New species discovered in Brunei’s Heart of Borneo region
A two-year bio-diversity study of Brunei’s Sungai Ingei Conservation Forest (SICF) has revealed several new species to science and several more never before recorded in Brunei.
Located on the south west of Belait District, bordering the Gunung Mulu National Park in Sarawak, just 30km from the World Heritage Site of Mulu Caves, Sungai Ingei has been shown to be one of Brunei’s major wildlife strongholds.
Led by Dr Joseph Charles from the University Brunei Darussalam (UBD), the study was carried out by scientists from the three Heart of Borneo countries - Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia.
"The purpose of this scientific study was to produce a database for the country so that future conservation management of wildlife can be well formulated," said Dr Charles, speaking at the February launch of an exhibition of the study’s findings at the Empire Hotel, in Brunei Darussalam.
The SICF is a small area of 18,491 hectares, yet the survey revealed a huge number of faunal species including: 35 species of fish (six being new records for Brunei), 38 species of amphibians, two new species of frog-biting midges, 12 reptile species, 14 species of birds and 97 mammal species (including 28 species of bats).
Comparisons between SICF and other forest areas in the region, such as Kayan Mentarang National Park in Kalimantan, Maliau Basin Conservation Area in Sabah, and Gunung Mulu National Park in Sarawak, reveal that the Sungai Ingei shows the largest mammal species diversity, despite its small size.
Discussions are already underway around a proposal to link SICF with Mulu National Park in Sarawak, thereby achieving a trans-boundary milestone under the Heart of Borneo Initiative committed to by the three governments in 2007.
According to Brunei’s Heart of Borneo Centre, Acting CEO, Mahmud Hj Yussof, Sungai Ingei’s rich bio-diversity has the potential to contribute greatly to the economy and individual livelihoods, particularly in the area of eco-tourism. "By having ecotourism or nature tourism, we do not have to clear the forest, we just need to conserve it and promote it by recognizing its biodiversity values," he said.
The study had the backing of his Royal Highness, Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah ibni His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah, who spoke during the Heart of Borneo Seminar, highlighting the richness of Brunei’s pristine forests and noting the country’s potential to become a world class centre for tropical forest research.
Standard Chartered Bank, were major sponsors of the survey and speaking at the exhibition, its CEO, Ms Lai Pei-Si, expressed her satisfaction at the results indicating that the bank would continue to support HoB Initiatives in the country.
The Sungai Ingei Conservation Forest survey was also supported by a number of other partners including Brunei Shell Petroleum, HSBC, Panaga Natural History Society and Brunei Nature Society.