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1,000ha wildlife corridor set up
Published on: Friday, November 22, 2019
By: David Thien
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KOTA KINABALU: Sabah Softwood Berhad, despite its name, is also involved in oil palm and mentioned by Moderator Robert Ong at the recent Timber Association of Sabah (TAS) organised “Forest Plantation, Processing and Sabah’s Economic Future Forum” as the only industrial tree plantation with elephant conflict issues.

In response, its spokesman Ram Nathan took the opportunity at the Q&A session to boast of having set up a 1,000 hectares of wildlife corridor which he calls an “ecological corridor”. This was to inform the audience that his company is doing its level best in various ways to mitigate conflict with elephants, working with many experts to resolve such issues.

“Now in our ecological corridor, not only elephants but the orangutans and sun bears are seen thriving after we have planted fruit trees and others there,” he said.

Plantations are not obstructed to have mix species in Sabah, although it matters much to success by correctly choosing the right species able to grow well in Sabah. Research done in isolation overseas or locally may not be transferable in all cases to different areas.

“Was there any study or monitoring done on the planting of eucalyptus in Sabah by the Forestry Department?” was a question posed by one UMS representative.

Tree species adaptation needs time to gauge their viability for industrial plantation growth rate.

To this question on the water issue posed by planting eucalyptus trees in Sabah, Ong who is the head of the Sabah Forestry Department Research Unit replied that in Sabah with a good rainfall rate, “water is not a limiting factor”, unlike parts of Australia, where cotton crop is far worse off in water consumption intake.

He said his department is always on the lookout for alternative species of plantation trees if there are problems with acacia or others. According to a Federal funding agency, Sabah investors have invested much in growing Timber Latex Clone or TLC or Rubberwood.

On a question on the problem of top soil deficit in agricultural lands under plantation cultivation, an expert Prof Meder replied: 

“The top soil is there from thousands of years, but the problem when you disturbed it, it disappeared and you never get it back.

“You can’t fix the problem. But unfortunately, sometimes, practices of plantations in Sabah damaged the top soil pushed into the subsoil.”

He said there is a need to let the leaves and bark remained where they were fallen as nutrients for the soil to make up for the loss of the top soil.

As for the question posed by Ir CC Lo from the Institution of Engineers Malaysia (IEM) Sabah Branch on the problem with termites when using engineered wood products like CLT or or Cross Laminated Timber to build multi-storey buildings, Prof Meder said the timber can be treated with termiticide, biocide, and fire-retardant chemicals.

“I know many of you find it hard to believe when I said the CLT board doesn’t burn easily. It may get charred by fire and can resist flames for hours.”

The expert speakers said the growth of plantation timber source is good for the future and the opportunity is still there for Sabah to balance the potential between natural and plantation forests.

Success of eucalyptus trees plantations were proven around the world from sub tropics to temperate zones, they said.

The Federal and State governments were urged to have larger plans for the success of the timber tree plantation industry than just the current incentives or tax breaks where more are needed to incentivise investments. There’s a need to maintain long-term focus, not just good intention.

Merely “Throwing money at problems, don’t work,” said Bryant Wong, the General Manager of Sapulut Forest Development Sdn Bhd, as he explained that there is no success story in timber planting programme in any part of the world without any proper policies in place.  

The forum was a great success considering the good turnout, according to the organisers.

 



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