Conservation and Environmental Management
To ensure the perpetuity of the forest under its custody, the Group sets aside five unique ecosystems of conservation areas, namely Danum Valley, Maliau Basin, Imbak Canyon, Silam Coast and Taliwas River in the Yayasan Sabah Forest Management Area. It works closely with international bodies such as The Royal Society of United Kingdom, Nordic Rainforest Research Network (NRRN), Nature, Ecology and People Consult (NEPCon, Denmark), Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SUAS), New England Power (NEP) Company, USA, Danish Cooperation for Environment and Development (DANCED) and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Malaysia in facilitating rainforest research, education and training programmes. The Group also undertakes large scale tropical rainforest rehabilitation programmes in severely degraded forests with Face the Future, the Netherlands and IKEA, Sweden.

Locally, the Group works closely with the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia (FRIM), Forest Research Centre (FRC), Sepilok, Academy Sciences Malaysia (ASM), Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS), University College Sabah Foundation (UCSF), Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), PETRONAS, Shell Malaysia, Raleigh Malaysia and many other organisations.

Much applied research is conducted on natural resource management and conservation of protected areas, including rehabilitation and plant improvement and utilisation.

Other than research, the conservation areas also serve as venues for environmental awareness, education and training.

A total of 25,454.5 hectares have been rehabilitated through Innoprise-FACE Rainforest Rehabilitation Project (INFAPRO) and Innoprise-IKEA Tropical Forest Rehabilitation Project (INIKEA). Both projects became a model of forest rehabilitation in this region. They have benefitted locals through employments, enhanced skills and experience as well as capacity building. Both projects have been accredited with global standards.
Innoprise-FACE Rainforest Rehabilitation Project (INFAPRO) was initiated in July 1992 between Yayasan Sabah Group and the FACE (Forests Absorbing Carbon Dioxide Emissions) Foundation of The Netherlands (now known as Face the Future). Through a Memorandum of Understanding, the project sought to plant trees to sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

The project aims to rehabilitate 29,501 hectares of a severely degraded forest with native species of dipterocarps, non-dipterocarps and forest fruit tree species through enrichment planting and tending of the natural regenerations existing in the logged forest. FACE-the-Future has also invested substantial funding into its research, training and development programme to establish techniques for the nursery activities and a suitable planting regime in the field.

Located in the Ulu Segama Forest Reserve, buffering the world-renowned Danum Valley Conservation Area in Lahad Datu, Sabah, the project has successfully undergone least eight MoUs / contracts with more than 11,824.5 hectares of degraded forest rehabilitated since its inception.

INFAPRO has been certified with the Voluntary Carbon Standards (VCS) by United Nation Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (UNIPCC) in 2011 and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) in 2012. INFAPRO is the first VCS AFOLU (Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use) certified forest project in Asia. More than 15 technical reports and 35 publications were produced with nine post-graduate studies completed.
Innoprise-IKEA Tropical Forest Rehabilitation Project (INIKEA), is a collaborative project initiated in 1998 between the Sow-A-Seed Foundation of IKEA, Sweden and Innoprise Corporation Sdn. Bhd., the investment arm of the Group. The objective of INIKEA project is to enhance the biodiversity and assist the recovery of severely degraded forests caused by a wild forest fire (1982-1983). The project has rehabilitated more than 13,630 hectares of 19,870 hectares. This effort proves fruitful as families of Orang utan and Bornean gibbons, Borneo pygmy elephants and hornbills are frequently sighted living in the regenerated forest. The project has entered its fourth phase where another 1,600 hectares of the forest will be rehabilitated. The fourth phase of the collaboration involves a ten-year period (2015-2024) where the first five years is for the establishment and development phase and the remaining five years for maintenance. Through this project, more than 35 post-graduate studies have been completed.

INIKEA's high standards on workers and community rights, as well as its working conditions, have much impressed independent external auditors from the Rainforest Alliance (United States) when evaluating the project performance under its Smartwood Programme.

The project had also achieved another milestone when IKEA awarded it the IWAY Certificate in April 2007, a much sought-after certificate coveted by any IKEA partners for achieving high standards on issues related to the harsh environment, forestry, social and working conditions standards similar to ISO 1400-1.

