Rare species of mammals in Sabah under threat of extinction, says Masidi
KOTA KINABALU, May 24 (Bernama) -- Rare species of mammals in Sabah are under threat of extinction, State Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment Datuk Masidi Manjun said today.
He named the Sumatran rhinoceros, the elephant, the Bornean orangutan, the sun bear and the proboscis monkey as some of these animals.
Only around 30 to 40 of the Sumatran rhinoceros, considered one of the world's rarest mammals, were probably left in fragmented populations in the forests of Sabah, he said in his speech at the International Palm Oil Sustainability Conference, here.
The text of his speech was delivered by State Assistant Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment Datuk Ellron Angin.
"In some cases, there is probably only one rhino in a whole forest reserve. If urgent steps are not taken to rescue and consolidate these fragmented populations, our generation may be the last one to see wild rhinos alive in Sabah," Masidi said.
Masidi said the number of elephants, the smallest of all Asian elephants and one of the rarest of their sub-species with a total population of around 1,500 to 2,000, was also dwindling.
He said they faced heavy conflicts with humans, being in groups in pocketed areas, mostly near the newly-opened estates, and the fragmentation of their habitat due to forest conversion further compounded their problems.
"This is crucial in cases where animals are confined to pockets and habitat is no longer available and sources of food are limited or no longer suitable," he said.
Masidi said the charismatic and endemic Bornean orangutan (pongo pygmaeus morio), though numbering around 11,000, was down by an astounding 90 per cent of the population in less than 200 years.
"Again the major culprit of that reduction is loss and fragmentation of habitat. Rescue and translocation of the species has become an urgent matter to maintain the genetic flow among isolated populations, thus preventing inbreeding and further localised extinction of this great ape," he said.
Masidi said many villagers were found to be capturing and keeping the sun bear while there had been recent cases of the proboscis monkeys moving into urban areas and being killed in road accidents.
He also said that there were a myriad other wildlife species which were brought to the department with injuries that needed professional veterinary medical care.
Masidi said that from the initial orangutan colloquium, jointly organised by Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC), the Sabah Wildlife Department and the Borneo Conservation Trust in November last year, efforts were initiated which had culminated in the setting up of Malaysia's dedicated Wildlife Rescue Unit.
He said the unit would be responsible for undertaking wildlife rescue and translocation operations throughout the state of Sabah.