said.

When asked what his most memorable experience was while volunteering at Sg Ingei, Iskandar said "I really enjoyed tracking all sorts of bugs at night, as I have always been into these 'creepy-crawlies' as I find them fascinating, combined with my interest in macro-photography," he said.

He hopes the biodiversity faunal survey will be successful, "from researching current wildlife and discovering new species to protecting that wildlife from poachers, unnecessary development and sustaining it for our future".

Iskandar said from what he had seen "the people of Brunei are doing a pretty good job at looking after their wildlife".

"Then again, that never stops. So keep up the good work and always remember that every little bit counts, from the smallest piece of litter being recycled to the amount of fuel used a week. Maybe even try a little volunteering here and there, it really does make you feel great. Most importantly, no matter who you are, know that you can make a change for the better," he added. The Brunei Times

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Conveying conservation messages through photos

Wildlife Photographer and videographer, Stephen Hogg (R) in discussion at the Sg Ingei basecamp, with WWF Special Adviser to the HoB project Dato' Dr Mikaail Kavanagh (L) during the second phase of the Sg Ingei Faunal Biodiversity Survey. Picture: BT file
Tuesday, May 1, 2012
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PHOTOGRAPHS and videos can help foster a sense of responsibility in order to spur the local community to take part in preserving Brunei's rainforests and rich biodiversity.

Professional photographer-cum-videographer Stephen Hogg, who was invited by a scientific team from the Universiti Brunei Darussalam to join the two-year Sg Ingei faunal biodiversity survey expedition said that photographs can convey the importance of environmental preservation and conservation.

Hogg has been documenting the team's research work since the expedition started on July 2, 2010.

"To fall in love with something, you need to see it. By falling in love with something, you will believe in it and want to save it, protect and want to help it. The only way you can do that is through visuals," he said in an interview with The Brunei Times.

"How can you make them feel the same way that you feel? How would you be able to demonstrate to them what is so great about this place? Without pictures, it would be very difficult," he added.

"Pictures are very important. The captions of these photographs can help explain to a stranger what it really is."

The trip which took place last month, saw participation of Minister of Industry and Primary Resources Yang Berhormat Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Utama Dato Seri Setia Hj Yahya Begawan Mudim Dato Paduka HjBakar, WWF special adviser to the Heart of Borneo Dato' Dr Mikaail Kavanagh, British High Commissioner to Brunei Rob Fenn, Singapore High Commissioner to Brunei Joseph Koh, as well as Australian High Commissioner to Brunei His Excellency Mark Sawers.

During the interview, Hogg said that the second best way to promote environmental preservation was through video.

He added, however, that taking footages required funding.

Hogg was all praises for the team that is conducting the Sg Ingei expedition, saying: "So many pristine places around the world had been spoilt because people had not stood up and took action. Here in Brunei, a small country, you have a group of people standing up and taking action to preserve this area. We must take our hats off for these people."

"It is better if I can show this through my photographs," Hogg added.

The fact that the government is heavily supporting the expedition, he said, means there is a good chance that the area would continue to be protected.

"We find a lot of things in this forest that we did not expect to find, (though it is) not necessarily new from my perspective. We found tarantula spiders in places I did not expect to find. We normally find them in embankments, but here we found them on forest floor. There are also an abundance of insects and plants," he noted.

He also said that the photographs he took during the expedition "just scratched the surface of the biodiversity of Sg Ingei".

Hogg admitted that while Sg Ingei was "a fantastic place", it is "photographically difficult".

"The birds are almost impossible to shoot, I got one or two species, not a huge amount. But the (photos from) camera traps we build are quite good, it shows diversity of mammals and birds."

The photographer said for the trip (last month) he focused on photographing smaller insects, fungi, plants and orchids.

"For this trip I am trying to get pictures of things that I have missed. I have lots of photographs of scientists doing their work, results of the scientists' works, landscape and scenery. When I went through the photographs I noticed that I did not spend enough time on insects. So, this trip I am concentrating on that," he said. The Brunei Times