Malaysia: Sabah lauded as a beacon of hope for orang utan

The Star 19 Nov 12;

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah is becoming a beacon of hope in orang utan conservation in Borneo following the state government’s move to expand the areas designated as the primates’ key habitat.

Wildlife non-governmental organisation research group Hutan co-director Dr Marc Anrenaz said Sabah’s decision to gazette 128,000ha from the lowland Ulu Segama forest reserve in Lahad Datu as a protected area meant that about 60% of the state’s orang utan were now living in conservation zones.

“This is a huge improvement compared to the last decade when only 30% of the orang utan in Sabah were living in protected forests,” he said.

Dr Ancrenaz said this when revealing the findings of a research on orang utan in Sabah, Sarawak and Kalimantan which he was involved in and which was recently published in the scientific journal PLoS One.

He said the research found that since orang utan were often found in timber concession areas, good management of such areas was important in ensuring the continued survival of the primates.

The fact that Sabah’s Forestry Department now requires all timber concession areas to be certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) by the end of 2014 was good news for the conservation effort, added Dr Ancrenaz.

The situation in the rest of Borneo is however not as promising for the primates due to an expansion of agriculture activities often at the expense of orang utan habitat, the researchers found.

Dr Serge Wich, the lead author of the research report titled Under-standing the Impacts of Land-Use Policies on a Threatened Species: Is There a Future for the Bornean Orang-utan?, said lowland jungles – which were the favourite habitat of the orang utan – were often considered prime areas for timber extraction or agriculture activities such as plantations.

Orang utan population on the rise
New Straits Times 26 Nov 12;

KOTA KINABALU: The expansion of protected forests has boost the population of orang utan in Sabah.

New additions to existing totally protected areas (TPAs) since 2005, has seen their number increase from 38 per cent to 60 per cent in the past seven years.

HUTAN-Kinabatangan Orang Utan Conservation Programme (HUTAN-KOCP) co-director Dr Marc Ancrenaz said the state government's move to increase protected forest areas not only benefited the wildlife but the people, too.

He said the Sabah Forestry Department had recently increased the percentage of forests under Class I Protection Forest Reserve, which in turn had increased the number of TPAs.

The protected areas are also home to the Borneo pygmy elephant, Sunda clouded leopard, Sun Bear, hornbills and other unique Borneo species.

(HUTAN-KOCP is a non-governmental Organisation based in Sukau, Kinabatangan)

It has been working with Sabah Wildlife Department to develop and implement innovative solutions to conserve the orang utans in Sabah for the past 15 years.

"The recent areas re-gazetted as Class I are lowland forests which are favoured for agriculture development.

"However, the state government has shown that they value environmental security in the long term by making them TPAs instead of going for short-term gains," said Ancrenaz, who has been involved in wildlife issues in Sabah since 1998.

However, Hutan-KOCP co-founder and primotologist Dr Isabelle Lackman said the isolation and fragmentation of TPAs remained the biggest issue when it came to the conservation of orang utans in the state.

She pointed that while the Kinabatangan had been protected by the department, the sanctuary was broken up with some TPAs being totally isolated.

"This is not healthy for the long- term survival of the orang utans in the area.

"Our studies have shown that we need to reconnect patches of forests to ensure that we have a viable orang utan population in the future."

She said this could be achieved by reconnecting forests, either by having patches of forests that the orang utans could roam, or a contiguous corridor of forests.

Lackman said all planned and future conversion of even small forest patches needed to be stopped to ensure the viability of the long-term survival of the orang utan population in the lower Kinabatangan area.

"The future of agriculture, such as oil palm, relies on an increase in yield productivity, and not on further agriculture expansion."

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