HoB opens opportunity for research

National 4 minutes, 54 seconds

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

THE trilateral Heart of Borneo (HoB) initiative has opened the doors for many local and foreign researchers to conduct studies in a bid to learn more about Brunei’s biodiversity.

The forests of HoB contain some of the most biologically diverse habitats and are home to many diverse communities of indigenous people.

In 2007, the three Bornean countries of Brunei, Malaysia and Indonesia signed the HoB declaration to conserve and sustainably manage around 220,000 square kilometres of equatorial rainforests, or almost a third of the island.

Earlier this year, the chief executive officer (CEO) of Brunei’s HoB centre, Mahmud Hj Yussof said that more research should be done in the HoB’s forests following the discovery of new fauna species on the sultanate’s part of the trilateral conservation area.

Continuous research should be done at the ‘understudied’ area particularly when new fauna species were discovered by researchers, said the CEO.

“The HoB is rich in pristine forests but it is still understudied and we have to identify more research to know what we have in our area,” he said during a two-day HoB conference held in May.

He also said that new finding of species on the Bornean Island is an indicator that the HoB initiative is a positive thing and that efforts on research will be stronger.

Brunei-based researchers have found new dragonfly and damselfly species, various other fauna species found endemic to Borneo and the first record of a bay cat in a local research area where there had only been records of six other sightings of the wild cat in six other parts of Borneo.

An average of three species discoveries is made every month in the Heart of Borneo according to the World Wide Fund for Nature’s website.

Mahmud also highlighted on the importance of forest conservation initiative can help boost the economy by commercialisation of the findings and that continuous research should be undertaken.

“We have to make use of these resources and utilise them wisely so that the three pillars of development – social, economic and environment – are there,” Mahmud said.

Development projects in the country should also take environment into consideration and that every mega project should consider the HoB efforts to protect our ecosystems.

Heart of Borneo (HoB) Trilateral Conference: six resolutions drawn

The two-day conference held back in May resulted in the drawing of six resolutions which also include the recognition of the forest conservation initiative bringing in positive impact on the island’s economic growth.

Researchers and experts had presented their findings on various biodiversity projects on Borneo during the conference.

Biodiversity researchers from Brunei, Malaysia and Singapore who took part in the conference recognised the importance of the HoB initiative in providing a scientific platform creating vast research opportunities on Bornean forest biological resources, an important factor for business communities from HoB member countries.

Another resolution at the trilateral conference was recognising the need to strengthen existing collaboration among HoB member countries given the overwhelming scientific evidence of the socio-economic and environmental benefits found on Borneo.

It noted that technical cooperative mechanisms have to be developed to facilitate future trilateral projects to enhance the visibility of the HoB Initiative’s progress, adding that the role of corporate and private sectors should be enhanced.

The conference also underscored the need to extend and explore the scope of future HoB projects by actively involving scientists and civil societies in each member country.

The workshop also made the resolution that the HoB initiative provides an important framework for protecting forest biodiversity values within the designated core area of the HoB.

“The conference deliberated various field of research activities based on five agreed pillars within the designated HoB area in each member country involving the relevant government agencies, research institutions and key stakeholders,” the final resolution read.

According to the Biodiversity Research and Innovation Centre (BioRIC) quarterly report from July to September, it said that the conference learnt that there is overwhelming scientific evidence of the socio-economic and environmental benefits of having rich Bornean biodiversity.

It also suggested for the next HoB Trilateral Initiative meant for the youth from the three HoB member countries.

Brunei to pursue biodiversity corridor

In an interview with The Brunei Times in May, the CEO had said the plan to establish a trilateral biodiversity corridor in the HoB once it receives funding from the international donors.

“It (the plan) had received positive responses from the three governments of Brunei, Malaysia and Indonesia,” said Mahmud.

The corridor will allow “real projects to be done on the ground”, such as identifying the forest areas to be preserved as the HoB area is currently only marked on the map, he said.

Based from a 2014 report, the corridor, which is known as the ‘HoB spine’, would span from Sungei Ingei and Ulu Temburong National Park in Brunei to Gunung Mulu National Park, the Kubuaan Puak forest management zone and Pulung Tau National Park in Sarawak and into Indonesia’s Kayan Mentarang National Park.

He noted that there are many advantages and potential activities that can be conducted, which include eco-tourism.

“So far, we have done it individually but now we want to have eco-tourism packages involving the three countries on the island,” he said.

The transboundary corridor will enable tourists to visit the Bornean forests once completed.

Mahmud added: “But of course, we are subject to other regulations (when crossing the border) and our principle is to share the beauty of the Borneo Island.”

He further said that in order for the countries to establish the biodiversity corridor, funding from international donors is needed.

The sultanate cannot stand alone in conserving the forests, and instead needs to cooperate with other countries.

“We want to put this together so that our conservation policy can be applicable to all countries. Everybody respects each other’s conservation areas,” he added.

The Brunei Times