Sabah’s Sugud Islands is Malaysia’s first IUCN Green List Site

KOTA KINABALU: The Sugud Islands Marine Conservation Area (Simca) is now an IUCN Green List Site – the first of its kind in Malaysia.

Through the Green List, Simca is now recognised globally as a well-managed Protected Area by IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature).

This was announced Thursday (May 26) at the ongoing 2nd Asia Parks Congress being held at the Sabah International Convention Centre (SICC) here.

Simca is the first privately managed marine protected area covering three islands – Lankayan, Billean and Tegaipil – that has area about 46,317ha in the Sulu Sea in Sabah’s east coast.

Simca, which is managed by non-profit company Reef Guardian Sdn Bhd appointed by the state government, is home to at least 500 species of fish, 300 species of coral, two species of sea turtle, six species of giant clam and 26 species of seagrass and algae.

“This global recognition is a milestone for Simca. It shows that all our efforts over the years have come to fruition,” said lead marine biologist and Reef Guardian manager Dr Achier Chung.

He said that the success was due to close collaboration, particularly with the Sabah Wildlife Department, the local maritime enforcement agencies including the Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) and General Operations Forces to combat encroachment into the Simca protected zone.

Sabah Wildlife Department director Augustine Tuuga said that Simca was gazetted under the Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997 since October 2003 as a Marine Wildlife Conservation Area.

“It has been a great partnership between the Sabah State Government and Reef Guardian Sdn Bhd in rehabilitating and preserving the area over the last 19 years.

“We are very proud of the achievement and it was not an easy task indeed. We hope that our partnership will continue to maintain the accomplishment we had and more things to come,” he said.

The evaluation process for the IUCN Green List in Malaysia is carried out by the Expert Assessment Group for Green List Malaysia (EAGL).

The group comprises 10 multi-disciplinary volunteer experts who undertake the evaluation of Green List Candidates against the Green List criteria and indicators.

EAGL Chair Rambli Ahmad said there were five more Protected and Conserved Areas on their way to Green Listing, including the Danum Valley Conservation Area, the Tun Mustapha Park, the Sook Lake Forest Reserve and Pin Supu Forest Reserve in Sabah as well as the Jagoi Heritage Forest in Sarawak.

WWF Malaysia’s Protected Areas manager Elyrice Arim said that due to the Covid-19 lockdown previously, the EAGL team conducted its site assessments virtually.

“This meant that we had to be doubly thorough in our evaluation. In the end, it was possible as Simca was able to provide strong evidence of their achievement,” added Alim.

“Simca’s achievement is testament of their relentless efforts in protection and enforcement. We hope that Simca’s success serves as an inspiration to other protected sites to follow suit,” she added.