Saturday, 30 July 2011
Thursday, 28 July 2011
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
THE head of Mukim Melilas has voiced the support of locals for the study of animals in the Sungai Ingei Protection Forest, hoping that the community would benefit from sustainable and increased activity to the remote villages when the project ends in 2012.
"We support what they are doing. I also would like to see this place (Sg Ingei forest) full of animals," Acting Penghulu Pehin Datu Pekerma Dewa Hj Muhd Ali Abdullah Itam said.
Speaking to The Brunei Times while helping out in the second phase of the Universiti Brunei Darussalam-led Sg Ingei Faunal Biodiversity Survey, Pehin Hj Ali explained the importance of Sg Ingei forests as an aspect of the villagers' lives, many of whom have migrated to urban areas.
Located at least 14 kilometres upriver of Melilas longhouse, the virgin forests of Belait district was traditionally a place for Iban villagers to hunt and fish, and more recently, bring tourists.
They had been expecting to host a group of students and teachers from an international school in the capital wanting to experience the outskirts of Ingei earlier this month, but the arrangement was cancelled due to low water level, making the trip by temuai (longboat) "difficult and dangerous".
Villagers were concerned with the loss in visitors, particularly as each trip upriver can provide boatmen with $500 income, bringing about four to five passengers per boat, in high water level; more if conditions were worse.
Pehin Hj Ali shared that tourism activity in the area has become almost negligible, compared to 20 years ago, when the villagers received visitors from Japan, Germany and China.
The latest was a small group of Japanese tourists who stayed at an encampment belonging to two of the Melilas locals along Sungai Topi, some 20 minutes (high water) downriver from the Ingei basecamp. The group came to experience living close to nature and visit some of the waterfalls.
But such brief sources of income for the villages were few and far in between. In this regard, Pehin Ali was grateful for the UBD expedition, which employed at least 15 of the villagers from Kg Melilas and Kg Sukang, transporting the scientists and their gear, helping them track and study the animals in the area, and building and maintaining the camp facilities.
The UBD scientists hoped the findings of the biodiversity study will provide the backing needed to turn Sg Ingei into a wildlife sanctuary, with the villagers playing a key role in protection efforts.
"Just like us, they want to make sure that this place is cared for," Pehin Ali said. "What Belait district has, no other district has."
Project Leader Dr Joseph Charles of UBD's Biology department said with the findings, they anticipated greater public interest in the area, and thus locals would be able to benefit from "controlled" ecotourism activities just outside of the fully-protected Ingei area, like the Sg Topi camp.
Pehin Ali hoped the increased economic activity will also draw back many of those who left their native land.
The population of Melilas was 245 people, but most do not live there and only come back during holidays.
The Brunei Times
Scientists try to convince gov't to turn Sg Ingei forests into wildlife sanctuary
Thursday, July 21, 2011
SCIENTISTS vying to convince the Brunei government to convert the 18,000 hectares of protected forests of remote Sungai Ingei into a wildlife sanctuary, are also suggesting for the establishment of a buffer area that can be zoned for ecotourism and other activities.
Leader of the two-year Sg Ingei Faunal Biodiversity Survey, Dr Joseph Charles of Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD), told The Brunei Times recently that they wanted protection focused in the "core" area, where the group of scientists are working in the second phase of the project.
"But outside, from the Belait River and all that, that is the buffer zone to here," he said.
Some 14 to 15 kilometres from the nearest village of Melilas, scientists have been living in the pristine forests for weeks at a time, documenting species using camera traps to catch elusive mammals, mist nets for birds and bats, and using other scientific techniques.
They claim that they have made significant finds, but are withholding much of the data to avoid attracting poachers who might be among the recipients of the news, until the proper enforcement is in place.
"We have now discovered (that) Ingei is one of the rarest places in Brunei that has got wildlife like this. So you really want to protect it."
However, Dr Charles said the Forestry Department gazetted area of "protection forest" was not large enough for the animals found there to thrive and thus, the scientists were asking to make the proposed sanctuary "much bigger".
"This is a new gem that we have found and it's not really big at all. To be able to sustain wildlife over a long period, you need much bigger area."
Along with the enlargement of the gazetting of Ingei, the senior UBD Biology lecturer added that it should be complemented with a buffer zone.
"We will suggest where the boundary can be," Dr Charles, said adding that it will be up to the policy-makers to act on the scientists' recommendations.
"The uniqueness of Ingei can only be maintained if you have sufficient area around Ingei to protect what's within."
World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) Special Adviser to the Heart of Borneo, Dato' Dr Mikaail Kavanagh said that the buffer zone from the proposed sanctuary's boundary to Kg Melilas.
"It requires proper zonation. There are areas of very special conservation sensitivity and we're right in one now," said the conservationist, while joining a VIP excursion on July 8 to visit the scientists at work in Ingei proper.
"But there are other areas which are of great value to tourists and so on," the former WWF Malaysia CEO added.
Dr Charles said that carrying out "controlled" ecotourism activities into the buffer zone would particularly benefit the locals from Melilas and Sukang, many of whom have been migrating from thelonghouse life to urban areas.
"We have to somehow maintain the people and the culture, by making them produce (and) sell handicraft, what they were doing. They can bring in tourists, and stay in Melilas," he said.
Some of the villagers who have remained have been helping out the scientists with the wildlife survey, acting as local expert guides in tracking animals, as well as building the UBD-led project'sbasecamp in Ingei.
Downriver of Ingei, at Sungai Topi, was a camp owned by two of the Melilas locals, who occasionally use the cabins they built there to fish and hunt for their own needs. They have rented theTopi camp for the use of the scientists, as well as a group of Japanese tourists.
This type of activity was encouraged by the scientists, but in a controlled manner.
Dr Charles said that considering ecotourism's potential for the locals, it was in their interest to preserve the environment.
"What does a tourist want to see? He wants to go for a night-walk and see a slow loris in the forest at night. So don't knock the forest down, maintain it. Tourists come, you can show them every night. Charge them. All that can be done over there (in buffer zone)."
The Brunei Times