Protecting nation’s biodiversity

|     Lyna Mohamad     |

THE ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) yesterday joined the government and people of Brunei Darussalam in celebrating the 35th National Day.

According to a press release by Executive Director of ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity Dr Theresa Mundita S Lim, Brunei is one of the richest countries in the ASEAN region. Known for its lush natural vegetation of tropical evergreen rainforest, with forest reserves covering 41 per cent of its total land area, the Sultanate boasts 15,000 species of vascular plants and 2,000 species of trees.

Meanwhile, the fauna that thrive in the country include 300 resident species of the 390 animal species in the island of Borneo; 100 of these are non-flying mammals, half of which are rodents, 98 are amphibian species, and 50 are reptiles.

For fish, 50 species were recorded as freshwater, while 144 were marine species. Coral species in the country were estimated to number about 400.

As mentioned in its Fifth National Report to the Convention on Biological Diversity on the progress in achieving the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, Brunei has exerted extra effort in protecting its biodiversity by increasing its forest reserves from 41 to 55 per cent of the country’s total land area to strengthen biodiversity, ensure environmental stability, maintain ecosystem services, and conserve species.

Brunei has also crafted a biodiversity law that consolidates biodiversity regulation and ensures effective implementation of its National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan, and ultimately enhancing the benefits derived from biodiversity.

The 7,800-hectare Tasek Merimbun Heritage Park, a declared ASEAN Heritage Park in Brunei, is considered both a natural and cultural heritage of Brunei, and is sometimes referred to as the “gateway to Brunei’s past and culture”.

The park, which includes catchments of small rivers feeding into Brunei’s largest lake, the Tasek Merimbun, is not only a wildlife sanctuary but also a recreational centre, and a venue for research and education. This ASEAN Heritage Park is also one of the biggest wildlife sanctuaries in the country and therefore serves as nesting grounds to several rare and endangered species. It is one of Brunei’s Important Bird Areas (IBAs) as listed by BirdLife International. IBAs are critical sites for conservation of the world’s birds.

Brunei has also taken the lead in the ASEAN region in ensuring the sustainability of the ACB by ratifying the Centre’s Establishment Agreement in 2008. It was the first to contribute to the ASEAN Biodiversity Fund, which was established by the ASEAN member states to provide a sustainable financing mechanism for the ACB.

For its part, the ACB contributes to strengthening Brunei’s capacity in protected area management through its ASEAN Heritage Parks flagship programme.

In 2010, Brunei hosted the Third ASEAN Heritage Parks Conference which provided a forum to promote effective parks management.

The ACB joined the citizens of Brunei in commemorating their National Day, including its freedom of stewardship of natural resources, particularly in the conservation of its rich biodiversity.

Upholding liberty in the country empowers its citizens to take part in the integration of biodiversity conservation with the country and the ASEAN region’s sustainable development.