Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Orang utan conservation in Borneo paying dividends

KUCHING: Both Sarawak and Sabah claim their orang utan conservation efforts are paying dividends in the wake of an international report listing the primate as critically endangered.

The Sarawak government said it was leading the conservation efforts, having stemmed habitat loss for the great Asian ape within its borders.

Assistant Environment Minister Datuk Len Talif Salleh said the orang utan population had stabilised at about 2,500.

The state, he said, had not only stopped approving new plantations, its anti-logging drive was also bearing fruit.

“Orang utan have long reproduction cycles. We are hopeful that their numbers can increase in Sarawak,” Talif said yesterday.

Talif said the state would declare protected areas whenever new habitats were identified, adding that currently, there were only three in Sarawak.

In a report, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has declared the Bornean orang utan (Pongo pygmaeus) as critically endangered, adding that the primate now faced an “extremely high risk of extinction in the wild”.

Sarawak, said Talif, was making good on its commitment to combat illegal logging and poaching.

“Sarawak spends more per orang utan than on forest enforcers. We spend between RM2,000 and RM3,000 per enforcer but overall, we spend about RM10,000 per orang utan.

“We have drones and new real-time monitoring systems in place,” he said.

Talif said it had taken 20 years since a flora and fauna masterplan was drawn up to have the right legal framework and institutional structure and now Sarawak needed “more scientific knowledge and financial support”.

Wildlife Conservation Society Malaysia director Dr Melvin Gumal said IUCN’s classification was partly based on a 2011 paper on the primate’s dwindling habitat in Kalimantan.

Other sources included habitat mapping showing an increasingly scattered population in Borneo.

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