Sabah gets new lab for disease surveillance and research

KOTA KINABALU - A newly-opened laboratory is putting Sabah in the forefront in the detection of new diseases that could spread from animals to humans.

The health, genetic and forensic laboratory of the Wildlife Department at Lok Kawi, about 18km from here, would help researchers on disease surveillance, said state Tourism, Cul­ture and Environment Minister Dat­uk Masidi Manjun.

The laboratory, built with the assistance of the US government and environment groups EcoHealth Alli­ance and Danau Girang Field Centre, is equipped to store samples and conduct genetic analysis on biological samples and will be invaluable in the department's effort to crackdown on poaching.

"It will also screen samples for detection of novel virus (virus not seen before), genetic research and forensic investigations," said Masidi at the opening of the laboratory by US ambassador Joseph Yun yesterday.

Department director Datuk Dr Laurentius Ambu said the laboratory would assist its wildlife enforcement division in analysing confiscated ille­gal bush meat.

"The results of such an analysis will be admissible in court," he said.

On a related matter, he said the department had also set up a wildlife health unit in collaboration with EcoHealth and centre.

He said while the department's wildlife rescue unit carried out wildlife rescue and translocation activities, the health unit would be responsible for leading the physical and diag­nostic evaluation of rescued and relocated wildlife across Sabah.

In his speech, Yu said the US government's financial help in the setting up of the new laboratory was in the interest of all parties.