Wanton exploitation by Malaysia's indigenous Semelai farmers has driven several species of animals to extinction in the Tasek Bera wetlands. Now, conservationists are helping members of the community to establish a tourism enterprise. Not only would this generate income for the local people, it would ensure that they protect the endangered species.
The Semelai families are heavily dependent on the wetlands and the surrounding forest. But following the Malaysian government's 1994 order to ban activities such as commercial hunting and fishing, they had been left with few options.
Some non-governmental organisations are promoting ecotourism as a viable alternative means of livelihood for the community. These groups have assisted the Semelai in developing a basic tourism infrastructure, trained them as guides and taught them other skills as well. Consequently, the local people have formed a body -- the Semelai Association for Boating and Tourism (sabot). In addition to offering boating tours of the wetlands, sabot has several jungle camps.
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