Malaysia Review 6 (Jan-Jul '21): Sabah

Welcome to the final installment of the Malaysia review. Sabah, last but certainly not the least. Malaysia’s conservation poster child didn’t always shine bright like a diamond (read Abstract). Current poster child status aside, we were unable to find any shapefiles/forest reserve maps released by the state agencies detailing which forest reserves (FRs) were for commercial or protection purposes. Because of the sheer size of East Malaysian states, the usual state-level overviews will be replaced by divisions before we explore affected forest reserves (FRs) and protected areas (PAs).


Refreshers

  1. we are using the 2021 GLAD dataset* (up to 13 Jul) along with

  2. Planet satellite images (register free account).

  3. Remember to take note of the scale bar to make sense of the size of clear-cut areas when viewing slider images

*note: this means forest loss from 2020 will not be included


We will structure each section with

  1. a division-level overview followed by

  2. a list of affected forest reserves (FRs) and protected areas (PAs) – if any detected. These are the layers used for Sabah’s FRs and PAs:

Sabah - Protection Forest – this layer by CFSWatch was shared with us a while ago. Our Sabah map uses the same. The layer contains the different forest reserves (FRs) and protected areas (PAs) in Sabah:

  1. Parks (PA)

  2. Protection FRs

  3. Virgin Jungle Reserves (VJRs) – usually small in size

  4. Commercial forest reserves

  5. Mangrove FRs

  6. Domestic FRs

CIFOR’s dataset – we used this to determine if affected areas were intact or logged over forests. GFW data only leads back to 2000, so this dataset tells us if an area was intact from pre-1973 to 2015)


Zoom down to explore particularly ghastly-looking areas with the free Flourish slider tool.


Click on the slider on the middle of the images with the Flourish logos (bottom right) and drag the slider either direction to compare Jun 2020 vs Jun 2021 images.


Let’s begin.


West Coast

Sabah’s West Coast division houses arguably its most famous landmark – Mount Kinabalu and Kinabalu National Park. The division is also home to Kota Kinabalu, the capital of the state. The overview of the West Coast division is shown below (Figure 1).



Figure 1 GLAD alerts (2021) overlaid with Sabah FRs and PAs in West Coast division (click image to view in high-resolution).


Impacted FRs and PAs include:


1. Ulu Tungud FR (Commercial FR)

2. Lema’as FR (Domestic FR)

3. Kukut FR (Protection FR)


Since the affected areas were really small, we will not be exploring these 3 areas.


Kudat

Known for being the tip of Borneo, housing some of the nicest beaches in Sabah. As usual, the overview is shared below (Figure 2).



Figure 2 GLAD alerts (2021) overlaid with Sabah FRs and PAs in Kudat division (click image to view in high-resolution).


Impacted FRs and PAs include:


1-2. Bengkoka FR (Commercial) – this LPF (>400k ha) extends over to cover most of Bintulu division, overlapping with the entire Danau Mujan (Bino Penyilam) NP and 2 proposed NPs: Bukit Sarang NP & Sg. Kubud Wildlife Sanctuary.

3. Paitan FR (Commercial)

4. Mandamai (Protection)

5. Lingkabau FR (Commercial)


Time to explore some hotspots.

1-2. Bengkoka FR (Commercial)

Figure 2.1 Affected areas in Bengkoka FR (Commercial). Affected areas were logged over forest first logged between 1973-2000.


4. Mandamai FR (Protection)

Figure 2.2 Affected areas in Mandamai FR (Protection). The affected areas were logged over forests based on CIFOR’s dataset.


5. Lingkabau FR (Commercial)

Figure 2.3 Affected areas in Lingkabau FR (Commercial). The affected areas were logged over forests based on CIFOR’s dataset.


While the worst-hit areas were within commercial FRs, signs of logging in Mandamai FR, a protection FR, does raise concern.


Interior

The Interior division borders Sarawak, and is home to the towns Keningau, Beaufort, Kuala Penyu, and Tambunan. An overview of the division is shown below (Figure 3).

Figure 3 GLAD alerts (2021) overlaid with Sabah FRs and PAs in Interior division (click image to view in high-resolution).


Impacted FRs and PAs include:

1-2. Sapulut FR (Commercial)

3. Sg. Tagul FR (Commercial) – name not confirmed

4. Agathis FR (Commercial)

5. Padas Damit FR (Amenity Forest Reserve) – large-scale agriculture established after deforestation in the last 20 years.


Time to explore hotspots again.


