Sabah to explore birding sites to incorporate with community-based tourism

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah’s rural areas hold great promise as a birding hotspot, opening up new educational and economic possibilities for the local community.

Assistant Minister of Tourism, Culture, and Environment Datuk Joniston Bangkuai said birdwatching is an excellent activity to integrate into the community-based tourism initiative that will attract new visitors to the countryside.

He said enthusiasts are willing to fly across the country and even to remote places to see a single rare bird species, therefore the rural community should make the most of the opportunity by capitalising on the birdwatching market.

“The villagers have local expertise on distinctive bird species that can be sighted in their area. They can offer bird guiding service apart from the usual activities and this is also one way to encourage people to stay longer in the countryside,” he said

Joniston, who also chairs the Sabah Tourism Board, said the rural countryside and its unspoiled flora and fauna provide great hideouts for birders, adding Sabah is home to over 600 different bird species.

On Friday, the Sabah Birdwatchers Association met with Joniston to talk about their projected 2023 programmes, which include workshops and photography contests among others.

The group, led by president Roger Rajah, also discussed potential collaboration on a pilot project in Kiulu and other parts of Sabah, particularly regarding holding workshops to spread birding knowledge to the rural folks that run community-based tourism businesses.

Joniston expressed support for the proposal and stated that the Sabah Tourism Board would help with any projects that could be advantageous to the rural community and tourism, while also suggesting that the Association collaborates with the Federation of Rural Tourism Association Sabah.

Kiulu, according to Sabah Birdwatchers Association vice president Ron Pudin, is an ideal location for the pilot project because, despite being a well-established eco-tourism destination, not many visit the rustic village for birdwatching activities.

He stated that their members discovered endangered bird species in Kiulu earlier this year, emphasising the need for bird research in the area and a community awareness programme.

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