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Malaysia - Main Details

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Biodiversity Facts

Status and trends of biodiversity, including benefits from biodiversity and ecosystem services

Malaysia is one of the world’s megadiverse countries. It is also ranked 12th in the world, according to the National Biodiversity Index, which is based on estimates of country richness and endemism in four terrestrial vertebrate classes and vascular plants.

Malaysia has undergone rapid economic development since independence which is attributed to the utilization of the country’s rich natural resources and development of human capital. Based on 2012 statistics, approximately 60% of the country’s total land area is still forested, including permanent reserved forest (PRF), state land forests, national parks, and wildlife and bird sanctuaries. This is in line with Malaysia’s commitment to maintain at least 50% of forest and tree cover in perpetuity, as pledged at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. In addition, a total of 10.6% of Malaysia’s land area has been designated as terrestrial protected areas. The remaining land uses comprise agricultural crops, rubber plantations, oil palm plantations, urban and other uses. Malaysia has an estimated 15,000 species of vascular plants, 306 species of mammals, 742 species of birds, 242 species of amphibians, 567 species of reptiles, over 449 species of freshwater fish, over 500 species of marine fish and more than 150,000 species of invertebrates.

Marine protected areas represent a wide range of habitats, including coral reefs, sea grasses and mangrove forests. As of 2013, the Department of Marine Park Malaysia manages 248,613 hectares of marine protected areas, which include 42 islands in Peninsular Malaysia and federal territories that are gazetted as marine parks. Another 32 islands are located within the area covered by the marine park waters. Almost 20% of Peninsular Malaysia and federal territories is located within the area managed by the Department of Marine Park Malaysia. Marine protected areas cover 73,793 hectares in Sabah and are managed by Sabah Parks. In Sarawak, marine protected areas are managed by the Sarawak Forestry Department and cover 234,362.4 hectares.

Based on the 2008 IUCN Red List, Malaysia is home to 1,141 threatened species, including plants and animals.

Main pressures on and drivers of change to biodiversity (direct and indirect)

Threats to biodiversity in Malaysia include threats to ecosystems and species, such as land development, pollution, poaching and collection, encroachment, climate change and invasive alien species. While invasive alien species affect all sectors, based on past records, the agriculture sector has been most seriously affected in this regard. The main drivers of these threats consist of: economic growth; increased demand for food, agricultural products, goods and services, exotic wild meat, traditional and herbal remedies, wild animals for pets and wild ornamental plants.

Measures to Enhance Implementation of the Convention

Implementation of the NBSAP

The National Policy on Biological Diversity (1998) provides direction for the nation, consisting of 15 strategies and 87 action plans for implementing the Convention. To supplement actions in the Policy and better address emerging biodiversity and environmental issues, a National Capacity Needs Self-Assessment for Global Environmental Management was completed in 2008. This project proposes 25 activities to improve and enhance the implementation of the CBD, UNFCCC and UNCCD and analyzes the country’s capacity strengths, constraints and needs, while recommending capacity development actions to address deficiencies. Thirteen of the 25 activities are related to the CBD and intended to improve existing implementation in terms of policy and institutional frameworks, regulations and guidelines, federal and state cooperation, inter-agency coordination, knowledge and information management, incentives, increasing the number of experts, reporting framework and mainstreaming. In addition, 7 of the 25 activities are related to addressing issues and concerns that are cross-cutting among the three conventions. Implementation will be led by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment.

Malaysia is currently revising its NBSAP and anticipates its finalization in 2014. The revised NBSAP will include new elements of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020, and will take into account the implementation of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets based on national circumstances and priorities.

Actions taken to achieve the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets

Malaysia attaches great importance to establishing protected areas for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. At present, 10.6% of Malaysia’s land area has been designated as terrestrial protected areas. With regard to marine protected areas, in 2013, the Department of Marine Park Malaysia managed 248,613 hectares of marine protected areas, covering 42 islands in Peninsular Malaysia and federal territories that have been gazetted as marine parks. Sabah Parks and the Sarawak Forestry Department manage a total of 73,793 and 234,362.4 hectares of marine protected area, respectively. Since Malaysia shares common borders with Thailand on the peninsula, and with Indonesia in Borneo, the Federal Government has also initiated the establishment of transboundary protected areas on a bilateral basis and through the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). At the regional level, Malaysia is implementing the Heart of Borneo Initiative which aims to conserve 20 million hectares of forest within the 3 participating countries, namely, Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei. Out of this area, 3.9 million hectares are located in the states of Sabah and Sarawak. For marine conservation, Malaysia is also implementing the Coral Triangle Initiatives which is a joint collaboration project among 6 countries to conserve important marine biodiversity within the coral triangle area. Within the country, Malaysia has also started to implement the Central Forest Spine (CFS) Master Plan which aims to create a contiguous forest network linked through ecological corridors covering 5 million hectares in Peninsular Malaysia.