Danum Valley Conservation Area (DVCA), a 43,892 hectares Class I (Protection) Forest Reserve, is one of Sabah's last strongholds of undisturbed lowland dipterocarp forest. It is one of the world's oldest and richest lowland tropical forest with more than 200 species of trees per hectare. With the richness and abundance of flora and fauna, it is an ideal natural "laboratory" for research on tropical forest ecology and conservation. Danum Valley Field Centre (DVFC), a world-renowned scientific facility was established in 1986 for research, education, training and wilderness recreation.

Among the inhabitants of DVCA are more than 120 species of mammals including ten species of primates such as the endangered Orang utan. Other large mammals include the Bornean pygmy elephant, Banteng, Malayan Sun bear, Clouded leopard, Bay cat, Binturong and many species of deer.

It is also home to 73 reptiles, 56 amphibians and more than 47 fishes. Over 300 species of birds have been recorded including the Red-Crowned Barbet, eight species of pitta including the Fairy pitta and all eight species of hornbills found in Borneo.

Activities at DVCA are guided by the Danum Valley Management Committee (DVMC) which comprises relevant State and Federal Government agencies, institutions, academia, and NGOs. A long-term research programme was initiated in 1984 between the Danum Valley Management Committee and The Royal Society, United Kingdom under its South East Asia Rainforest Research Programme (SEARRP). To date, a total of 534 research projects have been completed or are in progress, many of them collaborative between Malaysian and overseas scientists. The research projects comprise of Post-Doctoral (156), PhD (175), Masters (85), Bachelors (42) and others (76). This makes Danum Valley as one of the three leading rainforest research centres in the world besides La Selva in Costa Rica and Barro Colorado Island in Panama.
Maliau Basin Conservation Area (MBCA) also known as Sabah's Lost World, is a 58,840 hectares Class I (Protection) Forest Reserve and one of Malaysia's most exceptional wilderness areas with outstanding natural features such as the majestic seven-tiers Maliau Falls, breathtakingly Takob-Akob and Giluk Falls and many other numerous spectacular waterfalls.

Situated in south-central of Sabah, this virtually self-contained ecosystem is drained by the Maliau River that flows out of a gorge in the south-east of the Basin, joining the Kuamut River and eventually forms one of the headwaters of the Kinabatangan River, Sabah's most vital and most significant waterway. Lake Linumunsut, Sabah's only non-oxbow lake is set in lush lowland dipterocarp forest just outside and below the steep northern rim of the Basin.

Maliau's unusual forest types include the rare montane heath forest and lowland and hill dipterocarp forests. The flora of Maliau is distinct and diverse, including at least six species of pitcher plants, Tengku-adlinii rafflesia, rhododendrons and more than 150 species of orchids, several of which are new records for Sabah including the striking necklace orchid Coelogyne odoardi, endemic to Borneo. MBCA is a tremendously valuable botanical resource. Over 1,800 species of plants are found here, including 54 species mentioned in the IUCN Red Data book.

Along with the surrounding forests, it is home to 92 species of rare mammals such as Banteng, Clouded leopard, Bay Cat and Malayan Sun bear, Bornean pygmy elephants and Proboscis monkey besides more than 278 species of birds that include 20 Bornean endemic species namely Bulwer's Pheasant, Bornean Bristlehead, Blue-headed Pitta, Black-headed Pitta and Banded Pitta were recorded.

In 1999, a joint project was initiated between the Group and DANCED (Danish Cooperation for Environment and Development), now renamed DANIDA (Danish International Development Assistance), to formulate the first Strategic Management Plan for MBCA. Thus, securing the conservation of Maliau Basin for the benefit of Sabah, Malaysia and the international community as well as the establishment of the Maliau Basin Studies Centre (MBSC). Research/field activities resulted in 55 Technical Assistance Reports under the DANCED/ DANIDA Project. The Centre provides facilities for researchers, visitors and Maliau Basin field staff. Necessary accommodation facilities in the form of research station/satellite camps, ranging from camping areas to well-equipped permanent campgrounds are available in and on the periphery of MBCA, namely Agathis, Nepenthes, Belian, Ginseng, Seraya, Rafflesia, Lobah and Strike Ridge Camps are located along with a series of trails.

