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(Model Ecologically 

Sustainable Community Tourism Project)

MESCOT is a community-based conservation and eco-tourism initiative established in 1997 in the Lower Kinabatangan River region of Sabah. This region and its lowland rainforests are recognised as critical for conservation of biodiversity in Sabah. Sadly, due to over-logging, land conversion to oil palm, deforestation and forest fires, this area has been severely degraded and fragmented, putting the long term survival of wildlife at risk.


The MESCOT initiative started at the height of the illegal logging era, with an immediate aim to relieve pressure on remaining forest resources and address rural poverty in the area by developing alternative and sustainable income sources and empowering local communities to protect their cultural and natural heritage, and to take responsibility for conservation of the forest. After volunteers helped fight the drought-induced fires in the area in 1998, MESCOT established a second key objective to take direct and immediate action to restore and protect the lowland rainforest of the Kinabatangan region, a critical habitat for the endangered Orang Utan as well as other threatened species of wildlife. MESCOT strives to tie these two aims together by channeling income generated through eco-tourism back to the forest resource to fund reforestation and habitat restoration work. In addition, eco-tourism encourages the need to conserve rainforests and wildlife in the region.

MESCOT’s goals align perfectly with LEAP’s vision and mission to support projects working to achieve sustainability for land, animals and people. As a result, LEAP became a partner to MESCOT in 2005. Since then, LEAP has played an advisory role for MESCOT and has served as a bridge between MESCOT and several US funders, helping to facilitate critical partnerships with funders and providing institutional support for the transfer and administration of the funds. LEAP also works to ensure that its actions and advice lead to further empowerment of the local community. LEAP has supported the Forest Restoration Project, Tungog Lake Restoration and establishment of the Tungog Rainforest Eco-Camp.

MESCOT has gone to grow both in capacity, generating jobs for local community, preservation of their cultural authenticity and in extending a hand to other communities keen on replicating the model. MESCOT has continually secured restoration contracts with the Sabah Forestry Department to carry out silviculture and maintenance in Pin Supu Virgin forest reserve  as well as Lot 6&7 of the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary under the Sabah Wildlife Department and raised funds for a new restoration project to restore 20 hectares of a critical elephant corridor through non-profit Bring The Elephant Home BTEH based in Thailand. MESCOT are also building a second Orang-Uran bridge in the Pin Supu river, conducting community based water quality survey, wildlife research, environmental education programs at local schools and managing the Pin Supu Limestone Complex in preserving the population of swiflets and bats.


Due to its success, the MESCOT model has been recognize and adopted as a model for rural economic development by the government of Malaysia and have earned a fully deserved investment and support from the government in expanding their project.


To learn more about MESCOT, visit or their community co-operative Facebook page.


For further details, contact

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