Kota Kinabalu: Sabah should adopt the ‘Bizarre Borneo’ tagline, which emphasises the uniqueness of Borneo and Sabah to promote sustainable eco-tourism.
University College Sabah Foundation Vice Chancellor Prof Ghazally Ismail said eco-tourists who come to Sabah are more interested in the information behind the rich ecosystem that is sustaining the flora and fauna on the island than the opportunity to see them live.
“I once brought a group of tourists to watch turtles. But when we arrived, it was raining and because turtles do not like wet sands, they did not show up.
“I apologised to the tourists but to my surprise they said they did not mind.
They were just happy to know that the turtles are here, that we are doing our best to conserve and protect the species,” said Ghazally.
Therefore, he added, it is crucial to supply as much information as possible on the uniqueness and bizarre properties of all the wildlife in Sabah since those information would become the biggest tourist assets besides the existing assets such as the orang-utans and the crocodiles.
“Improving knowledge is key. Nature-based tourism must help people to understand the link between natural and cultural heritage and promote understanding and appreciation of the environment by the provision of quality information and interpretation,” he said.
The ecosystem on the island is very diverse, added Ghazally, with many of the flora and fauna can only be found on the island (endemic).
“There are 15,000 species of plants here and 6,000 are endemic.
If you want to know what is so impressive about that, the whole of New Zealand has only 2,500 species of higher plants.
“We have 3,000 species of plants, 265 species of dipterocarps (hardwood) and out of these, 155 species are endemic. We have 2,000 species of orchids, 16 species of Rafflesia, all endemic to Sabah,” he said.
The island of Borneo also has 288 species of terrestrial mammals, 102 species of bats, 61 species of rats and mice, 91 species of marine mammals, 600 species of birds with 30 endemic species, 639 species of ants, 394 species of freshwater fish, 150 species of frogs and 195 species of lizards.
Ghazally continued that the diversity of the island can be showcased by the fact that one could find 700 species of trees in a ten-hectare plot of land.
“This equals the total number of tree species in Canada and United States, combined,” he said.
Studies on the island’s biodiversity have intensified over the past decades that scientists have been able to discover three new species every month for the past ten years.
The most recent study includes the rediscovery of micro-frog, long believed to have extinct, in Kubah National Park, Sarawak almost four years ago.
“An example of ‘Bizarre Borneo’ tourism is the spectacular two-hour bat show in Sarawak. Platforms are built for tourists to sit down and watch almost two million blind bats flying in long spiralling streams to spend the night hunting for insects,” said Ghazally.
The acclaimed writer also hailed the construction of canopies built over the rainforests in Sabah, attributing the increased discoveries of new species to the move.
According to Ghazally, the canopies have helped scientists and environmental researchers studied the natures of flora and fauna and solved countless unanswered questions such as how some insects mate or survive.
“You would think that frogs are only found near water.
But when studies were first conducted after the canopies were built, we found many species of frogs living on trees and they are nowhere near any water,” he said.
Other unique species that can be found on Borneo are little mushrooms that turn ants into zombies, sucking fish Gastromyzon borneensis with all 36 members of the genus endemic to Borneo, Bornean flat-headed frog that has no lungs and love dart slugs.
“Those are the bizarre things about Borneo which I think we can turn into tourist attractions.
Never mind if tourists come here and did not see a thing. They will be satisfied to know that, deep in the forests, these species are protected by us, harboured these bizarre things for the next generations.
“They will go home satisfied. They will tell their friends, ‘Go to Borneo. Research had been done there, areas have been protected.
Go there, support their tourism so that it’s sustainable’,” he said.
Source: Daily Express
Source (Picture : wwwf.panda.org)