IKEA, Sweden also contributed funds for the conservation and Environmental Education (EE) activities of MBCA since 1998. With the funding, an EE complex which includes hostel, classroom with junior laboratory facilities, as well as research stations, suspension bridges, rim observation tower and the Maliau Skybridge, were constructed to facilitate research and education activities in MBCA. They also provided funds to organise environmental education programmes for the schools surrounding MBCA.

MBCA's unique and biodiversity-rich forests, surrounded by buffer zones and excellent facilities make it an ideal location for training in Protected Area management.

To date, over 295 researches approved comprising Post-Doctoral (58), Doctor of Philosophy (78), Masters (87), Bachelor (29) and others (43).

Research activities in Maliau include the Stability of Altered Forest Ecosystems (SAFE) project, a collaboration between Sime Darby Foundation and the South East Asia Rainforest Research Partnership (SEARRP) and other research activities in collaboration with various institutions such as Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS).

The day-to-day management of MBCA is carried out by the Group on behalf of an inter-agency Maliau Basin Management Committee which includes Sabah Forestry Department, Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Environment, UMS and several other agencies.

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Imbak Canyon Conservation Area (ICCA), situated north of Maliau Basin, is about 27,599 hectares area encompassing a sweeping 25km long valley, probably the most extensive contiguous pristine lowland dipterocarp forest left in Sabah, flanked by high sandstone ridges. At their highest point, the ridges exceed 1,000m with the highest reaching 1,527m. Numerous scenic waterfalls are found in Imbak Canyon.

ICCA has different types of forests; lowland dipterocarp forest and rare lower montane heath forest, a lower altitude version of 'kerangas' of Maliau Basin, with its particular magical world of small, slender trees, pitcher plants and orchids.

The area is rich in flora and fauna, including medicinal plants. Imbak Canyon is an essential botanical gene-bank for conservation and future forest rehabilitation. As a pristine forest, it also forms a vital component in the biodiversity corridor linking Maliau Basin to the south and Danum Valley to the east, as well as the headwater for Sabah's longest river, the Kinabatangan.

Imbak Canyon differs from Danum Valley, and Maliau Basin in that communities are living adjacent to the Canyon with the nearest village, Kg. Imbak about 30 km away from ICCA. Most of the communities are of Dusun Sungai and Murut ethnic groups.

The Yayasan Sabah Group-PETRONAS Imbak Canyon Conservation Partnership, which started in 2010 aims to promote ICCA as a Centre of Learning for the indigenous community in biodiversity conservation and for gene-bank conservation as well as the exploration of pharmaceutical and biotechnological potentials. Under the partnership, eight programmes were initiated such as the Environmental Education, Public Awareness, Community Outreach, Research, Ethnoforestry Survey and Documentation, Capacity Building, the formulation of ICCA's first Strategic Management Plan and the establishment of the Imbak Canyon Studies Centre.

In 2009, ICCA was upgraded to a Class I (Protection) Forest Reserve by the Sabah State Legislative Assembly. The day-to-day management of ICCA is carried out by the Group on behalf of an inter-agency Imbak Canyon Management Committee which also includes Sabah Forestry Department, Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Environment and several other agencies.

ICCA is conserved both for its function as a gene - bank as well as in helping to protect the quality of our river system. The grounds for the protection of ICCA also includes biodiversity value (particularly botanical) of forest over typical and ecologically limiting soils. This was illustrated by the discovery in 1992 of a new species of keruing, Dipterocarpus megacarpa.

Imbak Canyon has rich plant biodiversity with over 600 species recorded to date, and this figure will multiply with further exploration and research. ICCA has recorded 81 species of mammals that includes the Clouded leopard, Marble cat, Proboscis monkey and Borneo pygmy elephant. In ICCA, 26 threatened species under IUCN list were also discovered. ICCA is home to 242 species of birds. The assemblage is characterised by a mix of lowland and montane species including five bird species endemic to Borneo, i.e. the Blue-headed Pitta, White Browed Shama, six species of pitta, all eight species of hornbills found in Borneo and 20 species of flycatcher.

Imbak Canyon is increasingly becoming a refuge for wildlife, making it an ideal place for wildlife studies. As many as 55 studies in ICCA are on-going, and some are completed, comprising Post-Doctoral (2), PhD (4), Masters (4), Bachelors (34) and others (11).

