Monday, 17 September 2007

This article was originally illustrated with a photo of the rope bridge.

2007/09/16-New Straits Times, Malaysia

Bridging a mate for orang utans
By : Jaswinder Kaur

Pigtail macaques crossing the Sungai Menanggul with the help of a double-rope bridge. — Picture by Edmund Samunting

KOTA KINABALU: It’s a low-tech solution, but it could be just what is needed to prevent inbreeding in the orang utan population.
A conservation group has been stringing rope bridges across rivers to replace the trees they used previously.

The first bridge was built across Sungai Resang more than two years ago, and since then Kampung Sukau villagers attached to the Kinabatangan Orang Utan Conservation Project (KOCP) have built another three links.

One is at Sungai Menanggul, a popular spot for viewing wildlife as visitors travel along Sabah’s longest river, the Kinabatangan.

KOCP co-director Dr Isabelle Lackman-Ancrenaz said the main idea of getting orang utans to cross from one forested area to another was to reduce the risk of inbreeding now that the primate has been separated into small sub-populations as a result of forest degradation.

"It is a cheap and simple way of reducing the possibility of inbreeding among orang utans that live in degraded places. Translocating is another method but it has its problems.

"Orang utans may look like solitary animals, but they are part of a well-organised society. Physically moving them to another area may lead to conflicts," she said.

Single rope bridges cost RM3,000, while double rope ones cost RM6,000, with an average length of 60 metres.

KOCP’s bridges are made of chains wrapped with a hose made of a special fabric as regular ropes rot quickly in the humidity, risking the lives of animals.

The rope bridges were also benefiting other animals, she said.

Proboscis monkeys and pigtail macaques, and even reptiles, use the links.

The KOCP was building two more rope bridges in the area, she added.

Surveys show there are about 11,000 orang utan in Sabah and about 60 per cent live outside protected areas.