UBD postgraduate student Jeffery Ang (L) shows MIPR Minister Pehin Dato Hj Yahya (C) the inside of a camera trap during a visit of the UBD-led faunal biodiversity survey to Sg Ingei.Picture:BT/Ubaidillah Masli
Tree leaves forming a pattern during a visit of the UBD-led faunal biodiversity survey to Sg Ingei last week.Picture:BT/Ubaidillah Masli
UBAIDILLAH MASLI BELAIT
Friday, April 1, 2011
A DIFFERENT approach will be needed to elevate the status of the protected forests of Sungai Ingei into a wildlife sanctuary, as demanded by scientists carrying out a wildlife survey there, the Minister of Industry and Primary Resources said.
However, Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Utama Dato Seri Setia Hj Yahya Begawan Mudim Dato Paduka Hj Bakar said the decision for further government "action" on the 18,000-hectare Sg Ingei forests will hinge on the outcome of the two-year faunal diversity study led by Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD).
To give the scientists what they want, the minister said that the ministry will look at "various ways" to further protect the Sg Ingei forests.
He noted that the government has already designated an area of forest in Kuala Belalong in Temburong District for conservation purposes, but said that this method could not be replicated for Sg Ingei.
"Here, it is a very sensitive area, so we have to look at different ways (of further protecting) Sg Ingei," he told reporters during his second trip to Sg Ingei, as one of the VIP guests to the scientific expedition last weekend.
Pehin Dato Hj Yahya explained that Sg Ingei was far more pristine and largely untouched by man that any excessive human interaction with the virgin forests could spoil the environment and wildlife habitat.
He pointed out that too much human presence could also threaten or cause the extinction of the forest organisms.
"We have to look at how to develop Sg Ingei, so it will not spoil the habitat and the environment," he said.
"If we were to do things such as eco-tourism, we may have to step back a bit. Otherwise, if we bring in tourists beyond the carrying capacity and ability of the habitat to adjust (to human interaction), it may spoil the environment."
The minister had noticed that there were already traces of plastic bottles making their way into the Sg Ingei forests.
Although the country has yet to declare any wildlife sanctuaries, Brunei already has the provisions within the law in place to set one up, Pehin Dato Hj Yahya shared.
He further noted that a wildlife sanctuary would require manpower to monitor and ensure its enforcement.
However, the government also has to consider the effects to the local community, who depend directly on the forests for survival, and the country if Sg Ingei were to be "locked up".
Pehin Dato Hj Yahya said that results of the UBD study could help the authorities make their decision on the future of Sg Ingei.
"The intention (of the faunal survey) is to confirm and get more data. Probably from there, we can suggest actions."
One of the main leaders of the study, wildlife ecologist Dr Joseph Charles of UBD said they are proposing for not only Sg Ingei forests, but also the nearby salt lakes of Penipir, where the Sg Ingei wildlife has been known to travel to get their required nutrients, should all become part of the wildlife sanctuary.
"We're trying to save this whole place for prosperity, so that your kids and grand-kids will come and see this place," the UBD senior lecturer said.
The scientists have already made some significant discoveries to support their proposal to turn Sg Ingei into a wildlife sanctuary, but are withholding the data until it can be verified and announced formally at the end of the survey in 2012.
They are expected to reveal some of the findings so far in a seminar slated to be held in the coming months.
The extent of the finds have already prompted the biologists to coin Sg Ingei as "the magic of Brunei".
"When we release our results, you'll know why it's magic."