Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Sabah's protected wildlife under threat of extinction

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah’s protected animals are under threat of extinction, said Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun.

“Take the Sumatran rhinoceros for example. If urgent steps are not taken to rescue and consolidate their fragmented populations, our generation might be the last one to see wild rhinos alive in Sabah.

Considered one of the world’s rarest mammals, he said there are only around 30 to 40 of the species remaining in Sabah.

“They survive in fragmented forests, in some cases probably only one rhino in a whole forest reserve,” he said at the opening of the International Palm Oil Sustainability Conference (IPOSC) 2010 here, yesterday. The text of his speech was delivered by his deputy Datuk Ellron Angin.

Masidi said another protected mammal, the Bornean elephant, was also facing heavy conflict with humans and pushed into pocketed areas, mostly near newly-opened estates.

The smallest of all Asian elephants and of the rarest of its subspecies, it is estimated that there are only 1,500 to 2,000 Bornean elephants left.

“Fragmentation of their habitats due to forest conversion further compounds their problems. This is crucial in cases where animals are confined in pocketed areas and habitat is no longer available and sources of food are limited or no longer suitable,” he said.

The Bornean orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus morio), another charismatic and endemic species under threat in Sabah, is also facing similar fate due to loss and fragmentation of habitats.

Masidi noted that although there were still around 11,000 individuals, Sabah have lost an outstanding 90 per cent of its orangutan populations in less than 200 years.

“The rescue and translocation of the species has become an urgent matter to maintain genetic flow among isolated populations thus preventing inbreeding and further localized extinction of this great ape,” he said.

The rhinos and orangutans are among the six mammals with totally protected status, the other four being sun bear, proboscis monkey, clouded leopard and dugong.

Continue reading at: Sabah's protected wildlife under threat of extinction

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