It was recently reported in the local newspaper (initially published with an error which was later corrected by the press following a statement from WWF Malaysia Media abd Public Affairs Coordinator) that there are about 13,000 orang utans in Sabah and only around 2,000 heads of the red apes in Sarawak. Almost all of the orang utans in Sarawak can be found in the Lanjak-Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary and Batang Ai National Park, wheras in Sabah, they are mostly found in around the Kinabatangan/Sukau area in Sandakan and in forest reserve areas of Danum Valley and Tabin near Lahad Datu.
Orang utans are protected species under the Malaysian law and it is against the law to kill or harm them. But this has not deter the human kind to break the law out of greed such as last year's shocking and senseless "murder" of three orangutans named Terry, Mambo & Marrie (Click here to refer to news report).
While the wild orangutans are more easier to be looked after or protected in Sarawak (perhaps due to its small number and contained in National Park/Sanctuary), it is a different case in Sabah. Although the largest rehabilitation centre is located in Sabah (at Sepilok, Sandakan), most of the 'rehabilitated' orangutans are finding life harder outside of Sepilok. The orang utans movement between the forest reserves of Sandakan and Lahad Datu are slowly being reduced and segregated (if not already in effect) today due to the ever increasing clearing and conversion of non-reserves land into oil palm planting (not to mention strongly perceived unscrupulous and illegal clearing of logs at forest reserve boundaries).
Wild orang utans are now mostly contained either in Sandakan or Lahad Datu area. They can't roam as freely as they used to in the past. The oil palm industry may be prospering at the moment but for the orang utans, their livelihood is at stake due to modernity but more seriously, due to commercialisation.
Both the Sabah and Sarawak state governments are doing their level best to ensure the survival of the orang utan populations, but they too need the assistance of the human population in both states as well as from other countries to realise the ultimate goal that the orang utans, the symbol of Borneo tourism would remain in existence for centuries to come.
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