The Improving Connectivity in the Central Forest Spine (IC-CFS) project was established in 2014 with support from United Nations Development (UNDP) and funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF). The IC-CFS is an integrated project aiming to restore connectivity in three focal forest landscapes known to be rich in biodiversity and is the critical landscape for the Malayan Tiger conservation.
Our initiatives are spearheaded by a network of implementing agencies from the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources (KETSA), Forestry Department of Peninsular Malaysia (FDPM), Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP), Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM) and State Forestry Departments. We drive integrated coalitions with non-governmental organisations, businesses and communities to stir change on the local environmental landscape. Our team consists of bright intellectuals ready to take on the challenge of conserving Malaysia’s green gem.
Our beginning sprouted from the continuous efforts of the Malaysian Government in conserving the green lungs of Peninsular Malaysia
Central Forest Spine
The conception of the Central Forest Spine in the 1st National Physical Plan
CFS Master Plan
Identification of the Ecological Linkages by the CFS Master Plan within the Central Forest Spine
Improving Connectivity in the CFS Project (IC-CFS)
The conception of the IC-CFS with granted funds from GEF supported by the UNDP with a goal to secure critical wildlife habitats, conserve biodiversity and carbon stocks and maintain the continuous flow of multiple ecosystem services in the CFS landscape.
Our belief lies in the shared benefits of the forest for all – trees, animals and people included. It is why connectivity between and beyond these forest complexes are crucial. We do more than connecting the physical gaps between the forests. Our work touches every aspect of the forest, the same way it affects every part of our life. Guided by the Strategic Results Framework, the initiatives under this project are classified into five key aspects:
Implementation of sustainable land use and forest management that support and preserve its biodiversity and ecosystem services.
Empowerment of local officials in monitoring, intelligence gathering and reducing wildlife crimes.
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Malaysia is richly endowed with natural Tropical forests that are highly diverse in flora and fauna. These forests have contributed significantly to the socio-economic development of the nation. At the same time, they also play an important ecological role in water and soil conservation, flood and drought mitigation, combating global warming and other environmental services. Consequently, the government has accorded the conservation and sustainable management of these invaluable resources a high priority.
Using improved tools introduced at federal and state levels, we conserve biodiversity and ecosystem by streamlining them into the management of three focal forest landscapes in the CFS. This would build upon current and future land plans, including the primary linkages identified in the CFSMP.
To increase the connectivity between these critical linkages, we work on establishing ecological corridors by rehabilitating degraded habitats. By cultivating these areas with a mix of native species, rehabilitation would then help curb carbon emissions and promote its sequestrations, which would regulate the climate. Adaptations of strategic rehabilitation methods and programmes that rehabilitates, educates and raises awareness at organisational and community levels are in motion to align our goals for attaining sustainable forest management.
Under this project, we have so far managed to gazette a total of 23,734.63 hectares of critical forest areas within the CFS in the state of Perak (18,866.63 hectares) and Pahang (4,868.63 hectares).
critical areas within the 3 pilot areas in Central Forest Spine gazetted
rehabilitated forests that were once degraded areas
treated and maintained within the key areas of the Central Forest Spine
Over time, reports on wildlife crimes and poaching of endangered species, particularly our iconic Malayan Tiger made headlines on the news media. Due to the numerous access points within the landscape, the CFS landscape faces a constant threat from hunters, poachers, and wildlife criminals.
We focus on wildlife and forestry crime enforcement and monitoring by adopting a systematic patrolling methodology that provides insights on crime rates, gaps and patterns of criminals in the piloted areas.
Our team utilises Spatial Monitoring and Reporting (SMART) tools for enhanced monitoring of patrolling within the pilot sites for efficient intelligence gathering, species identifications, route-mapping and recognising smuggling techniques through strict SOPs at the crime scene. Our officers are actively involved in integrated enforcement activities against local forest and wildlife crimes through collaborations with the Royal Malaysian Police (PDRM), NGOs and local communities under the Operasi Bersepadu Khazanah (OBK) operation.
We also establish substantial SOPs concerning arresting, handling of seized items, investigation, and prosecutions for state parks. Identification of intelligence technologies such as real-time surveillance systems on pilot sites allow visibility over threats imposed by organised crime groups.
