MIRI: It is a race against time to rescue dozens of endangered animals in the Murum Valley threatened by rising waters from the impoundment of the Murum hydroelectric dam that began about two weeks ago.
The water behind the main dam wall is rising fast. Trees and bushes that sheltered these endangered animals are fast being submerged.
The Star yesterday received a call from an environmental activist who claimed that people were seen trying to capture these rare animals using traps.
Calls to the Wildlife Department went unanswered, probably because it was a weekend.
The Star also called up Penghulu Saging Bit, a local chieftain in Belaga, to find out what was actually happening.
Saging explained that the people who were trying to trap and capture the animals were wildlife rangers from Sarawak Forestry and locals hired to help them in the task.
“Personnel from Sarawak Forestry are trying to catch the animals in the Murum valley to save them from the rising waters. Attempts are being made now to trap these rare animals so that they can be relocated to higher ground.
“There are locals helping out in this task. There is a very big area to cover and there are many types of animals on the ground and living among the treetops. It is not an easy task,” he said.
Saging said there were many endangered animals, among them deer, macaques and hornbills, in the valley.
The Star yesterday obtained a copy of the Social and Environmental Impact Assessment Report on the Murum dam from a government source, and indeed, in the report, it was noted that there were at least 99 species of birds and at least 19 species of mammals living in the Murum valley.
Sixteen of the bird species were categorised as rare and protected while six species were listed as endangered and totally protected, including hornbills and Argus pheasants.
The endangered mammals found in Murum that are totally protected are Bornean Gibbon, Giant Squirrel and Western Tarsier.
The report recommended that the animal rescue operation be done in such a way that these birds and mammals were trapped and then released in forests beyond the dam area where they can continue to nest and forage for food.
The report acknowledged that construction work at the Murum dam site and flooding of the dam reservoir had indeed brought adverse impact to the birds and mammals in Murum and that this was one of the negative consequences of the project.