IMBAK CANYON CONSERVATION AREA
With a total area of about 30,000 hectares, Imbak Canyon Conservation Area encompasses two ridge-top Virgin Jungle Reserves plus the Canyon itself and makes a significant contribution to the coverage of protected areas in the centre of Sabah.
The Canyon is a Class II Commercial Forest Reserve, part of the one million hectare Yayasan Sabah Forest Management Area. In 2003, Yayasan Sabah voluntarily designated Imbak Canyon as a Conservation Area for the purposes of research, education and training, similar to Maliau Basin and Danum Valley Conservation Areas. Only two expeditions have so far been carried out in the area, one in 2000 organised by Sabah Forestry Department and located at the mouth of the Canyon, and the second in 2004, organized by Yayasan Sabah and focusing on the centre of the Canyon.
Imbak Canyon Conservation Area encompasses several different types of forest including lowland dipterocarp forest and rare lower montane heath forest, a lower altitude version of the famous ‘kerangas’ of Maliau Basin, with its special magical world of small, slender trees, pitcher plants and orchids. The dipterocarps kapur and keruing are common in the lower areas, with kapur seedlings particularly abundant.
As a potential site for biotechnological research, Imbak has proved to be a rich source of medicinal plants, with more than 55 different species found. Ant plant found in the heath forest, used traditionally as a medicinal plant The pitcher plant Nepenthes hirsuta has also been found in the lower montane heath forest, only the second sighting in Sabah, the other being in Maliau Basin.
Although only a small part of the Conservation Area has so far been explored, Imbak Canyon Conservation Area has already revealed itself to be the home of some of Sabah’s most rare and endangered species, including the Malayan Sunbear and Proboscis Monkey. So far at least 100 bird species have been recorded, including 5 bird species endemic to Borneo: Blue-headed Pitta, White-browed Shama, Black-throated Wren-Babbler, Borneon Blue Flycatcher and Borneon Bristlehead and also one species (Helmeted Hornbill) considered internationally near-threatened according to IUCN’s Red Data Book.
Imbak River is slightly tea-coloured, probably due to dissolved tannins, natural chemicals leaching out from the vegetation. The waters of Imbak Canyon appear to support higher numbers of fish species than Maliau River (16 species to date), and at least 30 species of amphibian and reptiles were found.