Monday, 30 April 2012

Visitors hamper Sungai Ingei survey

Sg Ingei is pristine and largely untouched by man that any excessive human interaction with the virgin forests could spoil the environment and wildlife habitat.Picture: BT/Rasidah HAB
Monday, April 30, 2012
VISITORS keen to see Brunei's rich biodiversity have been urged to steer clear of Sungai Ingei after experts cited the negative impact on the study currently being conducted.

Recently two camera traps were stolen from the Sg Ingei Faunal Biodiversity Survey field site together with months worth of data, the survey leader, Dr Joseph Charles disclosed to The Brunei Times

Dr Charles explained during a field visit to the Sg Ingei base camp from April 13 to 15, that the camera traps were placed at several places in Sg Ingei aimed at gathering data of faunal biodiversity. So far, around 15,000 pictures had been collected.

Project Administrator of the Sg Ingei Faunal Biodiversity Survey, Dr Ang Bee Biaw said, "the most important message to Bruneians us that we want to say is if they can please avoid Sg Ingei (for six moths to one year) because of the effect they have on the team's survey project".

We have reports that local tourist approaching our boatmen to go to Sg Ingei. Of Course, they (the boatmen) need the additional income and they will take the tourists to Sg Ingei, she said.

"Unfortunately they also throw rubbish and that inevitably affect whatever survey that we do here. Sg Ingei has been here for centuries. They can avoid Sg Ingei for six months to a year and they can always visit Sg Ingei after our expedition," she said.

Dr Charles raised his suspicion that many people who come and take a boat to Sg Ingei are actually (reccing) the place for poaching.

"Not everybody comes (to Sg Ingei) to enjoy. They recce the place, walking through the forests and familiarise themselves with the place. Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources (MIPR) has stopped ecotourism entering Sg Ingei for two years, but people are still sneaking in," he added.

"It (Sg Ingei) is a good forest, but we have good forest in other parts of Brunei too. You cannot see wildlife, tropical wildlife is very difficult to be seen," he said.

Dr Ang added that the tourists wanted to use the facilities in the base camp for their trip.

"Our boatmen told us that the tourists want to use our facilities. But one of the boatman said they cannot, as this is a government property. If anything is damage, they would have to be responsible," she said.

Dr Charles shared her sentiments.

"There are many other places to go to, Ulu Temburong National Park (for example) is open for ecotourism, and it is good to place to enjoy. We want Sg Ingei to be a wildlife sanctuary for Brunei. People have to be proud of this national heritage," he said.

Scientists working under the survey are vying to convince the Brunei government to convert the 18,000 hectares of protected forests of remote Sg Ingei into a wildlife sanctuary, with the establishment of a buffer area that can be zoned for ecotourism and other activities.

"There are areas that we have to zone for ecotourism. One of the zones will be Kg Melilas where you can have ecotourism and lots of activities over there. There are other places which we can identify for ecotourism, but there will still be places inside the extension zone that you cannot allow ecotourism," Dr Charles said. He added, "If we find endangered species in a certain area, we will say don't come and disturb that place. Ecotourism if not properly handled can be very disruptive. There are so many case studies in the world where ecotourism has literally removed a species".

Dr Ang added, "Most of us are volunteers, the paramedic will always come, they don't mind working together as a team. "There are not many places in Brunei that are still pristine, and Sg Ingei is last threshold of that." She stressed that Brunei should maintain and preserve its wildlife and not exploit it. "What if 20 years from now we only have Sg Ingei, at least we still have Sg Ingei that we can be proud of," she said.The Brunei Times

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