Resorts help ecosystem

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 30 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 30 May, 2012, 12:00am


The Gayana Eco Resort and the Bunga Raya Island Resort and Spa at Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, have taken a major first step towards reintroducing giant clams to their natural habitat in Malohom Bay, located in the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park, a cluster of islands within a 20-minute speedboat ride of Kota Kinabalu.

The restoration of a coral reef is part of the same scheme. The Marine Ecology Research Centre (MERC), based at the Gayana Eco Resort, has been working on the project for four years.

The first 500 three-year-old baby giant clams were placed into protective cages and then transferred to ocean nursery sites in Malohom Bay on March 30. One thousand pieces of year-old coral fragments were attached to coral reefs over a one-month period as part of the same project.

'Our commitment is to return to the sea what man has taken from it,' says Alvin Wong, MERC's project director.

'Why the giant clam restoration programme? Because giant clams are slow to develop and have few defences. They are listed as vulnerable by CITES [Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora], an international agreement between governments.

'Why the coral reef restoration programme? If giant clams are to be reintroduced into the sea, coral reefs would be a vital part of their habitat.'

For Gillian Tan, owner, of the two resorts, the project has been a labour of love.

'Fundamentally, the giant clam is like the liver of the ocean and cleanses the water,' she says. 'However, because it is slow-moving and unable to defend itself, it is bordering close to extinction.'

After four years of what Tan calls 'love and affection', the baby clams were ready to leave the confinement of their nursery to go back into the wilds.

'Like any parent, we are both excited and anxious to embark on this next step,' Tam says. 'The survival of our baby clams is fully dependent on what the tide brings in. If the temperature of the water goes up, they will die. If they are fished out of the water to be sold or eaten, they will die. If silt or rubbish suffocates them, they will also die.'

Reintroducing species to the wilds is a concept gaining favour among ecologically friendly resorts throughout the region.

At Pan Pacific Nirwana Bali in Indonesia, guests were invited to play an active role in such a project. Over a two-day period last month, more than 100 baby sea turtles were released by guests staying at the resort on a beach next to the property. They donated 50,000 rupiah (HK$42) per head and named their adopted turtles before releasing them on to the sand.