Long Moh – a remote settlement located near the Sarawak-East Kalimantan border has attracted a local university to explore it eco-tourism and biodiversity potentials.

Universiti Putra Malaysia, Bintulu campus recently sent a 12-person team comprising of lecturers, tutor and laboratory staffs on a 5-days preliminary study of the place cum an outreach program.

The team was led by Zamri bin Rosli, head of Forestry Science Department, Faculty of Agriculture and Food Science.

Their missions were to locate tree species that still produce healthy seeds and seedlings which could be used in the University’s reforestation prorgam and identified suitable sites for research.

“It’s a win win program – benefitting both parties,” said Zamri.

He added UPM will buy seedlings from the Long Moh community, train, educate them on proper, sustainable forest management.

Furthermore, said Dr Seca Gandseca, one of the expert on the expedition: “It’s getting harder to find dipterocarp forest that were not logged, or not within a logging concession zones these days apart from the National Parks.”

A few year ago, the UPM mostly sourced seedlings used in its reforestation program in collaboration with Japanese multinational – Mitsubishi Corporation – from forest near Bintulu like in Ulu Sebauh, Segan, Samarakan and Tatau.

“But to find healthy mother trees that produce healthy seeds in these places is getting more difficult as as most have been cut down,” Dr Seca said.

During the expedition the team collected more than 1500 ‘Selangan Batu’ or it scientific name “Shorea Superba” althoug they were hoping to find more tree species.

“Even in far flung places like Long Moh, it still difficult to find many species of trees,” said Seca, pointing to the magnitude of the problem the state is facing if no serious concerted efforts by all parties to arrest the problem.

Dr Seca said several logging companies have been approaching UPM for seeds for their reforestation projects.

But they told them that seedling sourced from a rehabilitate forest is of lesser quality compare to those available within their concession zone, where it grows naturally and very healthy.

However he said it’s not too late for these companies to start allocate certain areas within their conession zone as a ‘seed bank’ area.

He said it makes a sound business decision as the company would need high quality woods to feed their hungry milling factories.

Forestry Science Department head Zamri were upbeat of Long Moh potential as biodiversity and wildlife conservation areas.

He said although there were traces of logging activities in the surrounding areas – the there is still potential that the forest might contain many unique biodiversity which could not be found elsewhere.

“It remoteness, sparsely populated is form a natural protection,” he said.

What the university hope to do according to Zamri is to educate the local the know-how of forest conservation.

He said, the eco-system along the Moh river was still thriving and healthy – which is important as it a sign that it could still capable of supporting lives in the areas.

“What we need to do is to educate the local communities on how to protect, preserve the forest surrounding them.

Baram MP and Deputy Minister of International Trade and Industry Datuk Jacob Dungau Sagan was very supportive of the university initiatives.

Through his personal aide – Albert Jalong Kiriew, Jacob donated RM5000 to kick-start the program – which would involve setting up a forest nursery at Long Moh.

While on UPM Bintulu part, Forestry Science Department has forwarded a request for grant to enable the university to do an in-depth, multi-disciplinary studies in the areas.

The first project being mooted was to explore Long Moh eco-tourism and forest conservation education potentials.

“As people whose live revolved around forest – just like the Penan – the Kenyah Lepu Tau, Lepu Linau, Lepu Ungkau and Lepu Jangan at Long Moh need the forest to sustain their way of live,” said Dr Seca.

“Unlike those in town and cities – these people’ supermarket is the jungle.

“It provide them with everything they need in their daily live from fish in the river to wild games, herbs in the jungle to keep them healthy.

“These are the natural resources that keep them alive and thriving for hundred of years.

“Destroying these fragile eco-system would eventually lead to annihilation of these people way of live and heritage,” he stressed.

Zamri said UPM Bintulu collaboration with Long Moh community is a long term program and would be expanded in future.

“We might invited other faculties to do research here – particularly on the social-economy aspect,” he said.