In addition to in situ conservation measures, Malaysia has established a number of ex situ conservation centres to preserve the genetic resources of some species. For instance, traditional varieties of rice, wild rice species, and other accessions, including pure line varieties, modern high-yielding varieties, elite breeding lines and special types are stored in various seed gene banks in Malaysia. The Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) manages 11 wildlife conservation centres. The programmes include captive breeding of endangered and commercial species, research and sampling for the Wildlife Genetic Resource Bank (WGRB) and the establishment of baseline data on wildlife DNA. For example, in order to halt the decline of the Milky Stork (Mycteria cineria), the DWNP and the National Zoo began reintroducing this species into the mangrove forests of the Matang Forest Reserve in the State of Perak. Ongoing monitoring programmes have indicated that the storks have acclimatised to their natural habitat. The DWNP has also started to reintroduce captive bred gaur (Bos gaurus) into the natural habitat. In addition, various efforts have also been taken to reverse the rate of loss of natural habitats. Specific action plans also exist for flagship species, such as the National Tiger Conservation Action Plan (NTCAP) and the National Elephant Conservation Action Plan (NECAP).

To address issues on invasive alien species, a National Working Group was formed, composed of members of agencies working in the fields of agriculture, fisheries, veterinary services, environment, irrigation and drainage, wildlife, forestry, public health, medical research, maritime, transportation, aviation, customs, research institutions and universities. The working group has developed, among other plans, a National Action Plan for the Prevention, Containment, Eradication and Control of Invasive Alien Species. The Action Plan was adopted by the National Biodiversity Council in 2013.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment is responsible for administering a programme dedicated to the documentation of traditional knowledge. This includes bringing together existing databases based in sectoral agencies, research institutions and universities, documenting traditional knowledge that has not yet been documented and developing a national action plan on traditional knowledge. The Government also intends to establish a Digital Library on Traditional Knowledge.

Support mechanisms for national implementation (legislation, funding, capacity-building, coordination, mainstreaming, etc.)

The mainstreaming of biodiversity considerations has occurred in various policies, strategies and action plans. Wildlife protection in Peninsular Malaysia is regulated by the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 (Act 716) while, in Sabah and Sarawak, the Sabah Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997 and the Sarawak Wildlife Protection Ordinance 1998 apply respectively. The new Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 places greater emphasis on biodiversity conservation and strengthened related penalties. This legislation also include provisions to regulate or ban the entry of a list of invasive alien species; it also complements the International Trade in Endangered Species Act (2008) that deals with the import, export and re-export of species on the CITES list throughout Malaysia. Malaysia is currently developing a national law to regulate Access to Biological Resources and Benefit Sharing (ABS) and protect associated traditional knowledge. The adoption of the Central Forest Spine (CFS) Master Plan in 2010 and its subsequent implementation will further enhance the long-term sustainability and continuity of the forest in Peninsular Malaysia, through the development of ecological corridors between and within forest complexes.

The National Forestry Policy is currently being updated to address biodiversity concerns and provides an institutional framework for collaboration among federal and state governments in the area of forestry development and management. The Malaysian Criteria and Indicators, which are standards for forest management certification based on the International Timber Tropical Organization’s (ITTO) Criteria and Indicators and the Forest Stewardship Council’s Principles and Criteria, are the basis for sustainable forest management.

Concerning agricultural activities, the Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry has introduced good agricultural practices through the implementation of the Malaysian Farm Accreditation Scheme, Livestock Farm Accreditation Scheme, Malaysian Aquaculture Farm Certification Scheme and the Malaysian Organic Scheme. Further, a national technical committee on agricultural biodiversity has been created, and is currently in the process of preparing documents for the development of national strategies and action plans for agricultural biodiversity conservation and sustainable use.

Communication, education and public awareness (CEPA) activities are undertaken by various government and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). A National CEPA Action Plan will be embedded under the NBSAP revision which is ongoing. The action plan will also include promotion of a collaborative approach and framework for encouraging synergies, strengthening links and building upon current activities and developments. Various indigenous and local communities are also involved in CBD implementation and related processes. In addition, the Community-Based Natural Resource Management Facility in Malaysia has been created to support local initiatives and enhance the capacity of NGOs and Community-based Organizations (CBOs) in the development of policies and practices.

Mechanisms for monitoring and reviewing implementation

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  • United Nations Environment Programme