Drowning Borneo

Flooding has begun for the Bakun Dam in Borneo.  When I was there this summer no effort had been made to rescue any wildlife in the prospective flood zone, an area the size of Singapore.  Now, the Sarawak government is talking about its rescue efforts as if it deserves praise.  According to officials, the animals about to drown are “the biggest collection of protected animals in the world.”  NGOs in Malaysia have been virtually silent on the ensuing horror….

Protected Animals in Bakun Catchment Area Being Relocated (Borneo Post)

BAKUN: The relocation of some species of protected animals on the islands and forests in the Bakun dam catchment area started a few months ago.
It is carried out by the Wild Animal Rescue Operations Unit of the Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC) and Sarawak Hidro Sdn Bhd.The work ensures that endangered animals won’t become extinct after the filling of the dam reservoir.

Sarawak Hidro Sdn Bhd general manager (special functions), Datuk Sirajuddin Salleh, said the animals were captured using traps placed on some of the islands.

“The animals will be moved to higher ground as the catchment area would eventually be under water,” he said.

“They will be released at four locations that have been identified which are also close to the site but the area is higher.”

Sirajuddin spoke about this after a ground-breaking ceremony for Bakun Reservoir Project 02 (BRP02) package and Pelah Pelenyep Daleh.

Hulu Rajang member of parliament, Datuk Billy Abit Joo, officiated at the function jointly organised by Sarawak Hidro Sdn Bhd, Wargana Consortium Sdn Bhd and Sinaran Bakun (M) Bhd at Bakun yesterday.

“The operation so far has involved some 67 animals of various species namely a type of monkeys (slow loris) and ‘western tarsier’, six ‘pig tail macaque’ monkey, an anteater, 34 ‘plantail’ squirrel, 13 ‘treeshrew’ squirrel, five ‘palm civet’ weasel and a small civet cat,” he said.

The others are a species of ‘crested fireback’ and ‘crested wood partridge’ bird, two ‘greater mouse deer’ and a ‘lesser mouse deer’.”

He said the efforts had to be accelerated to ensure that the animals reached safety quickly.

The 20 staff members from SFC and Sarawak Hidro had followed all the necessary procedures since last month.

He also urged local residents not to hunt the protected animals during the rescue work for the safety of those involved in the operation.

“Weapons used by hunters are very dangerous and we also need to protect the animals,” he said.

He said the whole thing was an operation to rescue what is believed to be the biggest collection of protected animals in the world.

The operation will continue until all the animals have been successfully relocated.

Asked whether the operation was difficult, he said it was certainly hard to capture wild animals.

However, there have been no attacks by wild animals on their rescuers.

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One Response to “Drowning Borneo”

  1. Azrina Abdullah Says:

    This latest statement from SFC showing off its ‘efforts’ is simply ridiculous. ’67 animals of various species’ is nothing compared the 800 species of plants, 104 species of fish and 220 mammal and bird species that live in the Bakun area. These 67 animals were reported by SFC in June this year. What happened to the past 4 months? And why did it start only months before the dam was to be flooded? The Environmental Impact Assessment report was completed in 1996 warning the state government that these 1000 over flora and fauna species will be lost if nothing is done. 14 years went by and SFC has the audacity to say it has saved 67 animals! And they’re saving one anteater, one civet cat, one lesser mouse deer, etc..Haven’t they heard of animals needing to reproduce to ensure their species continue?
    In addition, the Bakun dam still does not have an Emergency Rescue Plan to address any eventualities of environmental disasters due to dam failure. A boat has already capsized with one Penan missing because flooding was made without taking proper precautions for those living downstream. The mighty Rejang River, the longest river in Malaysia, is already drying up and as usual, politicians have blamed this on the weather instead of Bakun. Children who used to take a 30 minute boatride to school now have to walk 3 hours because boat services have stopped due to the low level of water. While this is going on, the state government has started work on Murum dam, 60 kms from Bakun.
    And you are right – the damage Sarawak state is inflicting on its people and wildlife is something which should make headline news, and with NGOs beating on the door of the politicians demanding answers. Efforts by local Sarawak NGOs fighting for land rights are commendable but environmental NGOs based in Malaysia (both local and international) have been silent on the potential loss of biodiversity in Bakun. What are you afraid of? Being banned from Sarawak? By 2030, Sarawak plan to have 52 dams – it will be interesting to see whether our environmental NGOs take a stand, if any, but I won’t be holding my breath.