WWF Heart of Borneo Network Initiative Leader Adam Tomasek participating in a jungle trek near the Topi Camp along the Sungai Topi during the second phase of the Sg Ingei Faunal Biodiversity Survey. Picture: BT/Ubaidillah Masli
(Top) A Bornean leaf-nosed bat caught by Dr David Lane of UBD during the second phase of the SgIngei Faunal Biodiversity Survey. (Above) A Harlequin Flying Frog caught by UBD postgraduate student volunteer HanyrolHanyzanAhmadsah during the second phase of the SgIngei Faunal Biodiversity Survey. Pictures: BT/UbaidillahMasli
Thursday, August 4, 2011
WORLD Wildlife Fund for Nature's (WWF) top official to the tri-nation Heart of Borneo (HoB) conservation pact has lauded the ongoing scientific project to document animals living in the remote, untouched forests of SungaiIngei in Belait district.
"What I think is quite unique about this, is that this is a project that is set up specifically to better understand the biodiversity in a protection forest, and use that information and the science behind it to ideally improve both the understanding of why this is such a special area but also inform the type of management decisions that could be made in the future," said Adam Tomasek.
WWF's HoB initiative leader was among the "VIPs" invited to tag along for a weekend trip to SgIngei starting July 8, to observe an expert team led by Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) biologists for the SgIngei Faunal Biodiversity Survey.
The study, which also involved specialists from around the region, has been looking at a host of animals, from large cats to exotic birds and some yet-to-be-confirmed species, found living in the 18,000 hectares of protected forest.
Speaking to The Brunei Times during the visit, Tomasek said he had been comparing the wildlife study to "what is or isn't going in parts of Indonesia and Malaysia (HoB member countries), under the same Heart of Borneo types of programmes".
"I think it is a great example of setting up a research project, not just for research in itself, but to look at how you can apply the findings of that research to improve government policy, local community awareness, national awareness, and in other ways, use it to inform the other two countries of Indonesia and Malaysia the type of work the government of Brunei is supporting under the Heart of Borneo."
Tomasek said bridging the communication gaps between the scientists and the policymakers was an aspect that was incorporated in the design phase of the wildlife study, while also noting that "outreach" with government officials was carried out from the project's outset.
Minister of Industry and Primary Resources PehinOrangKaya Seri UtamaDato Seri SetiaHjYahyaBegawan MudimDatoPadukaHjBakar has been the most senior official to have joined the arduous expedition, which is supported by basic temporary facilities such as a makeshift basecamp made of local wood and toilets dug into the ground. Including the recent excursion, the minister has observed and participated in the faunal survey at least three times.
"By having PehinYahya join the trip, they're (the scientists are) specifically looking at trying to bridge that gap between field research and what it could mean to policy- or decision-making," Tomasek said.
"Bringing the two together helps both sides better understand each other's point of view."
The WWF leader, who is based in Jakarta, also saw British High Commissioner to Brunei Rob Fenn'sparticipation in the recent visit as well as Singaporean High Commissioner Joseph Koh's participation in another visit to Ingei in March 2011 as a form of international recognition of the HoB work being carried out in Brunei.
"When I compare this to Indonesia, it's extremely difficult to get ambassadors to go out to these far off project sites, let alone have them sit on a boat like we did for seven hours upriver. One, it shows a level of commitment and interest," he said.
"But I think it also shows the significance of projects like this means something to the country as a whole and that there is a high level of recognition that the variety of work that's falling under the umbrella of the HoB in Brunei is very well known and recognised by high commissioners from different countries."
Tomasek said such foreign interest could lead to greater regional cooperation, suggesting possible tie-ups between foreign missions assigned here and their sister offices in Indonesia.
"Trying to make those linkages and be able to have the discussions in the different countries, sort of connect the dots, between the different countries is important for the region itself.
"Whether or not that leads to greater or more direct contributions to this kind of work from those countries, that's always a matter of bilateral assistance, priorities and things like that," he said.
"Often times, what you need is a really solid grounding, something that is globally significant but is also something very relevant in a place. I think that these kinds of projects provide that."