Sarawak Energy launches State’s first amphibian, reptile off-site conservation facility housing 50 species

“Tropidophorus sebi” or Baleh Water Skink.

KUCHING, Dec 9: Sarawak Energy has launched Sarawak’s first Amphibian and Reptile Pod and the first ex-situ (off-site) conservation facility of its kind in Malaysia, where some 50 amphibians and reptiles are housed, including seven species of concern from Sarawak such as the Trophidophorus sebi or Baleh Water Skink, a newly named species that is found only in the Baleh area, discovered during a wildlife survey for the Baleh dam.

The biosecurity husbandry facility also includes terrariums that mimic the natural habitat of rescued amphibians and reptiles and innovative setups for monitoring purposes. The amphibians and reptiles kept for research purposes will also be released to identify alternative reintroduction sites later.

Speaking during the launching event, Sarawak Energy Group chief executive officer (CEO) Datu Sharbini Suhaili said Sarawak is one of the world’s mega biodiversity regions, and taking the appropriate actions to support the State’s effort to conserve and protect biodiversity is a shared responsibility.

He also shared Sarawak Energy’s role in driving environmental-related initiatives such as the sustainable management of forests, which are essential to water catchments and the Group’s efforts in conservation, restoration, and sustainable use of terrestrial and inland freshwater ecosystems.

“We are fortunate to have collaborated with like-minded organisations such as Unimas (Universiti Malaysia Sarawak), Forest Department Sarawak, and the Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC), and greatly appreciate their support as we work together to help Sarawak to achieve its ambition to become a developed and sustainable State by 2030,” he said in a media release today.

Senior terrestrial ecologist Pui Yong Min showing Sharbini (second left) and Zolkipli (left) the Baleh Water Skink.

The initiative also demonstrates the Group’s commitment to adopting international practices guided by the International Hydropower Association’s (IHA) Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Tools.

Sarawak Energy Group chief operating officer (COO) Ir James Ung, who spoke about Sarawak Energy’s Hydropower Environmental Sustainability Programme, explained that Sarawak Energy’s R&D department had implemented a series of research on terrestrial fauna at the Baleh HEP and its adjacent areas.

“Our Sarawak Energy Hydro Environmental Sciences Research Blueprint was developed in 2018 and aimed to bridge knowledge gaps, facilitating effective decision-making in managing the environmental challenges of our hydropower projects.

“We have also funded internally driven collaborative research projects and expeditions within our hydropower project areas for our biodiversity and species distribution surveys, monitoring of rare and endangered species and studies on ecology as well as natural history,” he explained.

Group photo with Sarawak Energy’s Environmental Sciences Division and Laboratory Services Division
under the Research & Development Department.

Ung pointed out that the pod is designed by Sarawak Energy’s in-house ecologists to carry out ex-situ research on these species, providing new knowledge on species-specific husbandry requirements for housed amphibians and reptiles.

“Such a facility supports Sarawak Energy’s journey towards environmental excellence and aspiration to become an exemplary organisation in environmental stewardship. Together, we look forward to the successful operation of the Amphibian and Reptile Pod and the impressive research outputs from the team,” he added.

SFC CEO Zolkipli Mohamad Aton, Professor Dr Indraneil Das of Institute of Biodiversity and Environmental Conservation Unimas, Sarawak Energy’s general manager for Research & Development Dr Ng Sing Muk, SFC Head for Permits, Licensing and Registration Norzehan Ramji and SFC Wildlife officer Taha Wahab were among those present. — DayakDaily