We then invite local participation through community-based wildlife monitoring and enforcement programmes by electing community rangers from local villages and involve them in enforcement patrolling. They act as our eyes and ears, monitoring and reporting wildlife crimes occurring in pilot sites while increasing law-enforcement presence within the CFS
We confront this crisis by empowering Forestry and State Park Officers, allowing them to enforce the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 by arresting offenders, and searching and seizing illegal wildlife and their parts. Trained officers participate in integrated enforcement activities such as special ops targeting local poaching activities. This multi-agency joint response allows room for more frequent wildlife enforcement action within the CFS. To ensure measurable success, we implement clear job scopes focusing on groundwork and execute regular performance evaluations. These efforts have led to an increase in prosecution of wildlife crimes in Malaysia.
*Lowering crime prosecutions rates are due to the COVID19 global pandemic
Records of prosecuted wildlife crimes
The indigenous and local communities living within these forests are the cornerstone of its integrity and yet, their contributions and wisdom are often overlooked due to the rush of new developments.
We strive to uplift the socio-economics of indigenous communities by directly involving them in establishing community-based organisations. We employ and engage these communities through activities revolving around ecotourism and craftsmanship. We also diversify their incomes through sustainable livelihoods on forestry-based products such as harvesting of Tualang honey, fish sanctuaries and herbal cultivations. We would also include recreational programs such as hiking tours and fly fishing as part of their alternative resources in securing stable earnings. Through these initiatives, their household income will be increased to 10% at the end of the project timeline.
Numerous records on Human-Elephants Conflicts have driven our efforts into reducing and mitigating mutual threats between the people of the forest and the elephants. We start by identifying the baseline issues, such as the economic loss resulting from direct inflictions. Then we introduce effective measures and guidelines in mitigating these encounters, focusing on non-consumptive tourism in affected areas. It is then piloted within key areas of the Central Forest Spine.
To further safeguard the integrity of the forest and its local communities, we appoint community rangers to undertake and participate in wildlife monitoring and patrolling activities. Alongside authorities, this holistic approach to overtake wildlife crimes will result in enhanced authoritative presences in protected forests.
increased for the Indigenous communities involved in the Community Based Organisation projects
implemented at local sites for viable income without harming wildlife
appointed for Wildlife Monitoring alongside state authorities
Often, conservation is deemed to only thrive with donations. Although this preconception is not totally wrong, we lose opportunities in not recognising that biodiversity and ecosystem services serve marketable returns. This is where sustainable financing comes into play.
To sustainably finance our conservation efforts, we implement innovative financing solutions by diversifying funding sources for the Central Forest Spine. Centred on ecosystem services as profitable avenues for return investments, we encourage relevant stakeholders to think out-of-the-box in identifying alternative revenues such as payment for ecosystem services for hydropower stations managed by smallholders in forests areas – this brings a two-pronged approach, revenue for conservation and meeting the social needs of the growing community. With parts of the revenue channelled into the conservation of the CFS, our strategy benefits all.
Next, we focus on detailed measures on the funding disbursement through an equitable mechanism. With transparency and efficiency as the cornerstone to our efforts, strict criteria on operations and eligibility for stakeholders are in place to ensure direct financial transactions for conservation.
To maintain the financial integrity for the CFS, continuous allocations from the government are channelled annually for the implementation of the Central Forest Spine Master Plan. Through outcome-based budgeting criteria streamlined into the CFS funding, financial resources are optimised for conservation efforts.
And to fortify the significance of the biodiversity and ecosystem services of the CFS, we develop economic valuations on these landscapes and integrate them into our decision-making processes. These sustainable financing mechanisms are then incorporated at state-level planning, creating direct payoff for current and future conservation of the CFS in Peninsular Malaysia.
budget allocations for Payment for Forest Ecosystem Services
government allocations in the 11th & 12th Malaysia Plan for the CFS
in forest rivers generate revenue streamed into the CFS conservation
The biggest flaw in forest conservation and preservation often falls on the insufficient institutional capacity in streamlining efforts into actual planning, decision making and implementation. It is why capacity building is significant in catalysing the outcomes we aspire to achieve.
