KUCHING: The Department of National Parks and Wildlife Sarawak, a new department prioritising the conservation of protected areas and wildlife in the state, will be set up early next year.
Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hassan, who revealed this today, said the new department will manage the state’s 1 million hectares of protected areas and its revenue.
“It will lead to a more coordinated, focused and adequately manned (entity) to meet the challenges of managing Sarawak’s protected areas and its wildlife more effectively and efficiently.”
He said this when representing Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg to officiate at the ‘Innovation, Inclusiveness and Impact: Strengthening and Diversifying Financing for Protected Areas’ regional forum.
Awang Tengah added that managing protected areas is very costly.
The state currently has gazetted 37 national parks, 14 nature reserves and five wildlife sanctuaries covering a total area of more than 944,000 hectares.
The operational expenditure is RM10 million annually and another development fund amounting to RM43 million was allocated under the 11th Malaysian Plan.
The state has set a goal of 1 million hectares of totally protected areas by 2020.
Hence, Awang Tengah said, the state’s national parks needed to be rebranded and promoted to draw more visitors to improve revenue for the protected areas.
Other than strategic marketing, the Second Minister of Urban Development and Natural Resources also mentioned about opening new parks for tourism.
About 4.6 million tourist arrivals were recorded for Sarawak last year, and 12.4 per cent of them visited national parks and nature reserves. The revenue generated was about RM5.7 million.
“(Revenue) is still very low. There is a need to diversity financing for protected areas to ensure effective management of these protected areas. And this could be sourced from market-based sources which include international tourism for these protected areas.”