Sunday, November 06, 2011

Orangutan habitat restoration efforts in Sabah bear fruit

By Catharine Goh

There is hope yet for Borneo's most iconic animal, the orangutan. Recently several images of orang utans building nests in replanted trees were captured by WWF-Malaysia in the once-degraded but newly restored area at the northern part of Ulu Segama Malua Forest Reserves in Lahad Datu, Sabah.

In fact, such efforts to rehabilitate wildlife habitat which were initiated by the Sabah Forestry Department has given hope that the wildlife population in the forest will increase before long.

Sabah Forestry Department director Datuk Sam Mannan has expressed satisfaction upon seeing that the reforestation efforts are helping the orangutans settle in the forest reserves.

"The best for the survival of the species is to have well-managed forests as a home, with a mixture of native tree species being planted to enhance the quality of wildlife habitat and food sources, especially for the orangutan," he enthused.

He said the declaration of restoration efforts in Ulu Segama Malua Forest Reserves on March 15, 2006 is strategically linked to the largest endangered population of the Bornean orangutan, subspecies Pongo pygmaeus morio, in Sabah.

The Ulu Segama-Malua Sustainable Forest Management programme, covering an area of 241,098 hectares (ha), was initiated by the Sabah state government and is jointly managed by the department and Yayasan Sabah for the conservation and rehabilitation of habitat for endangered wildlife.

The department has partnered WWF-Malaysia in reforestation efforts within 2,400ha of the NUS area since 2008.

Dr Rahimatsah Amat, the Chief Technical Officer (Borneo programme) of WWF-Malaysia, was delighted to see that the orang utan conservation efforts in Ulu Segama Malua were bearing fruit.

"The orangutan is the largest arboreal (tree-living) animal in the world. They spend most of their time in trees - feeding, sheltering and travelling through the forest canopy from one tree to another," he noted.

"Without trees, it would be difficult for orangutans to survive," he said, adding that he hoped to see the orang utans continue utilising the restored forest area, which has more replanted trees for food, shelter and travel.

Dr Rahimatsah said his research and monitoring team was already seeing some exciting results, reporting evidence of much wildlife starting to return to the restored areas of the forest - not just orangutans but also other wildlife such as the Clouded Leopard, Sun Bear and many more endangered species.

"There was a herd of wild Borneo Pygmy Elephants that passed through our reforestation site early this year, but fortunately they didn't cause any major damage towards the replanted trees," he said.

On the other hand, the elephants have left their dung at the replanted site as a tremendous natural fertiliser, Dr Rahimatsah added.

A video clip of an orangutan swinging on replanted trees can be viewed at WWF Malaysia's Youtube site:

Dr Rahimatsah further stated that "we could not have done it without the collaboration from the department and Yayasan Sabah, as well as our generous donors who have always been a part of our conservation effort".

Funding for the reforestation came from WWF-Germany, WWF-United Kingdom, WWF-Netherlands and WWF-Japan, as well as private sector organisations such as Adessium Foundation, Itochu Group, Marks & Spencer, Seng Heng and Aeon Jusco.

To date, 1,096ha of degraded forest in the forested reserves have been replanted out of the total 2,400 ha which was allocated to WWF-Malaysia for reforestation by the department.

The Ulu Segama Malua Forest Reserve was awarded the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certificate by the Scientific Certification System (SCS) at the FSC General Assembly held at Kota Kinabalu in June 2011.

The certification would mean that the home for orang utans is better conserved.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin Sunday

No comments: