Tighter tourism rules at Malaysian wildlife sanctuary

KOTA KINABALU - Tourism activities will be more regulated at the renowned Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary starting next year.

For a start, tour operators and their guides will be required to obtain special permits from the State Wildlife Department to operate in the area.

Department director Datuk Dr Laurentius Ambu said action would be taken against those found breaching the regulations.

He said tour operators wanting to operate in the sanctuary must apply for a Wildlife Tourism Operator permit.

"Offenders will be liable to a fine of RM20,000 (S$7,892) or two years imprisonment or both," he said after opening a seminar on Eco-Tourism Operational Procedures in the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary in Sandakan yesterday.

Tourism activities have boomed in recent years at the Lower Kinabatangan, where wildlife such as orang utan, proboscis monkeys and Bornean elephants can be spotted along the nation's second longest waterway and its tributaries.

However, its popularity had also resulted in problems such as overcrowding at certain spots along the Sungai Kinabatangan or smaller rivers.

"There have also been reports of guides allowing visitors to alight from tour boats to take pictures of wildlife such as elephants along the river banks," he said.

He said there was no excuse for guides to allow tourists out of the boats and risk their lives while causing stress to the elephants.