Wednesday, April 10, 2013

New 14,000 ha site in Sarawak to be gazetted as orang utan sanctuary

KUCHING: The state government is proposing to gazette an area of about 14,000 ha in Ulu Sungai Menyang in Sri Aman as a new national park in Sarawak.

Second Resource Planning and Environment Minister Datuk Amar Awang Ali Hasan said the proposal was made due to the area’s current status as a High Conservation Value Forest (HCVF) and a globally significant sanctuary for orang utans.

He said the Ulu Sungai Menyang landscape was an invaluable addition to the existing orang utan habitat in the state, as it provided wider forest connectivity for foraging and breeding, while preventing the fragmentation of the Transboundary Biodiversity Conservation Area between Sarawak and West Kalimantan, Indonesia.

He highlighted that field surveys, conducted by officers from the state Forest Department and assisted by Sarawak Forestry Corporation, Wildlife Conservation Society and Borneo Adventure in February, showed that up to 200 of the world’s rarest Bornean orang utans (sub species Pongo pymaeus pygmaeus) had been found in Ulu Sungai Menyang, which is close to the existing Batang Ai National Park.

This species is listed as the most severely threatened sub-species in the world with a total population of only between 3,000 and 4,500 animals, of which some 2,000 are said to be living in Sarawak in Batang Ai National Park and Lanjak-Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary, data from Forest Department and Wildlife Conservation Society have shown.

Tengah said the survey also discovered a total of 995 nests in the area with fresh ones found in all the transects.

“Upon confirmation that the area had a globally significant population of these rare creatures, the state government has officially indicated the need to protect this area for the conservation of orang-utan,” Tengah told a press conference at Wisma Sumber Alam here yesterday.

He, however, assured the people that the state government would negotiate with them, especially the affected landowners before it went ahead with the gazettement.

Saying that the rights of the people in the area would be recognised, he said a strategic collaboration among the local communities, private initiatives and the government agencies would be introduced to tap the ecotourism potential and improve the community’s livelihood in the Sungai Menyang landscape.

“I would like to stress that Sarawak will continue with its policy to protect orang utans and their habitats because not only is this species on the verge of extinction, but it is also of cultural significance to Sarawakians.