Monday, November 26, 2012

New protected areas boost for orangutans in Sabah

KOTA KINABALU: The percentage of orangutans living within totally protected areas (TPA) has increased from 38 per cent to 60 per cent due to the additions of TPAs.

This follows seven years after the results of Sabah’s first state wide orangutan census was published.

“The State Government has shown its commitment to conservation by increasing the amount of protected forest in Sabah with indications they will continue to do so.

“This will benefit not only wildlife but also in the long term the people in Sabah as a whole,” said Dr. Marc Ancrenaz of Co-Director of HUTAN – Kinabatangan Orang-utan Conservation Programme (HUTAN-KOCP), a grassroots Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) based in Sabah.

The Sabah Forestry Department (SFD) recently increased the percentage of forest under Class I Protection Forest Reserve hence added to TPAs where the orangutans and other Sabah unique species such as the Borneo pygmy elephant, Sunda clouded leopard, Sunbear, hornbills and other unique Borneo species occur.

“The recent areas re-gazetted as Class I are lowland forest which are favoured for agriculture development but the State Government has shown that they value the environmental security in the long term by making them TPAs instead of going for short term profits now,” shared Ancrenaz, a wildlife veterinarian who has been working on wildlife issues in Sabah since 1998, in a statement yesterday.

However, the biggest issue for orangutan conservation in Sabah remains the same; isolation and fragmentation of TPAs according to primotologist Dr. Isabelle Lackman and Co-Director of HUTAN – KOCP.

“While the Kinabatangan has been protected by the Sabah Wildlife Department since gazettement in 2005, the Sanctuary is broken up with some TPAs being totally isolated and this is not healthy for the long term survival of orang-utan in the area,” explained Lackman.

Recently, Datuk Masidi Manjun, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment and the Director of the Sabah Wildlife Department, Dr. Laurentius Ambu have also called for a moratorium or stoppage on any conversion of forested areas to agriculture for the Lower Kinabatangan Floodplain following findings from fieldwork conducted by HUTAN – KOCP with the Sabah Wildlife Department and others working on this issue namely, Danau Girang Field Centre and WWF-Malaysia.