Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Do we really need an orang utan reserve in West Malaysia?

How far will having another orang utan sanctuary, this time in the Klang Valley, go in saving the endangered species?

IT IS yet another case of the tom yam syndrome: “Orang utan sanctuaries in Sepilok, Sabah, and Semenggoh, Sarawak, have done very well in drawing the crowds. Hey, let’s do the same over in Peninsular Malaysia. Let’s set up an orang utan sanctuary right in the Klang Valley, so tourists need not travel all the way to Sabah and Sarawak to view the rare red apes. Never mind that there is already such an orang utan park at Bukit Merah Laketown Resort near Taiping, Perak. And never mind that the primate died out in the peninsula thousands of years ago. The Klang Valley wants its very own orang utan sanctuary.”

But leading orang utan scientists in the country and conservation groups are not at all happy with the idea. The plan is ill-conceived and lacks ecological reasoning, they argue.

Numerous questions have been raised: Why would we need another orang utan park when there is already the Orang Utan Island at Bukit Merah? Can the orang utans survive in peninsular forests? Won’t it drain already limited resources? Will this sanctuary serve any conservation purpose or is it merely a tourism product? Will wild orang utans have to be translocated from Sabah or Sarawak?

Talk about the sanctuary surfaced a year ago, when Deputy Tourism Minister Datuk Dr James Mamit said the Prime Minister had mooted the idea and the park would be set up within the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia (FRIM) in Kepong, Kuala Lumpur. But FRIM officials denied such a plan.

All was quiet until late last year, when news reports quoting Mamit said that the sanctuary will be in either the Kanching or Ulu Gombak forest reserves in Selangor. The proposal remains sketchy and no information has been forthcoming from the ministry.

Scientists are sceptical and wary of the plan.

Dr Benoit Goossens who has worked on orang utans for 13 years in the area of population genetics and conservation, describes the idea of releasing orang utans into the wilds of Peninsular Malaysia as “totally irresponsible”.

“You’re transferring them to an environment where they disappeared from thousands of years ago. They’re adapted to Borneon and Sumatran forests and would not be able to cope in Peninsular Malaysia forests where there are different parasites and diseases,” says the adviser to Sabah Wildlife Department and director of Danau Girang Field Centre in Kinabatangan.

“We have reintroduced species into the wild but this was for species which disappeared decades, not thousands, of years ago. I guarantee that it will be a failure. You will be sending orang utans to their deaths. We don’t even know which species occurred in the peninsula in the past. So releasing them into the wild is scientifically irresponsible,” he says.

Studies on what food is available in the forest for the orang utan and potential threats to their survival must be done prior to any releases, he adds.

He also does not support the idea of an orang utan sanctuary for tourists as it would duplicate existing facilities. “I don’t see the point of putting orang utans in yet another semi-captive environment in Peninsular Malaysia. There are already captive orang utans in zoos.”

Like many others, he believes money will be better spent if used to protect wild orang utans in Sabah and Sarawak rather than by setting up a sanctuary in the peninsula. “There is no conservation role in such parks. If you want to give a conservation message, then people should be encouraged to go to Borneo or Sumatra to see orang utans in their natural habitat.”

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Do we really need an orang utan reserve in West Malaysia?

1 comment:

dizi izle said...

thank you