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Liew said Saraya and BCT Japan have contributed a total RM9.346 million to Sabah for the last 13 years for conservation programmes including funding for the building, upgrading and operation of the Borneo Elephant Sanctuary. NSTP/EDMUND SAMUNTING

KOTA KINABALU: A Japanese company and non-governmental organisation (NGO) have handed over 93ha of land in Lower Kinabatangan to the state for further protection and conservation of wildlife in Sabah.

The land was purchased with contributions from Saraya Co Ltd and Borneo Conservation Trust (BCT) Japan through its conservation partner, BCT Sabah under the BCT Land Acquisition exercise.

The land title was handed over to the Sabah Wildlife Department from two bodies as well as BCT Sabah here, yesterday, witnessed by Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal and Deputy Chief Minister cum state Tourism, Culture, and Environment Minister Datuk Christina Liew.

Liew said Saraya and BCT Japan have contributed a total RM9.346 million to Sabah for the last 13 years for conservation programmes including funding for the building, upgrading and operation of the Borneo Elephant Sanctuary.

The contribution was also used for elephant rescue operations, providing food for nine rescued elephants and the purchase of several plots of land.

Present at the event were Saraya president Yusuke Saraya, BCT Sabah chairman, Datuk Dr Laurentius Ambu, and state wildlife director Augustine Tuuga.

Liew noted the parties' desire in handing over the 230 acres of land to be gazetted as part of the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary and be accorded total protection status under the Wildlife Conservation Enactment.

She also said 132.2ha of lands, critical for the movement of endangered wildlife in the Lower Kinabatangan, were purchased from the contribution of the international community through fundraising.

The NGOs involved in the land purchase were United Kingdom-based World Land Trust (WLT), United States’ Shared Earth Foundation and Abraham Foundation, as well as local-based Land Empowerment Animals People (LEAP).

"The lands were handed over to the wildlife department in 2013 during the time when Laurentius was the state wildlife director. The plots of land are now being gazetted as part of the Lower Kinabatangan Sanctuary under the Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997," Liew added.

"The Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary is a very important wildlife conservation area and rich in wildlife, including iconic species such as the Orangutan, elephant and proboscis monkey, just to name a few. It is one of the famous natural tourist attractions."

Liew said the sanctuary is only 64,502 acres and is fragmented into ten lots along the lower Kinabatangan river, stressing the importance of critical areas for wildlife movement to be retained under forest cover to connect the fragmented sanctuary.

"Today, if we can have the 93ha to be gazetted as part of the sanctuary, we will have a total of 315.6ha of additional area to be added to the existing sanctuary," she said.

The fund receipts from Japan for the purchase of land for wildlife conservation under the "Green Corridor Project" in the Lower Kinabatangan region for 2008 to October 2019 period totalled more than RM4.6 million.

During a meeting on Sunday, Yusuke commended Liew for her proposal to convert the Green Corridor (acquired land) into an Elephant Food Corridor for the benefit of future generations.

"This is advancement from our original plan to protect and conserve wildlife in Sabah," he said, adding that one of BCT Japan's initiatives is the "Green Corridor Project" (2008-2019) which aims to connect small remaining patches of forest area to create one large continuous ecosystem.

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