LAWAS, 4 MARCH 2017 – Biodiversity conservation is generally very challenging; more so in the case of Dugong and Seagrass conservation in Sarawak due to the vastness of the Dugong habitat off the coast of Lawas. Recognising this, the Government has decided to enlist the help of local communities in the Lawas district for dugong and seagrass conservation. Towards this end, 70 individuals were appointed as Honorary Wild Life Rangers (HWLRs) in an official appointment ceremony held here today.

The ceremony was officiated by Datuk Amar Haji Awang Tengah Ali Hasan, Second Minister of Resource Planning and Environment and Minister of Industrial and Enterpreneur Development, Trade and Investment. The Minister, in his officiating speech said, “The Sarawak Government recognised the importance of Kuala Lawas for marine conservation in the State. Therefore, the gazettment of Kuala Lawas National Park would be materialised as part of the State’s plan to establish 1.5 million hectares of Totally Protected Areas (TPAs).”

“The constitution of Kuala Lawas National Park which is the first ever National Park in the Lawas district would enable better conservation of marine species especially for the endangered dugong species. Apart from that, it would also benefit the communities of Lawas in terms of economic returns through development of turnkey services for ecotourism,” he added.

Wong Ting Chung, the Chief Executive Officer of SARAWAK FORESTRY also spoke at the event. Wong indicated, “The responsibility to protect and conserve our environment is not easy even with the combined efforts of SARAWAK FORESTRY and Forest Department Sarawak. Various programmes have been introduced to encourage community participation in conservation initiatives including the Honorary Wild Life Ranger programme.”

“This is the second appointment for Honorary Wild Life Ranger for the Lawas district. However, the appointment this time is slightly different from the previous one in the sense that we have now an international linkage to the Dugong and Seagrass Conservation Project,” Wong added.

The Dugong and Seagrass Conservation Project is the first coordinated global effort to conserve dugongs and their seagrass habitat and involves 8 participating countries; Malaysia, Indonesia, Madagascar, Mozambique, Sri Lanka, Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste and Vanuatu. The Malaysian project sites include Kuala Lawas and the Sibu and Tinggi islands in Johor. Through SFC’s CEPA (Communication Education and Public Awareness) programme, 98 students from selected schools have been exposed to the needs and concept of dugong conservation.

Eight species of seagrass had been recorded along the beaches of Sg. Bangkulit towards Kuala Kebab Putus in Lawas. The seagrass meadow at the area is amongst the largest in the country and is also the biggest feeding ground for multiple genetic stocks of green turtle in the South-east Asia Region. This priceless treasure has made Lawas unique amongst the many districts of Sarawak.