Our efforts stem from the enhancement of federal and state-level authorities’ capacity in overseeing, managing, and implementing the CFSMP in their areas of governance. Through systematic capacity building programmes, we establish monitoring tools to stock take and oversee our biodiversity, ecosystem services and carbon stocks within the CFS. In doing so, we also aim to have relevant data channelled into a singular database or a one-stop-centre (OSC) that is available for use by various stakeholders consisting of government agencies and departments, non-governmental organisations and the general public.
We also boost capacity for sustainable forest landscape management among our stakeholders at both federal and state levels to implement the CFSMP. We apply comprehensive training standards for our implementing partners focusing on sustainable forest management, biodiversity protection and improving livelihoods of forest communities within the CFS, which would uphold the conservation of critical forest areas in future planning. We also support Ecological Corridors to be included in the revised state and district planning, safeguarding our forests’ connectivity. Our impact includes the integration of the CFS into these state plans:
Kluang District Local Plan 2020
Mersing District Local Plan 2020 (Johor)
Lipis District Local Plan 2020
Hulu Perak District Local Plan 2030 (Perak)
These efforts are then supported by strategic communications from forestry departments that create a ripple effect of awareness and advocate ecologically sound activities to the local communities and organisations that live within and nearby our pilot sites.
All three of our pilot forest landscapes are identified as critical areas which are priority linkages in the Central Forest Spine Master Plan (CFSMP). These locations are also crucial tiger conservation sites identified in the National Tiger Action Plan (NTCAP). Learn more about the unique profiles of these landscapes and why they matter.
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The Belum-Temengor Forest Complex is located in Perak and borders Thailand. The forest complex of 280,000 hectares is over four times the size of Singapore and is the second-largest protected forest area after Taman Negara.
Known for its spectacular plants, birds and mammals – housing over 3000 plant species (many unique to the area) and 185 species of birds – it is also recognised as Malaysia’s second-largest tiger priority site. Additionally, this landscape is known to be a regular passageway for herds of elephants.
Only Orang Asli compromising of two tribes, the Jahai and Temiar live within this landscape. They usually forage the forest for food, medicines, and other daily needs. Dozens of villages are known to reside within and nearby this landscape with little accessibility to developments and commercialisations. Most of them rely on small agriculture to sustain their needs and depend on rubber cultivation for a steady income.
Spanning across Pahang, Kelantan and Terengganu with an area of 434,300 hectares, this landscape is the largest protected area in Peninsular Malaysia.
It is the only site with scientific baseline studies done on the tiger population and its habitats, making it a significant conservation area for the Malayan Tigers. About 70 – 112 tigers were found here in a survey done in 2004. A focal site to this complex is the Sungai Yu tiger corridor. It is the last critical linkage between the Greater Taman Negara forest complex and the Banjaran Titiwangsa main range complex and is a priority corridor under the NTCAP programme. There are three viaducts built here to allow the movement of wildlife across the road.
A total of 9,644 people involved in a broad range of livelihood activities reside here, within the 18 Malay villages in the Sungai Yu corridor. They are either self-employed as farmers or work in the private and public sectors. While 50-150 indigenous families reside in deeper parts of the corridor with direct activity with forest. They harvest for food, medicine and gather products such as rattan, Pandan leaves and more for sustenance and as merchandise to be sold to tourists.
Sitting on the border of Pahang and Johor, this landscape is known for its headwaters of Sungai Endau. With an area of 360,100 hectares, the landscape contains a mix of lowland and hill dipterocarp forest (family of hardwood, tropical trees native to Malaysian forest) that is uniquely similar to the coastal vegetation in Borneo.
It is the home to large epiphytes such as the Pandan leaves – found only in Johor – and large mammals such as elephants, tapirs and tigers. It is also the only area that has a population of bearded pigs. The southern part of the landscape is recognised as a crucial zone for tiger habitats and as a corridor for elephant movements between nearby forest complexes.
There are three Orang Asli Settlements located within the complex’s primary linkage. These communities claim the landscape as their Native Customary Right and sustain a livelihood of fruit orchards and rubber trees cultivated as part of the RISDA development project. Some of them still rely on the forest for rattan, vegetables, plant shoots, tubers and medicinal plants. They also fish in the rivers.