The setting up of this lab was a joint initiative between Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD), EcoHealth Alliance (EHA) and Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC).
The WHGFL opening was officiated by US Ambassador to Malaysia Joseph Yun. Yun also witnessed the signing of an MOU between EcoHealth Alliance and Sabah Wildlife Department for the USAID-PREDICT Project.
Datuk Dr Laurentius Ambu, Director of Sabah Wildlife Department commented “This is indeed a proud day for Sabah Wildlife Department as it has always been our goal to set up a Laboratory to not only look into wildlife health and genetic research but also to assist our Wildlife Enforcement Division in analyzing the confiscated illegal bushmeat to determine species and origin, using genetic tools.
“Capacity building within my department has also been enhanced by the setting up of a new unit, the Wildlife Health Unit in collaboration with EcoHealth Alliance and DGFC, which is part of SWD’s Wildlife Rescue Unit.
“While the WRU conducts wildlife rescue and translocation activities, the WHU will be responsible for leading the physical and diagnostic evaluation of rescued and relocated wildlife across the state as well as conducting sampling trips to trap and sample free ranging wildlife and assess wildlife in protected and unprotected areas,” added Ambu.
Director of Danau Girang Field Centre, Dr Benoit Goossens said “It is a great honour to be part of this historic moment, after two years of hard work with Dr Sen Nathan from SWD and Mr Tom Hughes from EHA, my two colleagues with whom we have shared sweat, tears and joy!
“Thanks to EHA support and the USAID Emerging Pandemic Threats (EPT) Program we have been able to set up this incredible tool which will allow us to carry out wildlife health work that will in return benefit conservation and land use planning for a better management of Sabah landscape, both agricultural and forest,” added Goossens.
Dr Peter Daszak, President of EcoHealth Alliance mentioned “This laboratory represents a bold step forward in showing the linkage between conservation and health and demonstrating how collaborative partnerships can work so effectively for conservation, and for health.
“It is a success story for Sabah Wildlife Department, for the State and for the country of Malaysia, and will show the World how the new field of “EcoHealth” can benefit wildlife, ecosystems and public health”.
In his speech, Ambassador Yun mentioned “The U.S. Government strongly supports the USAID-PREDICT project and its role in identifying threats to human health.
“The important job being done at the Wildlife Health, Genetic and Forensic Laboratory here in Lok Kawi strengthens public health work, advances scientific research and protects the economic health of the entire region.”
The Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment, Datuk Seri Panglima Masidi Manjun who was also present for the official opening and the signing of the MOU commented “We are here today to witness the fruition of the past two years’ hard work by my officers in SWD and the experts from EHA and DGFC, as well as the beginning of a new journey in wildlife health management in Sabah.
“I would like to take this opportunity to convey my sincere gratitude to all the major funders: USAID, Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) through its Malaysian Palm Oil Wildlife Conservation Fund, Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria Resort through its Wildlife Conservation Fund and US Fish and Wildlife Service as well as the primary initiators of this great work: Sabah Wildlife Department, EcoHealth Alliance and Danau Girang Field Centre,” added Manjun.