Sabah is on track to maintain the critically endangered Bornean Orangutan population as long as the conservation management measures continue to be put in place. -- NSTP Archive

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah is on track to maintain the critically endangered Bornean Orangutan population as long as the conservation management measures continue to be put in place.

A scientific paper entitled, “Changes to Sabah’s orangutan population in recent times: 2002 – 2017”, found that the Bornean orangutan population in Sabah shows a mixed picture from different regions.

However, the overall research shows that they have maintained the same numbers of about 11,000 over the last 15 years.

The survey results from WWF-Malaysia’s orangutan team, which is led by Donna Simon, showed that population of orangutans have remained stable over the said period specifically in the central forest of Sabah, in the regions of Deramakot and Ulu Segama.

In 2002, the orangutan population was 5,376. From the most recent survey of 2017, the population slightly increased to 5,933.

WWF-Malaysia’s comprehensive survey exercise also discovered another population of at least 1,000 orangutans in the Imbak-Kalabakan region of south-west Sabah.

“This survey allows us to advocate for a better land-use plan and identify crucial degraded orangutan habitat to be set aside for restoration and habitat connectivity or for protection.

“This paper shows only a fraction of the overall orangutan conservation work that WWF-Malaysia is doing and we are glad that Sabah is on track to conserve this critically endangered species,” said Donna in a statement.

Despite the good news of orangutan population in large forest areas, their numbers declined in forest patches within oil palm landscapes of the eastern lowlands of Sabah.

The survey found that orangutan numbers have reduced by 30 per cent and 15 per cent respectively in Kulamba and Tabin, and showed that at least 650 orangutans had been lost from protected areas of Sabah’s eastern lowlands since 2002.

The monoculture nature of oil palm plantations means that they tend not to support species that are dependent on forest environment like the orangutan.

Nonetheless, forest patches within the plantation landscapes are important in allowing orangutans to use them as stepping stones to travel between adjacent forest areas.

Meanwhile, Sabah Chief Conservator of Forests Datuk Mashor Mohd Jaini said the state Forestry Department is committed to conserve and protect Sabah’s iconic wildlife species.

“We will continue to manage important wildlife habitat such as Deramakot and central Sabah forest reserves complex in accordance to Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) practices and in compliance with both national and international forest certification standards,'' he said.