Put ‘divers’ in ‘biodiversity’: visitors to Sabah marine parks can help search for new life, videographer says


KOTA KINABALU: Science and society can form an effective team to identify and document Sabah’s unique and diverse marine life, says underwater videographer Ag Ahmad Zaki Abu Bakar.

Citing a diving collaboration with the Semporna Tourism Association which led to the discovery of two new marine species, he said this proves that members of the public can be more than visitors or divers, but can also help scientists to document underwater discoveries.

“I believe that although Sabah’s terrestrial biodiversity has been well documented, not much is known about the unique and distinct species of marine life in Sabah,” he said in a statement Monday (July 19th).

His diving trip with the Semporna Tourism Association led to the discovery of micro sea creatures, later called Cerapus bumbumiensis sp and Idiomysis bumbumiensis sp, on Bum-Bum Island off Semporna.

A video of the 2019 discovery caught the attention of researchers at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) and Sabah Parks, among others, and paved the way for further collaboration.

“With the recent discoveries, the business of cataloging species has become more exciting,” he added.

UKM Associate Professor Dr Azman Abdul Rahim said when contacted that these initiatives give scientists the opportunity to participate in educational activities on the underwater environment and open avenues for large-scale research in marine biology.

He said it helps raise awareness of the importance of the living environment and suggests new ways to protect and conserve our natural heritage.

Sabah Parks Senior Deputy Director for Research and Education Dr Nasrulhakim Maidin said that life in the depths of the ocean, especially its tiny inhabitants like micro- and macro-organisms, is always a great mystery.

“Our coral reef is known to host distinct communities with various species of native and endemic fauna, but studies are still lacking,” he said when contacted.

He recognized that the underwater world was a more popular attraction since the emergence of public interest in macro photography.

Such interests also give new impetus to public awareness of ocean life and reflect the current trend of mainstreaming science into society, Nasrulhakim added.

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