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Silam Coast Conservation Area (SCCA) lies within the Coral Triangle and the Sulu Sea. Its coastal forest fringes Darvel Bay which is one of the world's most fertile marine areas in terms of biodiversity and is part of a Priority Conservation Area of the Sulu - Sulawesi Marine Eco-region. Several initiatives are being undertaken by the Group to establish this area as a marine and coastal forest research centre.

The area is approximately 2,770 hectares and comprises of Tumunong Hallu and Bangkuruan Mangrove Forest Reserves as well as the two nearby Tabun and Saranga islands.

To date, at least 100 species of plants have been recorded including the Vatica pauciflora, a possible new record for Sabah and about 63 mangrove and mangrove associated species where some are rare in Malaysia.

Among the preliminary wildlife species identified were resident and migratory birds. Approximately 60 species of birds have been observed in the area as well as 25 species of mammal such as the Long-tailed macaque, barking deer, sambar deer, Great slaty woodpecker, White-bellied sea eagle, Rainbow bee-eater, otters and Pacific swallow including the endangered Proboscis monkey.

The area is also blessed with beautiful beaches while certain parts are covered with mangrove trees. With the montane ultramafic forest ecosystem of Mt. Silam behind it and the surrounding crystal clear seawater and magnificent coral reefs at the front, besides its proximity to Lahad Datu town, about 15km away, SCCA is suitable for marine-based environmental education and recreational activities.

The Group collaborates with Shell Malaysia on the development of SCCA.
Taliwas River Conservation Area (TRCA), previously known as Taliwas Camp by Sabah Forestry Department, is located about 36km from Lahad Datu town, or 24km to the west of Silam and some 45km east of Danum Valley Conservation Area.

TRCA covers a unique ultramafic and lowland forest area of about 9,546 hectares. In the mid-1970s to 1980s, some of the areas within TRCA had been treated either with agroforestry technique or silvicultural treatments through girdling and enrichment planting by the Sabah Forestry Department before its management was handed over to the Group in 1991. TRCA, one of the earliest silviculturally treated areas, enriched with dipterocarps, is managed by the Group for research, education, training and eco-tourism. In 2012, the area was upgraded to Class 1 (Protection) Forest Reserve.

The presence of its natural logged over forest, easily trekked Taliwas Falls, coupled with soothing, refreshing clean jungle fresh air and crystal clear water and fishes in Taliwas River and together with some necessary recreational infrastructures make TRCA a family destination and school retreats for outdoor recreation (picnics and camping), environmental education and motivation/team-building camps.

TRCA also boasts a beautiful, serene natural lake (Pandan Lake) which is frequented by birds, mammals and reptiles.

The Group embarked on environmental education as far back as 1988 by establishing the Sabah Nature Club (SNC) with the cooperation from the Sabah Education Department in promoting environmental education and awareness among students and as part of the school curriculum. In organising environmental education activities such as Nature Orientation Course, Sustainable Development Course for community leaders and other environmental awareness camp and talks all over Sabah for its members, SNC uses Danum Valley, Maliau Basin, Imbak Canyon and other conservation and rehabilitated areas as venues for its activities.

SNC memberships are opened to students and teachers in primary and secondary schools as well as institutions of higher learning in Sabah. It also offers "Friends of SNC" membership for the public. Since its inception, the club has more than 43,000 registered members.

Visitors may also participate in the environmental education and awareness programmes conducted by the conservation and rehabilitated areas.

Visitors to the conservation and rehabilitated areas managed by the Group have the opportunity to experience the rainforest in its undisturbed and rehabilitated state, with diverse and unique flora and fauna. Activities offered to visitors are jungle trekking and waterfalls viewing (which includes the majestic seven-tiers Maliau Waterfall or the 80 feet wide Imbak Waterfall), listening to the distinctive "jungle symphony" at different times of the day, bird watching, mammal watching, crystal clear river swimming, nature photography or merely looking at the majestic huge trees and marvel at the amazing view of the tropical rainforest canopy.

Besides providing accommodation and related facilities for researchers, the Danum Valley, Maliau Basin, Imbak Canyon, Silam Coast, Taliwas River, INIKEA and INFAPRO offer several types of accommodation for visitors namely, rest houses, hostels and camping grounds. Other facilities include a conference room, mini-theatre, EE complex and nature gallery.


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