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Mangrove saplings, crabs
Published on: Thursday, September 12, 2019

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah Forestry Department (SFD) jointly with the International Society for Mangrove Ecosystems (Isme) and Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS), embarked on efforts to conserve Sabah’s mangrove ecosystem by planting seedlings in Sulaman and Weston, and releasing mangrove crablets in Sulaman Bay Forest Reserve. Some 60 personnel and volunteers from the three organisations took part.

Approximately 1,200 mangrove propagules (the technical jargon for mangrove seedlings) of species Rhizophora apiculata, supplied by the Sulaman Wetland Sanctuary, were planted. 

“Bangkita”, as this species of mangrove plant is locally known, is a native species throughout the Indo-West Pacific region. A mature tree grows to a height of 30 metres, with a characteristic system of stilt roots arching out from the trunk. 

The species is listed as Least Concern in the IUCN Red List, despite a decrease in the population trend of the number of mature trees being recorded from its range distribution. 

At the same event, 500 juvenile mangrove crabs or crablets supplied by the Borneo Marine Research Institute (BMRI), UMS, were released. Worth noting is the brood-stock of the released species of mangrove crab Scylla tranquebarica, were purchased from the Tuaran tamu in May this year. 

This implies that the released crablets are a natural species of the area. Locally known as “Kabaw Gawa” by the Bajau Samahs living in Sulaman, mangrove crabs are exploited as a food resource throughout Sabah. 

The BMRI researchers noted that there exists a flourishing but undocumented mangrove crab trade in the State, even targeting the lucrative international market. 

Unfortunately, the currently unregulated wild-caught mangrove crab trade is already showing signs of overfishing following the drastic drop in production in less than a decade. Moreover, they note that none of the mangrove crab species are currently listed on any national protected species listings.

The number of mangrove crabs released at the event is certainly “too few” for the vast area where they were released in.

Nevertheless, the gesture is a significant one as such an effort together with the efforts to rehabilitate and conserve their habitat is a direct contribution towards achieving IUCNs Sustainable Development Goal (SDG), particularly SDG 14. Goal 14 aimed to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development”. 

In Sabah, forest reserves come under the jurisdiction of the Sabah Forestry Department. This also means that all native animal and plant wildlife occurring within a forest reserve are under the jurisdiction of SFD. 

With a reserve area of approximately 490 hectares, the Sulaman Bay Forest Reserve is ideal for the mangrove crab restocking, where the released crablets will have plenty of roaming area and food resources to grow and replicate in a natural environment. 

The SFD and Isme mangrove rehabilitation project were funded by Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance Co., Ltd., Japan, in which the company channelled the funds to SFD via Isme. 

For SFD and BMRI-UMS, both institutions will continue with future joint conservation efforts, the latter with plans to restock Sabah’s coastal ecosystems, particularly in coastal forest reserves, with mangrove crabs and various other hatchery-produced species. Other civil society organisations are also welcomed to join in the efforts.



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