Thursday, July 02, 2009

Orang utan expert amazed at Sabah's conservation


Kota Kinabalu: The world's leading orang utan expert, Dr Birute Mary Galdikas, is full of praise for the Sabah Government's conservation efforts to save the apes, one of the world's most endangered species.

She told Daily Express in an exclusive interview that Sabah is doing progressive work in orang utan conservation by making efforts to eliminate illegal logging and trying to find a permanent home for orang utans such as in the Malua forest reserve.

"I am also impressed to learn that the Government is going to create 'corridors' to protect wildlife. That's wonderful and I am not saying it just because I am in Sabah.

"I would say exactly the same thing in Indonesia or in the United States (where she is often invited to give lectures). We need to do more for the future and I am so glad that you are already doing it. We can all do better."

Last December, Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Hj Aman announced that 250,000 hectares of lowland forests in the Ulu Segama-Malua area would be set aside for the orang utans. It is estimated that there are more than 3,000 orang utans in the Malua forest reserve alone.

On Tuesday, State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister, Datuk Masidi Manjun, said the State Government wants to purchase privately-owned land at zones neighbouring the fragmented Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary to ensure the long-term survival of iconic Sabah wildlife such as the orang utan, rhino and elephants.

A committee was set up under his Ministry to prepare the policy that will be known as Kinabatangan Corridor of Life (KCoL).

Dr Galdikas, 63, who is based in Indonesia, has been studying and living with the orang utans at a reserve in Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo) called Tanjung Puting Reserve (now a national park) since age 25 in 1971.

She has worked ceaselessly to save orang utans, especially orphaned ones, and rainforests, and to bring their plight to world attention.

This was her second visit to Sabah, having been invited by the Sabah Government to attend a conference in 1990. She has been touring places of interest and one of the things that caught her attention was the gated checkpoint put up by the Wildlife Department at the Tabin Wildlife Centre to curb illegal poaching.

Dr Galdikas, who founded the Los Angeles-based Orangutan Foundation International (OFI) in 1986 and became its President, noted there are some 5,000 orang utans in the Danum Valley as calculated by scientists.

What fascinated her in the Danum Valley was also the diversity and richness of wildlife there.

"The forest (Danum) is awesome and just takes one's breath away. I am not joking. The only forest that comes close to the forest of Sabah that I saw in Danum are the redwoods in northern California. They are beautiful, breathtaking.

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