Kinabatangan - Rasig Project
The Kinabatangan - Rasig Project is to safeguard a 5.9 acres (about 2.38 hectare) land which is an important wildlife corridor. The location is on one of the critical bottlenecks for elephant movement. It is adjacent to the Kinabatangan wildlife sanctuary, located within the lower Kinabatangan floodplain in the eastern part of Sabah (Malaysian Borneo). Sabah's longest river, Kinabatangan meanders for 560km through the floodplain into the Sandakan bay.
This initiative is a collaboration between Indie Travellers, Caroline Pang Photography and Fatimah Homestay to support nature conservation through ecotourism. Rasig was the name of the early settlement on this land. It is the ancestral land of Mr Mursalin Abdullah, who is also the co-owner of Fatimah Homestay.
“My land is surrounded by wildlife sanctuary and I want to do my part to preserve it. It is my heritage. At the same time, I am also exploring ecotourism activities to incorporate that into my homestay programme. So, I approached Caroline of Indie Travellers to identify ecotourism potential in my land”, said Mr. Mursalin.
The Lower Kinabatangan Floodplain
is one of the few remaining freshwater swamp forests in Southeast Asia. The huge plain is created by heavy rainfalls and floods brought by the northeastern monsoon. The area has the highest density of wildlife in the island. It is possibly one of the best places in this region for wildlife viewing, birdwatching and photography.
Read more about the floodplain.
Much of the land in the lower floodplain are being converted to palm oil plantations by external investors and other minor human activities carried out by the local villagers. This has caused major habitat fragmentation. Hence, increases wildlife conflicts such as crop raiding by Orang Utans and elephants with land owners and village settlements. Government agencies and Non-governmental organisations are working towards a common vision, that is, to protect the lower Kinabatangan floodplain from further loss of forest and biodiversity. Local communities are encouraged to participate in conservation efforts and to be more proactive in ecotourism development.
The Rasig Connection
Borneo Pygmy Elephants that cross the river from the other side of the wildlife sanctuary will use Rasig as their landing point, to get to the next forest reserve and vice versa. The herd usually congregates within the land for several days, to feed and play in the swamp forest before moving on. This makes it an ideal wildlife safe-house where elephants and other wildlife can be monitored for injuries or even new birth.
Other wildlife that were being observed frequenting Rasig includes wild Orang Utans, rare reddish form silver langurs, leopard cats and wild boars. There are abundance of fig trees along the riverbank. Figs are major food source for birds especially hornbills, Orang Utans and fishes. Recently, the White Fronted Falconet, Borneo's smallest bird of prey was spotted in the area too.
When the water level is low, the sandbank is visible on the northwestern side of the land, which is also a breeding and resting ground for estuarine crocodiles. The land owner, who is also a fisherman, has voluntarily agreed to protect his land, pledging no development that may affect the wildlife corridor.
This project is possibly the first pragmatic move by a local villager in making such commitment. Most villagers, whose income are affected by depletion of fisheries, would have sold their land to agriculture companies for huge profit. This project hopes to serve as a platform to attain conservation results through ecotourism with participation and support from the local community.
“We are always supportive of community-based ecotourism initiatives. It is also our company's policy to weight ecological, economic and social aspects when we plan or promote tourism related services. We are not into mass tourism but small groups, to understand biodiversity as well as to observe and enjoy the moment of sightings of rare, endangered and endemic species. The Kinabatangan – Rasig project is a good collaboration to demonstrate how low impact tourism can benefit nature, the environment and the community”, said Caroline Pang, Founder Of Indie Travellers.
Caroline explained further on how the land will be utilised for tourism activities,
"Rasig will be kept as natural as possible with no major infrastructure. There will be no obstacle for wildlife to roam freely in the area. We will use the land for wildlife observation and a safe house for elephants to congregate. We get to observe them in their natural habitat at a safe distance. The only basic infrastructure in the pipeline will be either a hide or a platform for observation purposes and a floating jetty for our guests."
The Project Team
The team consists of Caroline with her expertise in sustainable tourism and fundraising for community-based organisations. She has been involved in nature tourism and conservation projects in the Kinabatangan since 1992. She is also a travel and conservation photographer who will be conducting exploration and workshop to Kinabatangan. Other valuable team members include a local wildlife biologist who is specialised in wildlife habitat management, one honorary wildlife warden from the village of Sukau and Mursalin who support us with ground arrangements.
Join Us to Make A Difference
Opportunity For Volunteering
There is also opportunity for volunteers to participate in building platform or hides for wildlife observation, floating jetty, assisting to set up camera traps, and documenting wildlife sighting to complete our list. Volunteering duration can be between one week to a month.
Opportunity To Collaborate
We are open to any corporate companies, organisations and schools who are interested to collaborate and take this on as their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) project.
Email us for further discussion.
Help Us Raise The Funds
Due to its strategic location, data acquired from camera traps and frequent observation from a hide are all useful for the project team to look into best practices as well as information sharing with other parties who are doing wildlife research in the area.
Therefore, we need the following items to support our work:
- building of a floating jetty for visitors,
- a platform or a hide for wildlife observation,
- continuos planting of banana plots to supplement elephants' food source within the site,
- purchase of camera traps that will be installed at strategic sites within the land
Sales from our photography exploration and workshop to Kinabatangan helps to raise partial funds for the above items beside providing tourism income to the local people.