Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Unimas calls for rescue mission of animals threatened by Murum Dam

November 4, 2009

MIRI: A Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) team had called for a wildlife rescue mission to save and relocate endangered animals at the construction site of the RM3bil Murum Hydro-Electric Dam in Belaga district in central Sarawak.

Some 19 species of mammals and 99 species of birds - many of them considered rare - will have their habitats destroyed when the flooding of the dam reservoir begins.

The team also noted that even before the construction of the dam started, logging and related human activities had already severely disturbed the flora and fauna.

Unimas had carried out a ground survey at the Murum Dam site, located some 183km from Bintulu, and had found that the region has a rich heritage of plant and animal-life.

The university’s Centre for Technology Transfer and Consultancy had deployed a team of researchers to the Murum area to study the impact that the dam will have on the ecosystem.

The team had compiled a report on their findings and had forwarded the report to the state authorities and to Sarawak Energy Bhd, the lead developer of the dam project.

The construction of the Murum Dam has begun in earnest, with site clearing, road clearing, hill blasting and transportation of raw materials and workers in full-swing.

“A field survey of 15 sites in the forests affected by the Murum project found 99 species of birds and at least 19 species of mammals.

“Fifteen of these bird species are classified as rare. Sixteen species of these birds are protected and six species, mainly the Hornbills and Argus Pheasants, are protected under the Sarawak Wildlife Pro­tection Ordinance.

Other protected mammals included the Western Tarsier, Borneon Gibbon and Giant Squirrel.

“The Naked Bat, Red Langur and Borneon Gibbons are threatened species. Some 39 species of these birds are endemic to Borneo and 23 of these species are already threatened,” said the report.

Among the endangered bird species found in Murum are Lesser Fish Eagles, Indian Cuckoo, Red-bearded Bee-eater, Great Slaty Woodpecker and Black-thigh Falcon and many species of hornbills found only in Sarawak, said the report.

The clearing of the access road into Murum Dam site from the Bakun Hydro-Electric Dam some 70kms away, had already affected many of the animals and birds along the route, the report said.

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