Hope yet for orang utan

Posted on September 24, 2010. Filed under: Bio-diversity |

-The Star-

KOTA KINABALU: There is hope yet for the endangered orang utan in forest plantations and sustainably logged forests, according to a joint study by two wildlife specialists in Sabah and Kalimantan.

The study by Dr Mark Ancrenaz in Sabah and Dr Erik Meijaard in Kalimantan is important as 75% of the primates live outside protected areas in Borneo.

“This is important news for orang utan conservation because this species is highly endangered,” said Dr Meijaard, the lead author of a study on orang utans in acacia plantations that was recently published in the journal PlosONE.

He, however, warned against over-simplifying the message from the studies.

“For general biodiversity conservation, well-protected natural forests are still best, but this new understanding helps us to work with the government authorities to optimally design land use outside protected areas to support both conservation and development objectives,” he added.

“The orang utan’s native habitats in Indonesia and Malaysia have been much reduced in size and fragmented, and hunting of these apes continues in many parts of their range.”

The study found that orang utans in the Indonesian province of East Kalimantan use secondary forest, protected areas, as well as acacia plantations for feeding and nesting.

“The numbers of orang utans in acacia plantations were found to be surprisingly high,” Dr Ancrenaz said.

The orang utan has somehow managed in a multitude of different areas from timber concessions to plantations and forest corridors, said Dr Meijaard, who is with People and Nature Consulting International.

Dr Ancrenaz, of the French non-governmental organisation Hutan, that carried out his studies at Sabah’s timber concessions, was optimistic of the survival rate of the primates in areas that were sustainably managed.

“However, if logging is done without using sustainable practices orang utan survival rates would drop dramatically,” he warned.

Meanwhile, Sabah Wildlife Department Dr Laurentius Ambu said the findings gave his department better tools to design landscapes consisting of protected core areas, forest corridors, timber concessions, and plantations.

“As de facto guardians of the orang utans and Borneo pygmy elephants, such vital scientific data allow us to manage wildlife in a manner that will contribute to their survival,” he added.

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