Sunday, October 30, 2011

Rope bridges a critical lifeline for orang utans in Sabah

KINABATANGAN, Sabah - The construction of seven bridges in eight years has made a difference in the effort to ensure the survival of the orang utans here.

This temporary measure has helped the primates and other species to move within forests fragmented by man-made rivers.

Sabah Wildlife director Dr Laurentius Ambu said ultimately, however, reconnecting forests via corridors or patches of forests was the next crucial step to better preserving wildlife in the state.

"Even though it will be an expensive and long process, reconnecting isolated populations which were originally linked together, will ensure the long-term survival of not only orang utans but other unique species, such as the Bornean Pygmy Elephants, the sunbears, the clouded leopards and many others," he said.

Surveys carried out by the department and non-governmental organisation, Hutan-KOCP (Kinabatangan Orang Utan Conservation Programme), shows that there are 700 orang utans within protected and non-protected areas of the lower Kinabatangan.

Sabah has an estimated 11,000 orang utans, which is 80 per cent of the nation's wild orang utans.

However, due to agricultural activities, many forests are fragmented, trapping animals such as the orang utans because of their inability to swim.

To tackle this problem, rope bridges were built for orang utans to cross small rivers and large drains since 2003, and also to connect pockets of isolated forest, said Azri Awang of Hutan-KOCP.

In the past, orang utans would use old-growth forests as "natural bridges" over small rivers.

However, at present, orang utans no longer have this luxury since most of the tall trees in such forests have been logged.


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