Orang-utan population has increased by over 20 percent within Sabah’s lower Kinabatangan since the first census was done seven years ago.
According to orang-utan scientist Dr. Marc Ancrenaz, the number of orang-utans living within totally protected areas has increased from 38 percent to 60 percent. Dr Ancrenaz is co-director of the local NGO – HUTAN Kinabatangan Orang-utan Conservation Programme (HUTAN-KOCP).
Speaking to Malaysia media, Ancrenaz indicated that the increasing orang-utan population living in the lower Kinabatangan reflected a strong government commitment to protect orang-utan habitat.
According to media reports, the Sabah Forestry Department recently increased the areas of protected forest reserves to help further the conservation of orang-utans and other species such as the Borneo pygmy elephant, Sunda clouded leopard, Sunbear, and hornbills.
Some Western NGOs have accused the agricultural sector of driving orang-utan population decline, but emerging research and orang-utan population data indicates that Malaysian conservation efforts by both government and industry are leading to significant successes.
Land use in Malaysia is well regulated, with the Malaysian palm oil industry operating on lands zoned for agricultural purposes. This ensures that sufficient land is allocated to other functions, such as wildlife and biodiversity conservation.
According to the FAO, Malaysia has protected approximately 5.16 million ha of forests – an area larger then Denmark. This protected area represents almost 30 per cent of Malaysia forests, or 15.7 per cent of Malaysia’s total land area.
Malaysian palm oil companies leading conservation efforts the palm oil industry is funding conservation efforts for the endangered banteng (otherwise known as wild cattle). The Danau Girang Field Centre and the Sabah Wildlife Department received RM1 million funding from the Sime Darby Foundation for a banteng conservation project.
The funding was allocated to the Sabah Wildlife Department and the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC), and was part of Sime Darby’s “Big 9” programme which aims to protect and conserve nine animal species.
The foundation has committed a total of RM80mil towards conservation of sun bears, orang-utans, Asian elephant and Sunda clouded leopards, hornbill, proboscis monkey, Sumatran rhinoceros and Malayan tiger.
Danau Girang Field Centre director, Dr Benoit Goossens, said the funding would go towards a three-year project to assess the conservation status of the banteng.
According to Goossens, “education and capacity building have always been a priority for the Sime Darby Foundation, and as such, the project will also include training of a Malaysian master student and two local field research assistants.”
Sabah Wildlife Department also commended efforts by the palm oil company, with state director Datuk Dr Laurentius Ambu commenting that funds from the Sime Darby Foundation were vital for successful government projects that conserve and manage the banteng in Sabah.