Grow a forest
Reforestation effort in Sabah gets a helping hand from the corporate sector.
LIVING in their little bubbles of comfort zone, many people hardly realise how our forests have gradually depleted through time. Last month, Google released a map highlighting the world’s alarming rate of deforestation.
The global forest map showed Malaysia to have the highest rate of forest loss between 2000 and 2012 – at 14.4% which translates to 47,728sqkm of lost vegetation. Though reforestation efforts have been ongoing, they are still not enough to sustain the extensive decline of natural forests.
While Borneo was once known for its virgin forests and orang utans, it is not really the case anymore, especially for Sabah. Sabah Forestry Department senior research officer Dr Robert Ong said that an estimated 60% of Sabah’s forests is reserved for timber production and the rest are conservation areas, which does not include the already deforested grounds for agriculture purposes.
“There were criticisms that we were putting efforts into logged forests and were not saving pristine forests, but reforestation efforts are important, too.
“It takes at least 50 years for a reforested area to resemble a naturally grown forest but in just five to six years, you would be able to see some impact,” Ong said.
On the bright side, he added that reforestation was becoming a trend. “Protected areas have increased through the years and we are trying to convert production areas into protected areas.”
The corporate sector has heeded the call to assist in reforestation efforts in Sabah, with the latest one being Senheng Electric, which has vouched to reforest 46ha in North Ulu Segama, Lahad Datu.
The area to be reforested is the Bukit Piton Forest Reserve, which is part of the Ulu Segama Malua Forest Reserve. Late last month, Senheng brought 20 people that included employees and guests to plant 200 tree seedlings in its Plant A Tree programme jointly conducted with World Wide Fund for Nature Malaysia (WWF).
“It’s a great activity and we felt that it was worth spending a few hundred thousand on this threeyear partnership to reforest the area,” said Senheng managing director K.H. Lim.
They planted fruit trees which the orang utans feed on.
WWF forest restoration manager Ferdinand Lobinsiu explained that seeds of trees that grow on the edge of the forest reserve were collected and planted in a nursery. After six to 12 months, the seedlings were ready to be planted in the forest.
“There are a total of 30 species of trees planted here. There needs to be a variety of tall trees and short ones,” said Lobinsiu.
He explained that once the forest cover was established, it would attract orang utans and other species to colonise the space.
Bukit Piton was once home to many orang utans. In 1983, the El Nino drought left detrimental effects on the habitat – some 12,000ha was razed and it was left unrehabilitated.
In the last aerial and ground survey of 2006, it was found that the orang utan population in Bukit Piton was between 130 to 220.
The surrounding areas of the forest are now oil palm plantations. Hence, most of the surviving orang utans are now isolated in the northern region of the Ulu Segama Malua Forest Reserve.
With extensive reforestation efforts by WWF, Senheng and other parties, hopefully in a few years time, orang utans will return to where they once call home.
Green moves: a volunteer planting a seedling at bukit Piton Forest reserve in Lahad datu, Sabah, as part of the Plant a Tree programme by Senheng electric. — onG Soon HIn/The Star
Tree seedlings were planted in neat rows at bukit Piton Forest reserve.