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Of mangroves and Mr Nasalis larvatus (proboscis monkeys)

May 29, 2010

I have been following with interest on the current hot issue concerning a mangrove forest along the Damuan River, covering ‘the size of two to three football fields’ which have been cleared and left the proboscis monkeys with no place to live in (or hang to), as reported by the papers, which was exposed first in this one, dated 21 May.

Pic from a news report in the Borneo Bulletin accompanying the story, dated 21 May 2010

It began with Ahim Rani, a well-known local photographer who highlighted the issue on 12 May, with a picture on the destruction to prove.  The area is famous for the proboscis monkeys whose natural habitat is along the river banks.  The photograph in Facebook caught the attention of the Tourism Chief who promised to investigate. The rest is, news.

Paid tours to see the unique proboscis monkeys have been organised for awhile by tour operators and individuals alike. The river banks along Brunei Riverare lined with the mangrove forest. Not only monkeys live there but there are other hosts of flora and fauna which form part of the biodiversity.

Mangroves, according to the mangroveweb site, are highly productive ecosystems which are not only able to provide a range of valuable forest products, but also maintain estuarine water quality and play crucial roles in the life cycle of many commercially important species of fish and prawns. According to the website, Brunei’s aqua-culture practise is mangrove-friendly as the activity is only allowed in identified or zoned areas, and a licence is mandatory for fishfarms.

So back to the damaged mangroves story, the news have raised public interest as most were siding on the poor monkeys and their lost habitat. One ‘RBA pilot’ also wrote in to the Borneo Bulletin saying that he or she could see from the air on the acres of devastated mangroves. People were shocked to hear this story, even yours truly. Mr Brunei Daily Resources came up with an explaination. In his post, ‘proboscis vs human‘ dated on the same day when the news broke, he explained that the project was to deepen and widen the Damuan River because, if it is not done, there will be floods to residential areas further upstream, with the monkeys in mind.

The latest is this press release issued by the Drainage Department dated yesterday, 28 May. It says that if the deepening and widening of the river is not done, 30,000 people will be affected as they have always been every time there is flooding.

It says: ‘The PWD has an ongoing programefor channel maintenance to meet its legislated requirements  for conveyance of floodwaters and enable navigation for boat traffic. … Channel widening has been undertaken over the past ten years upstream of the project site around the Ban areas, however, the main river is the only outlet channel fro the area. The narrowness of this channel, in places only 20 metres wide at the top of the bank creates a bottleneck for floodwaters and therefore needs to be widened and deepened so that floodwaters can be released into Sungai Brunei.”

Furthermore, the department said that the matter has been discussed with the relevant authrorities and came up with the best option which incorporated short-term displacement for the proboscis monkeys and the tourism factor it generate.  An approximate 15 of the total 9.5 square kilometers of the mangroves adjoining the site will only be cleared, said PWD, enabling the displacement of the monkeys and continuation of tourists activities. The department also said that no monkeys have been killed so far due to the project and care to ensure that the monkeys move to the adjoining site will be ensured.

Read the full PRESS RELEASE -28052010 here.


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