Breaking the ground for Borneo’s second fig garden on land donated by Sime Darby Plantations next to Tawau Hills Park in Sabah.
NOTE: Borneo’s first fig garden is located at the Sabah Ficus Germplasm Centre (SFGC) at what was previously the BORA Rhino compound at Tabin in Sabah
To establish any new botanic garden is a long term project which will mostly benefit our children and grandchildren rather than ourselves.
The Tawau Hills Fig Garden was established for multiple reasons;
- To educate visitors on the best practices for restoring damaged forest back to to the original diversity of Borneo’s native forests.
- To provide wild food for the local wildlife at Tawau Hills especially hornbills, gibbons and langurs allowing visitors to watch these animals at close quarters.
- To provide a living gene bank of Borneo figs freely available to both Malaysian and overseas researchers into fig ecology, taxonomy and biodiversity.
- To provide planting material for the much larger adjacent habitat enhancement project described here and other forest restoration projects in Borneo.
- To carry out field experiments on how best to plant strangling figs on oil palms to enhance the edge of oil palm estates for wildlife habitat throughout Borneo.
- Our hope is that in 50 years time the Tawau Hills Fig Garden will provide a diverse wildlife rich forest garden which will attract students, researchers and tourists from around the world.
- Finally we hope that this living example of what is possible will stimulate the creation of hundreds of similar projects throughout Borneo. We can provide free fig seeds and growing advice to anyone interested in similar projects and forest restoration.
The Tawau Hills Fig Garden is being established on land currently growing oil palm owned by Sime Darby Plantations, Malaysia’s largest plantation business.
See the orange oval in the photo above for the site. This location is directly opposite the virgin forest of Tawau Hills Park and only 100 m from the Park HQ buildings.
Old oil palm trees on the edge of the existing plantation will not be removed but used as host trees for the project. It is difficult to grow stranglers on flat land and palm oil palm trees make the perfect host for growing strangling figs. By the time the palms die the figs should be strong enough to support themselves.
The Tawau Hills Fig Garden is part of a much larger project to plant figs in the set aside areas on the edge of the Sime Darby oil plam estates that link the virgin forest of Tawau Hills Park with the virgin forest of Bukit Gemok and the Tanjong Forest Reserves just north of Tawau town in East Sabah. See the black oval in the map above.
Ficus cucurbitina saplings were he first figs to be planted. These figs were grown from seeds . Ficus cucurbitina is an unusual spiny fig much loved by hornbills. Ficus cucurbitina is locally common at Tawau Hills and several mature individuals can be found in the forests around Tawau Hills Park HQ and on the adjacent oil palms outside the park.
In the future additional wildlife friendly fruit trees will be planted such as Laran Anthocephalus cadamba.
The first fig to be planted Ficus cucurbitina.
The first planting was 50 figs of 16 different species including Ficus annulata, Ficus benjamina, Ficus cucurbitina, Ficus drupacea, Ficus francisci, Ficus gul, Ficus microcarpa, Ficus racemosa, Ficus rosulata, Ficus septica, Ficus tinctoria gibbosa and Ficus subcordata.
The existing old oil palm palm trees on the site will not be felled but incorporated into the project as oil palms make perfect host trees for strangling figs.
SPONSORS & CONTRIBUTORS TO THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE TAWAU HILLS FIG GARDEN
SIME DARBY PLANTATIONS
1 STOP BORNEO WILDLIFE
SABAH FICUS GERMPLASM CENTER
SHANGRI-LA TG ARU RESORT
PANAGA NATURAL HISTORY SOCIETY, BRUNEI
ONE PLANET CONSERVATION AWARENESS
JOURNEY WITH DEE DEE
BORNEO FIG PROJECT
Dr Asif Azeem