In memory of Dr. Clive Marsh, a visionary for the protection and sustainable development of forests of Southeast Asia. I met Clive in Sarawak in 1996 and was astounded by his knowledge of the Borneo rainforest.
OUR region lost an unwavering tropical rainforest conservationist when Dr Clive Wallis Marsh, 49, died in Oxford on Oct16, of an illness caused by encephalitis which he apparently contracted during field work in protected areas in Laos.
Dr Marsh, a personal friend of this writer who had travelled and trekked with him inside Danum Valley, fell into a coma in February and never recovered.
Sabah has a lot to thank Dr Marsh for some of the major world class conservation areas in which he played an instrumental role in getting full protection status.
While working as a Conservation Officer for the Sabah Foundation, he was able to encourage and convince the Foundation to leave untouched two conservation areas within their logging concessions � the 435sq km Danum Valley and the Maliau Basin.
According to Cyril Pinso of Innoprise Corporation Sdn Bhd, the investment arm of Sabah Foundation: "This was the first time in Asia that areas of high biological diversity value within active logging concessions had been set aside for conservation through private sector initiatives."
Pinso adds: "Danum stands as the most enduring monument to Clive's work and professional life as a scientist and conservationist."
It was his work in Sabah which led directly to the creation of the Danum Valley Conservation Area which is rich in wildlife, including wild Orang Utans, nine species of primates, the Sumatran Rhinoceros and the Asian elephants," he pointed out.
By 1995, full legal protection of the ware was achieved when it was converted into Class 1 (protection forest reserve), becoming Sabah's largest protected lowland forest.
Not many local people knew even those monumental contributions which have now become close to the heart of most Sabahans, let alone his personal, academic and professional backgrounds.
A Briton, Marsh studied zoology in Bristol University, UK but travelling abroad was his passion.
While still an undergraduate, he visited Uganda, East Africa where he did a research project on the pied kingfishers in the Queen Elizabeth National Park.
After graduating, he packed up almost instantly for Kenya to pursue a doctorate study on the red Colobus monkey on a riverine forest site on the Tana River.
With his famous remark: "Any fool can be uncomfortable in a rainforest," Marsh spent the next three years in the remote bush location living in a rustic camp he built.
It was during this scientific study project that he saw how the forest itself was under threat.
If he later became a tireless advocate of rainforest conservation, that's what started it all � the need to protect these habitats in the first place. Otherwise, all the research efforts would be rendered meaningless in the end.
Thus Sabah's Danum Valley and Maliau Basin, legacies of his deep conservation belief were not his first.
In Kenya, his drive led to the creation of the Tana River Primate Reserve, to afford protection for two highly endangered primates, namely the red Colobus and the crested Nangeney.
"That was no easy task. It required enormous commitment, patience beyond measure, well honed political skills and the ability to generate respect and trust among a wide range of people," Pinso said.
In 1976, he returned to Bristol to write his PhD.
By this time, he was convinced what he was meant to do - promote conservation in tropical forests.
He started in Peninsular Malaysia where he spent three years leading a research and coordinated a comprehensive survey of primates in all of peninsula's forests.
After these "classic benchmark studies," he moved to Sabah in 1981 and was responsible for managing a million hectares of rainforests for the long term benefits of the people of Sabah, with particular emphasis on sustainable forest development.
Timber being a central revenue earner for Sabah, Marsh instinctively realised that if conservation were to succeed at all, it was crucial to save Sabah's richest forest - the lowland dipterocarp forests, especially in areas designated for logging.
Without this sort of early foresight and understanding extracted from his personal experience in Africa, perhaps there's no such thing as a Danum Conservation Area or the Maliau Basin in Sabah today.
From 1986, Danum Valley became his pet project when a collaborative training, education and research programme was launched, involving Sabah Forestry, Malaysian universities and the Royal Society, which supported more than 100 research projects over 10 years and established a large permanent field study centre.
He knew grassroot awareness was needed to sustain long-term conservation efforts.
Hence in 1987, he founded the Sabah Nature Club, an organiation for secondary children now ably run by Jimmy Omar, which has close to more than 25,000 members throughout Sabah.
In 1992, it was Dr Marsh who broke new ground, through the development of a carbon offset project with the US based New England Power Company and the Netherlands-based FACE (Forest Absorbing Carbon Emissions) Foundation.
These were the first such initiatives in Asia, allowing carbon-dioxide producing industries to fund compensatory measures by the Sabah Foundation such as Reduced Impact logging and enrichment planting (INFAPRO) involving 25,000 hectares of logged over forests near Danum.
Over 35 species of wild dipterocarp trees and fruit trees are being planted here for that purpose.
Because of his work, there is a major enrichment planting project to show the world that Sabah is a pioneer in dealing specifically with the ever louder problem of global climate warming by planting slow growing trees but are known to be effective in carbon fixing.
Marsh was also a key driving force behind the development of an ecotourism facility at Danum - the Borneo rainforest Lodge which opened business in 1994.
In fact, this writer remembered vividly a rafting trip with Dr Marsh down the Segama River from the field centre in the late 80's to scout for the site to build the present Borneo Rainforest Lodge.
Among those in this pioneering recce trip include Dr Waidi Sinun, Dr Tony Greer, Dr Brown, Danny Chew and one or two more others.
Dr Clive did the lion's share of steering the inflatable raft downstream.
At Dismal Gorge, the raft hit some rocks and overturned.
Dr Waidi lost his watch and it was never found again.
But we reached a point which was the confluence of the Danum River and the Segama River.
We saw how the Danum River delivered crystal clear water and was attracted to investigated further upstream, where we saw otters and huge elephant foot prints and dungs.
It's no coincidence the Borneo River Lodge today is located upstream the Danum River, a fantastic riverbank site with a fantastic front view of the forest, although sadly speaking, logging somewhere upstream is causing the once pristine river to turn muddy easily after rains.
To remember this, there is an effort to create a Clive Marsh Fund to support Student Research on Primates and Forest Conservation in Southeast Asia as a fitting tribute to his work and as a way to carry on from where he had left off.
This proposal is to request a US$10,000 contribution as seed money to endow a memorial fund in Clive's name � Clive Marsh Conservation Fund, dedicated to support field work and training young Asian research students.
Dr Marsh was married to Sabahan Ignatia Olim in 1985 and had two sons.