Scots scientists addressing conservation challenges in Sarawak

Scottish-based scientists have become part of a vital vanguard preparing to advance conservation research in the rich biodiversity hotspot of Sarawak, home to such creatures as the enigmatic orang-utan. Flying the flag on behalf of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) at the launch of a new strategy in the state capital Kuching, tropical botanist Dr Peter Wilkie spoke of the importance of this multi-discipline approach which has been created thanks to the Malaysian state opening-up its Totally Protected Areas (TPAs) to foreign researchers.

“The richness of Sarawak’s plant and animal life is internationally-renowned” said Dr Wilkie, who represented RBGE Regius Keeper Simon Milne at the signing of a five-way international Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). “However, while Sarawak’s landscape has changed rapidly as development has progressed in recent decades, our understanding of the impact of changes -such as deforestation - to natural areas has lagged behind. This new scientific initiative is an important step forward in looking at how scientific research can help refine the management of Sarawak’s forests, especially its biologically-rich TPAs, in the interests of conservation”.

As part of the initiative, four field sites have been selected for an intensified research programme. These include the lowland and hill forests of Nanga Segrak and Nanga Bloh in Lanjak-Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary, and Nanga Delok in Bantang Ai National Park in the interior; all possess and maintain fully developed, well-equipped, field stations. A fourth field station will be built in the newly gazetted Ulu Sebuyau National Park, located in one of Sarawak’s most extensive areas of peatland and kerangas forests. 

Provoked by the Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC), the project will be led by a group of eminent international and regional scientists with field experience in the state. They include Sarawak Forestry, RBGE, the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, the Lee Kong Chian Museum of Natural History, Singapore and the Wildlife Conservation Society.

The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is a charity (registration number SC007983)