Swedish furniture retailer Ikea has completed the replanting of three million rainforest trees at Luasong in east coast Sabah as part of its efforts to rehabilitate the degraded forest since 1998.
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences' lecturer Jan Faulk, who has been involved since the beginning of the project with state-owned Yayasan Sabah, described it as successful as it involved a focus on rehabilitation with an eye to putting back the diversity of the rainforest.
"It is a unique rainforest rehabilitation project. Today we are seeing the wildlife returning to the once burned down forest," he told reporters after joining Ikea of Sweden Global Wood Supply and Forestry manager Ulf Johansson in a meeting with Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal.
Faulk said a lot of research was done by scientists from Sweden, Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) and also from Australia.
"As the forest recovers, we believe there will more opportunity for further research, and we believe more universities would be interested to come," he said, adding that research here complements studies on untouched rainforests at the Maliau Basin.
"It is a gift from Ikea. All over the world, they have shops selling furniture. It is only here in Sabah they are doing rehabilitation. There is no revenue back," he said, adding that project involved hiring 150 people working round the clock for the past 20 years.
Faulk said with the main replanting exercise completed in the area, it will remain a place for research as the forest was now fully protected.
Johansson, meanwhile, said that during their meeting with Shafie they discussed the downstream timber industry development.
"We would like to see more acacia plantations in Sabah. The more plantations developed on degraded land, the more jobs and happy customers we will have and there will be less pressure on natural forest," he said, adding that it could lead to furniture manufacturing in the state.
It was important that raw materials for furniture were obtained on from sustainable forest areas, he said.