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 > summer special 2000
For the year 2000

The Best Government Reformer
How Asia Is Governed
The Best Local Administrator
The Best Activist

The Best Dealmaker
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The Best Airport
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In Tune with Nature
The Best Forest Preserve
The Best City Park
The Best Transport
The Best Green Test
The Best Marine Preserve
The Best Marine Park

The Hottest Video Game
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Intro | Forest Preserve |  City Park | Transport | Marine Preserve |  Marine Park
The Best Forest Preserve

Alim Biun - Sabah parks.
Wild Orchid.

Kinabalu Park in Sabah, Malaysia, is associated with many superlatives. The peak that gives the park its name is one of the tallest in Southeast Asia (4,095 meters). Species found here represent over half the families of flowering plants in the world. Among them: Rafflesia, the largest flower on Earth, which can measure 90 cm across. The mountain also holds more pitcher plants than any other part of the world, and more fern species than all Africa.

In short, it is a botanists' paradise. That's a consequence of the varied terrain, which ranges from tropical forests near sea level to the sub-alpine scrub near the top of Kinabalu. Covering an area of 754 square kilometers, it is small compared to other preserves such as the Lore Lindu in Sulawesi. But there's more to Kinabalu than its biodiversity.

What distinguishes the park is management. It has an active outreach program, with natural history museums and a strong research and education center. "It's like a living laboratory," says Jamili Nais, assistant director of the Sabah Parks Board. Kinabalu's natural treasures (rare orchids, birds and butterflies, for instance) are a target for wildife poachers and illegal loggers. So enforcement is a major concern. But while rangers constantly patrol its boundaries, they also rely heavily on local villagers for tip-offs on any encroachment. This emphasis on close ties with indigenous communities is reflected in the park's research. One example: a project on the Kadazan peoples' medicinal plants that will also promote sustainable use of resources.

The tourism management is also exemplary. When a visitor boom in the late 1980s led to trampled terrain, the park restricted overnight accomodation to avoid crowding, and dispersed visitors by developing a hot spring facility. "Kinabalu sets the standard for effectively managed parks in the region," says environmentalist Jim Thorsell, who has monitored many of Asia's nature preserves.

—By S.C. Chan

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