Len Talif (back row centre) with Zolkipli (back row ninth left) and others at a photocall with officials and participants of the 2nd ASEAN Flyway Network Meeting.

KUCHING: Sarawak Forestry Corporation Sdn Bhd is surveying areas in the northern part of the state which have the potential to be developed into important bird areas, said Urban Planning, Land Administration and Environment Assistant Minister Datuk Len Talif Salleh.

He revealed that these areas included the Kuala Baram wetland in Miri and the Kuala Trusan wetland in Lawas when officiating at the 2nd Asean Flyway Network (AFN) Meeting at Hilton Hotel here today.

“I leave it to the Sarawak Forestry to work with local authorities and interested parties to develop the protection plan. One day, we may develop the Site Information Sheets for nomination into the East Asian-Australasian Flyway Network Site,” said Len, who is also Sarawak Forestry Corporation Sdn Bhd’s chairman.

Pointing out that water birds were potential resources to tap on for tourism-related activities besides the biodiversity values,” he said water birds had been accorded the Totally Protected status in Sarawak.

Zolkipli (second left) presents a souvenir to Len Talif (centre) after officiating the 2nd ASEAN Flyway Network Meeting while from left Vergara and Yang (right) look on. Photos: RAMIDI SUBARI

Len said the state was glad that Bako Buntal Bay had been designated as the “Flyway Network Site” as part of the “East Asian-Australasian Flyway Network Site” since 2013.

“Bako Buntal Bay covers a vast area of 2,800 hectares of mudflats, shallow waters, intertidal zone and mangroves which attract migratory birds and shorebirds to feed on marine life as they rest or winter over while en-route during their migratory passage.

“Records have shown that during the peak season between 20,000 and 25,000 birds of up to 32 species winter in the bay and its immediate surroundings,” he revealed.

Len pointed out that Bako National Park formed part of the Bako Buntal Bay which served as “Important Bird Areas” for the migratory water birds.

“While the migratory water birds winter and forage for food at the Bako Buntal Bay, Bako National Park, being a totally protected area, offers a safe refuge for the birds,” he said.

“Other safe refuges for the birds include Santubong National Park and Kuching Wetland National Park, our Ramsar site (refers to wetland site designated to be of international importance under the Ramsar Convention).”

Besides Bako National Park, Len also named other national parks along the west coast of the state such as Kuching Wetland National Park, Santubong National Park, Talang-Satang National Park, Matang Wildlife Centre, Gunung Gading National Park, Samunsam Wildlife Sanctuary and Tanjung Datu National Park.

“These national parks reflect the state government’s commitment to have Sarawak as a garden state. The whole state is a zoo by itself,” he said.

Elaborating on another Ramsar site, Len said that the Kuching Wetland National Park with its extensive network of marine waterways and tidal creeks also offered excellent stops for migratory water birds and shore birds alike.

“Birds such as kingfishers, white-bellied sea eagles and the rare lesser adjutant storks are common sights,” he added.

“Contrary to what other non-governmental organisations (NGOs) or foreign individuals think, we, Sarawakians, do place importance on environmental protection in our efforts to develop the state.

“We are mindful of our commitment to ensure that the environment is maintained for future generations.”

Len Talif (back row centre) with Zolkipli (back row ninth left) and others at a photocall with officials and participants of the 2nd ASEAN Flyway Network Meeting.

The 2nd Asean Flyway Network (AFN) Meeting brought together 30   experts from relevant countries such as the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Malaysia.

It was the second meeting of AFN after its first meeting in Singapore last year.

Also present were Sarawak Forestry’s CEO Zolkipli Mohamad Aton, Asean Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) executive director Dr Sheila Vergara from the Phillipines, National Parks Board acting director Shufen Yang from Singapore, Sarawak Forestry Department director Hamden Mohammad and Controller for the National Parks and Nature Reserve Jack Liam.