An Initial Success Story Paves Way for Future Conservation Opportunities
Communities plays a pivotal role in getting a region gazetted as a protected area. Whether established as a national park, wildlife sanctuary or nature reserve, over a period of one year or 20 years, the process depends very much on the acceptance of communities living inside and adjacent to the proposed site.
Communities near Kampung Bako in Borneo have something to be proud of. Their forefathers were instrumental in getting the state's first protected area, Bako National Park, gazetted within a year of initial consultations in 1957. One of the village elders, Haji Sami Nor, 91, still remembers clearly how the communities were approached by Forest Department Sarawak officials in 1956, laying down the proposal for a national park.
“In June 1956, 17 other village elders and I were chosen to become the intermediary and spokesmen between local communities and the department when the proposed Bako National Park came about.” He said the officials explained the need to have the area protected for future generations, otherwise the forest could be felled for other land uses. A year later, the proposed area was formally established. Since then, the local community has been actively involved in the development of Bako National Park, particularly with ecotourism activities that have helped provide alternative livelihoods for fishermen.
WWF-Malaysia and Forest Department Sarawak have produced a video called Parks, People and Hope, which highlights the importance of protected areas and the involvement of local communities in preserving their natural heritage. The 21-minute video also features the state government's ongoing efforts to conserve Sarawak’s rich biodiversity for posterity.