Malaysia is one of 17 mega-diverse countries in the world, with a wealth of biological diversity in its terrestrial and marine zones. The flora of Malaysia is exceedingly rich and is conservatively estimated to contain about 12,500 species of flowering plants, approximately 306 species of mammals, more than 742 species of birds, and 547species of reptiles, including a large number of endemics.
Malaysia has several networks of protected areas (PAs) which have been established to safeguard this irreplaceable heritage as well as the important ecosystem services that its forests provide. In Peninsular Malaysia alone, there are at least four PA networks covering a total area of 2.98 million ha, managed by different agencies including the Federal Department of Wildlife and National Parks, Johor National Parks Corporation, Perak State Parks Corporation and the respective state Forestry Departments. PAs under different networks are governed by different laws with varying degrees of protection status, and gazetting and de-gazetting procedures.
What is common between the different PA networks is that these PAs are largely characterized as sub-optimally managed and severely under-financed. Several reasons have been put forward for this:-
- Malaysia does not yet have a uniform system of national PAs under a common umbrella for achieving biodiversity conservation goals;
- There is insufficient understanding of and appreciation for the economic value of the PAs and the essential contribution they make to national development;
- There is insufficient investment in PA management by state governments due, in part, to the perception that they are foregoing revenue generation opportunities through other forms of land use; and
- There is insufficient capacity within PA management agencies for site management and PA system management.
In order to remove these obstacles for optimal PA system establishment and management, the project aims to establish a uniform national PA system in Peninsular Malaysia and to establish a performance-based financing structure to support effective PA system management. Through a combination of interventions at Federal, PA network and site levels, the project will engender the introduction of system-level thinking, planning and management, supported by innovative, cost-effective and sustainable financing mechanisms.
At the Federal level, the project focuses on the creation of a uniform PA system with standard criteria for establishment and effective management, development of a national PA information and knowledge management system, and establishment of performance-based financing mechanisms.
At the Sub PA network level, the project will provide support to increase the management effectiveness of the PA systems and decrease financing gaps while ensuring that PA system management and business planning processes are linked to performance-based financing.
At the Site level, the project supports functional, technical and management capacity development in order for the individual PAs to meet nationally-set standards and access the financial incentive mechanisms. The interventions are expected to translate into improved management effectiveness in addressing growing threats to biodiversity from poaching and land-use change.
Initially, the main focus will be on the 886,000 ha of the terrestrial wildlife PAs. However, project investments in enhancing PA management is expected to indirectly impact the larger network of 2.98 million ha within the PA system including the protection forests within the Permanent Reserved Forests (PRFs) of Peninsular Malaysia, as well as the PA networks in the states of Sabah and Sarawak, through future application of the standards, training and capacity building, and financing mechanisms for those PAs.