PUTATAN, Dec 9 (Bernama) -- The Sabah Government is giving more bite to address wildlife diseases.
This is reflected by the establishment of the Wildlife Health, Genetic and Forensic Laboratory here, which showcases the state's commitment and ability to address the subject.
State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said wildlife conservation was not only important to Sabah, but its impact could benefit the global community in a time of unprecendented development and growth of human population.
"As we humans and wildlife increasingly interact, so does the threat of us being introduced to new and exotic diseases originally found only in the confines of the deep forest.
"We, in Sabah have long realised this threat and I had, in fact, instructed the Sabah Wildlife Department and Danau Girang Field Centre to look into this and discuss with experts worldwide to address this issue," he said at the opening of the laboratory Monday.
The laboratory was officially opened by United States (US) Ambassador to Malaysia Joseph Y. Yun.
According to Masidi, the laboratory, with equipments that could store samples and conduct genetic analysis on biological samples for disease surveillance, would be fully operational by month-end.
Meanwhile, Yun said efforts to balance wildlife conservation with economic growth had become a challenge in this era.
He hoped there would be more collaborations between Malaysia and the US to address such issues.
"The US is a multicultural country. We like to see tolerance among staff of various races and beliefs when we collaborate in a project, and we believe there is a high level of tolerance here (Malaysia)," he noted.
At the opening of the laboratory, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for the USAID-PREDICT Project was signed between the Sabah Wildlife Department and EcoHealth Alliance, a collaboration in identifying threats to human health by conducting research at the laboratory.
Sabah Wildlife Department director Datuk Dr Laurentius Ambu said the laboratory complemented the department's role in wildlife conservation and would become a useful place for experts around the world to converge and study Sabah's wildlife.
EcoHealth Alliance Country Coordinator Tom Hughes said at the moment, the laboratory, which cost about RM1.2 million, was conducting blood samples taken from several wild creatures such as the proboscis monkey, sun bear and bat.