Saturday, 12 July 2008

Orangutan to be extinct in 50 years

Orangutan to be extinct in 50 years

"KOTA KINABALU - Sabah's (part of Malaysia) isolated orangutan population in lower Kinabatangan may become extinct in 50 years if no steps are taken urgently to set up wildlife corridor between fragmented forests, The Star reported.

Scientific journal Oryx in its latest publication said although the
Kinabatangan population of 1,100 orangutans was more then enough for
their survival but many of them were separated into small pockets of
less then 250 animals.

It says much more work needs to be carried out to ensure the survival of the orangutan.

It also stresses that that the "pockets" of orangutan population need a minimum number of 250 orangutan individuals to survive in the long term.

"It is essential that conservation measures are taken to protect
orangutans outside national parks, and these measures will by
necessity be specific to each region," Oryx wrote in the newly
released paper entitled "Distribution and conservation status of the
orangutan on Borneo and Sumatra: How many remain?"

Conservationists and scientists from 16 institutions, including Hutan, a French NGO, wrote the paper.

The Sabah Wildlife Department and Hutan have been studying orangutan
occurrence in protected and unprotected areas for a number of years.

Together with their partners they have engaged the landowners such as the Sabah Foundation, the Sabah Forestry Department as well as private landowners (mostly palm oil companies) in developing innovative conservation strategies to address the issue of orangutans in unprotected areas.

Genetic modelling carried out by conservation geneticist Dr Benoit
Goossens of Cardiff University and Dr. Isabelle Lackman-Ancrenaz of
HUTAN had shown that the majority of the isolated orangutan
populations in the Kinabatangan would go extinct in less than 50 years if nothing is done to reconnect the populations.

"Having 'wildlife corridors' linking isolated lots of forest that are home to orangutan as well as other wildlife such as the Bornean pygmy elephants, are absolutely crucial to ensure that this wildlife
continues to exist in the Kinabatangan," said Dr Ancrenaz.

The paper also shows a study that reassessed orangutan populations in Borneo and now finds that an estimated 75 per cent of orangutans in Kalimantan occur outside protected areas.

The Sabah Wildlife Department had in 2004 with HUTAN published a paper in the scientific journal, PLoS Biology that showed that 60 per cent of orangutans in Sabah live outside protected areas. The study was funded by the Danish International Development Agency (Danida).

It was a landmark paper for the world of orangutan conservation as up to that point scientists in other areas of Borneo and Sumatra (the only two places in the world the orangutan survive in the wild) were mostly studying and working on orangutan populations within primary forests which were almost all protected areas, such as national parks.

Hutan has been working together with the Sabah Wildlife Department to develop and implement solutions to conserve the orangutan in Sabah,Malaysia for the past 10 years.