1-2. Sapulut FR (Commercial)

Figure 3.1a Affected areas in Sapulut FR (Commercial; 1). Based on CIFOR’s dataset, the affected LPF areas were mostly logged over, with small areas of intact forests.


Figure 3.1b Affected areas in Sapulut FR (Commercial; 2A & 2B). Based on CIFOR’s dataset, the affected LPF areas were mostly logged over, with small areas of intact forests.


Figure 3.1c Affected areas in Sapulut FR (Commercial; 2C). Based on CIFOR & GFW’s tree cover lost data, the affected LPF areas were a mix of intact (northern half above the logging road) and logged over forests.

Figure 3.1d Affected areas in Sapulut FR (Commercial; 2E). Unfortunately, cloud cover was pretty bad in both images – we still included it due to the size of the patch. Based on CIFOR & GFW’s tree cover lost data, the affected LPF areas were mostly logged over forests with small areas of intact forest in the upper middle portion of the picture.


4. Agathis FR (Commercial)

Figure 3.2 Affected areas in Agathis FR (Commercial). While the areas affected were logged over forests, it is appalling that logging was permitted at such a steep area located directly above a river. Surely there are environmental guidelines against this in the state?


While most of the areas affected were within commercial FRs, logging at an environmentally sensitive steep riparian area in Agathis FR appears rather reckless.


Tawau

Tawau is the southeastern division of Sabah, home to Lahad Datu, Semporna, and Tawau – a supposed hotspot for pirates. As usual, the overview is shared below (Figure 4).

Figure 4 GLAD alerts (2021) overlaid with Sabah FRs and PAs in Tawau division (click image to view in high-resolution).


Impacted FRs and PAs include:

1. Mount Wullersdorf FR (Protection)

2. Tawau Hills Park

3. Gunung Nara FR (Commercial)

4. Kalabakan FR (Commercial)


4. Kalabakan FR (Commercial)

Figure 4.1a Affected areas in Kalabakan FR (Commercial; 4A). Based on CIFOR’s dataset, the affected areas were logged over forests.

Figure 4.1b Affected areas in Kalabakan FR (Commercial; 4B). Based on CIFOR’s dataset, the affected areas were logged over forests.


Sandakan

Sandakan, the huge northeastern division of Sabah. Let’s get to the overview for Miri below (Figure 5).


Figure 5 GLAD alerts (2021) overlaid with Sabah FRs and PAs in Sandakan division (click image to view in high-resolution).


Impacted PFEs, TPAs, and LPFs include:

1. Sugut FR (Commercial)

2. Lingkabau FR (Commercial)

3. Bonggaya FR (Commercial)

4. Sungai Pinangah FR (Commercial)

5. Sapulut FR (Commercial)

6. Gunung Rara FR (Commercial)

7. Mount Magdalena FR (Protection) & Gunung Rara FR (Commercial)

8. Lungmanis FR (Virgin Jungle Reserve)


Slider time.


2. Lingkabau FR (Commercial)

Figure 5.1 Affected areas in Lingkabau FR (Commercial) – this FR cuts across 3 divisions. The areas affected were logged over forests.


3. Bonggaya FR (Commercial)

Figure 5.2a Affected areas in Bonggaya FR (Commercial; 3A). Logged over forest.


Figure 5.2b Affected areas in Bonggaya FR (Commercial; 3B). Logged over forest.


4. Sungai Pinangah FR (Commercial)

Figure 5.3 Affected areas in Sungai Pinangah FR (Commercial). Logged over forest.


5. Sapulut FR (Commercial)

Figure 5.4 Affected areas in Sapulut FR (Commercial) – this FR spans 2 divisions. Logged over forest.


6. Gunung Rara FR (Commercial)

Figure 5.5 Affected areas in Gunung Rara FR (Commercial). Recently logged over forest (2015-2020) and a small patch of intact forest.

7. Mount Magdalena FR (Protection) & Gunung Rara FR (Commercial)

Figure 5.6a Affected areas in Mount Magdalena FR (Protection) and Gunung Rara FR (Commercial); 7A. Logged over forests.


Figure 5.6b Affected areas in Mount Magdalena FR (Protection) and Gunung Rara FR (Commercial); 7B. The patch on the hill at the southern portion was intact forest – another hill logged.


This concludes our first ever Malaysia Review covering the period Jan-Jul 2021. The caveats of the previous parts of the Malaysia Reviews apply, no fingers pointed – this is the best we could do with available datasets. So, what do you think of Sabah? While largely confined to commercial FRs, a few intact forests were logged, including some very questionable areas that were steeply sloped and directly above a river. As we are not the most qualified to comment on environmental regulations in the state, we will leave that part to more capable people.