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From YSD Annual Report 2019

IN a quiet groove in the Bukit Piton Forest Reserve, Sabah Forestry Department (SFD) officers are preparing for one last round of maintenance work on trees planted in the area under reforestation efforts supported by YSD and Sime Darby Plantation Berhad.

The maintenance work, carried out in November 2018, was the last to be carried out before YSD officially handed over the project to the SFD in December last year following its conclusion of the ten-year project. 

YSD’s support for the reforestation project had assisted SFD to successfully advocate for the reclassification of the Northern Ulu Segama Forest Reserve (now know as Bukit Piton Forest Reserve) to a Class 1 Protection Forest Reserve or Totally Protected Area status in 2012, from its original status as Class 2 Commercial Forest Reserve. 

Under the law, this reclassification protects the area from future encroachment or development activities, as it is not allowed to be used or converted for other land use purposes.

Sabah Forestry District Officer Mijol said the project has been a major success for the department and will serve as a pioneer project for future reforestation projects to come in Sabah. “We wish to use this project as a model for other areas. Not only in the Ulu Segama area, but in other districts as well,” he said.

YSD began supporting the reforestation and rehabilitation of orangutan habitats in the Bukit Piton Forest Reserve in 2008 with a commitment of RM25 million. Since then, a total of 295,159 trees have been planted in an area covering 5,400ha.

Mijol said since the project’s implementation, orangutan nests have been increasingly sighted by project and NGO workers. “WWF (World Wildlife Fund)
did some studies in 2014 on orangutan nests and found that after the project began, the nests are well distributed now. The canopy is recovering,” he said.

“It shows that rehabilitation projects can have a huge payoff. This project brought the orangutans back to the area, and brought the forest back to its natural state,” he added.

A habitat once ravaged by forest fires and acute timber harvesting practices, the Bukit Piton Forest Reserve is now slowly recovering, with wildlife returning to its once barren land.

The project has also supported the communities living along Sungai Segama who have been engaged and provided job opportunities related to reforestation works. Ene Petrus, 36, is one member of the Segama community who was employed under the project. Prior to his work under the project, he worked at his uncle’s
oil palm plantation.

Orangutans sightings have been more common in trees planted by YSD about a decade ago.

Since working for the reforestation project, he has learnt to appreciate the fragile
ecosystem he calls home. “When I was working at the oil palm plantation, it was just work. It’s just one crop,” he said.

“But working in the forest, you see different wildlife. You also learn about the different trees in the forest. I have learnt to care about the forest. I have seen deers, hornbills, elephants, orangutan, musang,” he added.

For the contractors working on the project like Segama Frontier, the past few years have been rewarding in more ways than one. Segama Frontier Manager Hatta
Tahir, 41, said this was his first time working on a reforestation project. “Previously, we do oil palm planting. For oil palm planting, we plant the crops on cleared terraces. With this project, the area is in its natural state,” he said.

“After we started working on this project, we have a stronger passion for the environment because we see the effects of what we are doing. Previously, this area was an open area. We had to do intense replanting. Now, every time the
workers go into the reforested areas, they see orangutans,” he added.


The initiative also positively impacted other wildlife such as bantengs and sun bears as they get to experience a more conducive habitat.

Sabah Forestry Assistant District Officer Jevani Sahak, 47, said the
positive change in the area is palpable. “Before the project started, it used to
be very hot. Now, you can see that the area is green, the air is fresh. That’s
why if you want to live longer, stay in Bukit Piton,” he said with a laugh.

“We can also see changes in the small river nearby. Now, the river is full of fish
so the orang kampung can also get income (from fishing). As there is an increase in wildlife, the Sabah Wildlife Department has set up a patrol team who patrols the
area every day,” he added.

Jevani said the project would not have been successful without commitment and
passion towards reforestation efforts. “Only by having a heart that cares for
the environment, wildlife, and air; will you see success,” he added.

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Last Updated:
29 Sep 2020
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