Saturday, 6 June 2009

Malaysian orangutans get bridge to help find mates

Malaysian orangutans get bridge to help find mates

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) — Wildlife activists have built a treetop bridge in an orangutan sanctuary on Borneo island to help the endangered apes find new mates and prevent inbreeding, according to a report.

The 43-metre suspension bridge was completed last month at the Lower Kinabatangan Sanctuary in the eastern Malaysian state of Sabah, the New Straits Times reported.

"But this is a temporary measure. In the long run, we must create forest corridors for orangutans and other animals to move about," said Nobuo Nakanishi from the Borneo Conservation Trust Japan, which helped fund the project.

Orangutan habitats in Malaysia and Indonesia have been decimated as their jungle habitats are cleared by logging and to make way for plantations, putting them at risk of inbreeding as they are split into smaller populations.

The 26,000-hectare (64,250 acre) Lower Kinabatangan sanctuary is divided into 10 lots among oil palm plantations and villages.

Experts say there are about 50,000 to 60,000 orangutans left in the wild, 80 percent of them in Indonesia and the rest in Malaysian's eastern states of Sabah and Sarawak on Borneo island.

A 2007 assessment by the United Nations Environment Program warned that orangutans will be virtually eliminated in the wild within two decades if current deforestation trends continue.

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