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Sabah Parks research assistant (botanical unit) Rossiti M. Karim showing Begonia kolosunanensis sp, a new Begonia plants species found during the mini Bio-Edu-Trail Crocker Range Biosphere Reserve scientific expedition at Kampung Kolosunan, Inanam, Kota Kinabalu. - NSTP/Edmund Samunting.

KOTA KINABALU: A team of botanical researchers has discovered a new species of Begonia flowering plant in Kampung Kolosunan at Inanam here, during a four-day mini Bio-Edu-Trail Crocker Range Biosphere Reserve scientific expedition.

Sabah Parks research assistant (botanical unit) Rossiti M. Karim said her team made a checklist of Begonia plants at the village forest and came across the new species, which they then photographed and collected for identification.

"I provided description (of the plants) and forwarded it to our assistant director in the education and research unit Remi Repin, who is also the author of the Begonia of Borneo guidebook. She then confirmed it to be a new species.

"We named the new Begonia species after the village - Begonia kolosunanensis sp. The Begonia plants mostly grow abundantly in primary forests, damp areas, and by the river," she told reporters when met at the research base camp in the village, today.

"We collected the Begonia kolosunanensis in the secondary forest and they were not abundant. Finding new species here has proven that Kampung Kolosunan, located within the Crocker Range, is rich in biodiversity," she added.

Rossiti said Begonia is one of the largest genera in the world, with species estimated to be over 1,500.

At present, 194 species in Borneo are scientifically described and named, while many more have been collected awaiting to be described.

These plants were recorded in Sabah (82 species), Sarawak (96 species), Brunei Darussalam (21 species), and Kalimantan (five species).

Rossiti said the Begonia plants have been consumed by villagers for a very long time as part of their traditional food.

She noted all recorded Begonia plants are edible and non-poisonous, adding the new Begonia species should be safe for consumption.

"The Begonia plants contain oxalic acid, which gives a sour taste, and vitamin C. It is usually mixed with anchovies."

The four-day research expedition, which started on June 20, also involved research teams from University Malaysia Sabah, State Museum Department, Drainage and Irrigation Department, and the Kota Kinabalu City Hall (DBKK).

The research would also focus on aquatic insect, reptile, amphibian, and identifying tourism potential.

During the expedition's launch, Mayor Datuk Nordin Siman said DBKK has taken initiative to develop rural areas within its administration by introducing community-based tourism programmes.

He noted DBKK’s first programme was Homestay Desa Cinta Kobuni homestay, which was launched in March last year and the first homestay established in Kota Kinabalu.

"Kampung Kobuni has received 600 domestic and foreign visitors. This has helped to increase the villagers’ livelihood. Following the positive response, the community-based tourism programme is expended to nearby villages – Kolosunan and Pinahawon.

"Kolosunan is unique because it is situated in the Crocker Range Biosphere Reserve. The richness in flora and fauna of this area needs to be documented and backed with findings as well as scientific research," he said.

Nordin then called on Kolosunan villagers to play a role in protecting and preserving the environment for future generation. Also present at the event was Assistant Finance Minister and Inanam Assemblyman Kenny Chua.

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