KOTA KINABALU- Giant mudskippers and unidentified crabs are among the new animal species discovered in a mangrove forest along Sabah's east coast.
Researchers in a scientific expedition to the Tundon Bohangin region believe they have stumbled across species of crabs that have yet to be recorded by science.
They spotted the giant mudskippers which were about 20cm long during the expedition to the area which is part of the 80,000ha Lower Kinabatangan Segama Wetlands (LKSW), the largest of the six Ramsar sites in Malaysia.
(A Ramsar site is an internationally recognised wetland for its significance on conservation and wise use of its resources).
Datuk Sam Mannan, director of the Sabah Forestry Department which manages the LKSW, said Tundon Bohangin at the confluence of the Kretam and Kulamba rivers which flowed into the Dewhurst Bay of the Sulu Sea could also become Sabah's next tourism hot spot.
He noted that the researchers had sighted diverse wildlife such as proboscis monkeys, tembadau (wild buffaloes), silver leaf monkeys and Bornean gibbons apart from estuarine crocodiles during the expedition from June 16-26.
Diverse bird species such as the collared kingfisher, white-bellied sea eagle, Brahminy kite, Storm's stork, rhinoceros hornbill and oriental darter were also sighted in the area.
The mangrove tree nymph butterfly and the bee-like dragonfly were among the interesting insects found in Tundon Bohangin and villagers there said fireflies could be seen at night.
"Tundon Bohangin is not only significant in terms of biodiversity. The area has great ecotourism potential with the Lower Kinabatangan area fast reaching its capacity in terms of the number of visitors," Mannan said.
About two hours by speedboat from Sandakan, the area was declared a Ramsar site about five years ago.
Since then, the department had constructed a field centre adjacent to the village there.
A management plan was jointly formulated by the Sabah Biodiversity Centre, Natural Resources Office and the department in collaboration with Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) to manage this site.
The 60-member expedition funded by the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry was organised because not much was scientifically known about Tundon Bohangin.