Rare tree not seen since 1955 re-discovered in Sabah, Malaysia

Posted on by Amy Hinsley

Three individuals of a rare dipterocarp species that was thought to be extinct from Sabah have been found in the Siangau Forest Reserve. Not seen since 1955, Dipterocarpus lamellatus, commonly known as Keruing Jarang, was found during a survey of the area by a research team from the Forestry Department.

Dipterocarpus lamellatus was last recorded in Sabah at Beaufort Hill in 1955 and the only other record was from the island of Labuan in 1951, which is now virtually devoid of any natural dryland forests. Forestry Department Director, Datuk Sam Mannan, was excited over the findings of the team, stating that they have also encountered four other rare dipterocarps in the reserve.

The survey was part of a larger state wide inventory by the Forestry Department to determine the conservation status of dipterocarps in Sabah with technical assistance from the University of Aberdeen U.K. It is an on-going project funded by the state government.

According to forest botanist, John Sugau, out of the 267 species of dipterocarps known to occur in Borneo, 183 are found in Sabah. Whilst some dipterocarps are common and widespread, others are rare and restricted in their distribution. Keruing Jarang is only known to occur in the west coast of Sabah.

In the natural forest, the dipterocarps are large trees that form the upper canopy layer. Dipterocarps such as kapur, keruing, seraya, and selangan batu, make up the bulk of commercial timbers from Sabah’s natural forests. Many years of logging has resulted in the status of some of the rarer dipterocarps becoming uncertain.

Sadly, a large part of the Sianggau Forest Reserve, where Keruing Jarang was found has been destroyed by fire, according to Datuk Mannan. He said that the Forestry Department will draw up a conservation plan for the reserve, and this will include restoring the degraded forest with trees that are native to the area.

Written by Amy Hinsley

Amy has a background in botanical conservation and worked for the Global Trees Campaign for over three years before completing a PhD on the international trade in orchids. She is now working on wildlife trade (with a botanical focus) at UNEP WCMC.

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