Saturday, 30 July 2011

Sg Ingei expedition will be known worldwide, says UK envoy

Sunday, July 17, 2011

"ONE day, not far from now, the Sungai Ingei expedition will be known throughout the world," said British High Commissioner to Brunei.

Rob Fenn (pictured) was among the "VIPs", which included the Minister of Industry and Primary Resources, taking part in a weekend excursion recently to the remote protected forests of Sg Ingei in the interiors of Belait District, where a team led by Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) scientists were conducting the second phase of a two-year study of wildlife found there.

"I think this a textbook example of how a government and a local community, the Melilas (and Sukang) longhouse(s) can get behind a cutting edge scientific expedition and propel it into the record books," Fenn told The Brunei Times

"They (the scientists) are very well set up. They've had generous sponsorship from a British bank, Standard Chartered Bank, and they are spending that money wisely and creatively."

The wildlife specialists have been employing techniques such as using heat- and motion-sensitive camera traps and mist nets to catch and document the elusive animals living around Sg Ingei, 18,000 hectares of pristine forests protected by the government.

About 60 camera traps, basically a camera and sensors placed within a protective casing, have been placed along trails where wildlife were believed to cross. But floods and other conditions have damaged some of the equipment, forcing the scientists to be more innovative with the technology that has been used by the likes of the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF).

"I just really enjoyed talking to the scientists here and discovering how they are, not only cataloguing Sg Ingei and finding fabulous species but (also) doing the art of camera-trapping better than it's been done anywhere else," Fenn said.

The UBD team have been careful in releasing the findings, some of which included potentially undocumented species, out of fear that the information could draw poachers to the area.

Sg Ingei Faunal Biodiversity Survey Project Leader Dr Joseph Charles previously said that they will wait for the area to be fully protected as a wildlife sanctuary before the data is released and published.

The high commissioner has also agreed to keep mum about what he has been shown during his visit.

"They will find their time. They need to do the science, double-check everything, make sure they know what they've got and at that point, share the information with the world," Fenn said.

"I think they are looking ahead in a very sensible way to that moment."

It was that moment, that the high commissioner said, scientists, particularly experts from the UK, will be the amongst the first people "off the airplane", jumping at the opportunity to work in Brunei.

"For the reasons I gave, the Sungai Ingei expedition will be written about, will be thought about, will be visited, will inspire others and that's the great thing about science. It's not a zero-sum game; just because an expedition in Brunei has great success, it's not to the disadvantage of scientists elsewhere, it inspires them," he said.

"I think we will be amongst the first rank of people celebrating the expedition when the wrapping comes off. And yes, I think it will be in the self-interest of British scientists to be associated with a scientific success."

Fenn shared that scientists he was acquainted with were already "excited" about Brunei, while noting that the UK and the Sultanate have already established strong research links as a basis for further partnerships.

While at the basecamp, the high commissioner told the minister, WWF officials, UBD scientists and the local community helping out in the project that the Sg Ingei expedition was a representation "of what the rest of Brunei is becoming", in terms of environmental precedence.

"British scientists will want to be here. (They will) want to be part of the magic you are conjuring here," he said, referring to the slogan the UBD team has come up with for Sg Ingei, the "Magic of Brunei".

He described Brunei as the "heart" of the Heart of Borneo (HoB), the tri-nation initiative which the Sg Ingei project associated itself with.

This will also increase the popularity of the Sultanate, which he said was already renowned in the international energy community for its oil and gas.

"In the future, I'm talking about many, many years ahead, Brunei will need a brand, which is founded on science and research, 'hi-tech, low-carbon' and these sorts of slogans; and the Sg Ingei expedition is right up there as an optimum way to build a knowledge economy (as envisioned in the National Vision 2035)."

The Brunei Times

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