RM77m Imbak Canyon Studies Centre launched
Published on: Monday, March 25, 2019

KOTA KINABALU: Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal  will be the first Chief Minister to set foot in the Imbak Canyon Conservation Area (ICCA) when he visits the rich source of medicinal plants for future biotechnological research tomorrow (March 26).

Earning the status of a gene bank, ICCA, located in Ulu Kinabatangan in the heart of Sabah, plays a crucial role as a seed source for future forest rehabilitation and restoration. 

The 27,599-hectare canyon encompasses a range of rainforest habitats within a sweeping 25km-long valley, hemmed in on three sides by sandstorm ridges. At its highest point, the ridges exceed 1,000 metres with Gunung Kuli, the highest peak reaching 1,527 metres.

Being a part of the protected areas within the Yayasan Sabah Concession Area, ICCA has rich plant biodiversity with over 600 species recorded to date, but it can be expected that this figure will rise with further exploration and research. 

ICCA has recorded 82 species of mammals that include the clouded leopard, marble cat, proboscis monkey, orang-utan, Bornean gibbon, banteng, sun bear and Borneo pygmy elephant. 

A total of 242 species of birds have been recorded. The assemblage is characterised by a mix of lowland and montane species, including six species of pitta, all eight species of hornbill found in Borneo and 20 species of flycatcher.

As a pristine natural forest, ICCA also plays an important role as part of the vital wildlife corridor/landscape connectivity, connecting Danum Valley and Maliau Basin conservation areas for major mammals, apart from serving as a water-catchment for Sabah’s longest river system of Sungai Kinabatangan.

In 2003, Yayasan Sabah Group voluntarily designated ICCA as a conservation area. It was formally designated and upgraded as a Class 1 (Protection) Forest Reserve in 2009 for the purposes of research, education, training and recreational purposes. 

ICCA is also one of the five Yayasan Sabah Group’s conservation areas, apart from Danum Valley, Maliau Basin, Silam Coast and Taliwas River. According to Yayasan Sabah Director Datuk Jamalul Kiram Datuk Mohd Zakaria, the Chief Minister's visit would have a lasting impact on ICCA.

He said the Chief Minister’s visit would garner support for ICCA in achieving a premier conservation area, status thus attracting further funding and research projects.

“ICCA is an area of exceptional natural beauty expressed by imposing landscapes and waterfalls befitting an exceptional conservation area status,” he said in a statement.

“Shafie’s visit will also boost efforts to establish the area scientifically. It will highlight the importance of ICCA as a centre of learning in biodiversity conservation and sustainable use of natural resources, as well as for gene bank conservation and exploration for pharmaceutical and biotechnological potentials.”

On research potentials of the ICCA, Jamalul said: “Yayasan Sabah Group envisages the exploration of pharmaceutical and biotechnological potentials at Imbak Canyon Studies Centre (ICSC) and we are delighted to inform that a research on antimicrobial and antioxidant properties of medicinal plants found in ICCA were conducted by researchers from Monash University Malaysia in 2017.”

He said Shafie’s visit would also promote ICCA as an eco-tourism destination. 

He reiterated that the launching will also give wider coverage, both within and outside Malaysia. 

This would, therefore, be an excellent avenue to further publicise the good works of Yayasan Sabah Group and Petronas especially pertaining to the protection of the tropical rainforest and its biodiversity.

“Yayasan Sabah Group is committed in establishing ICSC as an eco-tourism attraction in the district of Tongod. We offer wide ranging facilities ranging from various accommodation types (hostel, rest house, lodges and chalets) to jungle/nature trails, environmental education trail as well as nature gallery available for this purpose,” he explained.

“Due to its inherent infrastructure and available facilities, ICCA could now accommodate up to 202 visitors and 118 researchers/research assistants at any one time. In view of its close proximity to Tongod, Telupid, and Pinangah, it acts as the gateway to Ulu Kinabatangan.”

Shafie will officiate the opening of the ICSC on March 26. The centre, which came about from the ongoing Yayasan Sabah Group-Petronas Imbak Canyon Conservation Partnership, is located on 27 hectares at the fringe of the ICCA core area, which provides facilities for research, education, training and nature recreation. 

The infrastructure can cater to all types of visitors from walk-in guests to VVIPs as well as educational groups and researchers/scientists.

Other facilities include an office complex, environmental education complex, scientific laboratory, conference hall, sports complex, cafe, nature gallery and surau.

The centre is a key component of the ICCA Strategic Management Plan (2014-2023) in ensuring its sustainable management. The Management plan provides the framework for activities to be implemented in ICCA over 10 years, which will address issues pertaining to securing the conservation of the area.


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