WWF Agrees Sabah Marine Park has Much to Offer

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Sunrise in Kudat overlooking the proposed marine park

The proposed Tun Mustapha Park on a conservation area in northern Sabah is a treasure trove for eco-tourism.Its limestone caves at Balambangan Island and its pristine beaches are prompting environmentalists to pitch the tourism possibilities with tour operators in the state.WWF Malaysia organised a trip for Sabah tourism operators to see the potential sites in the proposed park for the development of eco-tourism programmes.WWF-Malaysia Sulu-Sulawesi marine eco-region manager Robecca Jumin said the trip on Thursday was aimed at increasing the profile of the proposed park as
well as to highlight the Balambangan, Maliangin and Berungus islands.“Exposure to these sites is intended to initiate eco-tourism development that will generate a sustainable livelihood for local communities and garner support to fully protect Balambangan Island,” she said in a statement.She added that the proposed park within the Kudat-Banggi Priority Conservation Area (PCA) is one of three globally significant PCAs in Malaysia within the Sulu-Sulawesi marine eco-region.The are
a has Malaysia’s second largest concentration of coral reefs linked to complex habitats including primary rainforest, mangroves, and seagrass beds and is home to 252 species of hard corals, 350 species of fish, endangered green sea turtles and dugongs.Once gazetted, the proposed park, measuring over one million hectares with 50 islands and over 80,000 inhabitants, will become Malaysia’s largest marine park.Balambangan Island, she said, had over 20 limestone caves with archaeological findings that date back 11,000 years to 1.75 million years.The cave system houses intriguing chambers and limestone formations that have the potential to attract local and foreign tourists.Researchers from Universiti Sains Malaysia’s Malaysian Archaeological Research Centre found three prehistoric human bones and 36 items made from animal bones believed to be tools from the Pleistocene era.Extracted from The Star, 20th JunePix: Melissa Lim

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