Summary of the Orang Utan State Action Plan (Sabah Wildlife Department, 2012 – 2016)

The Orang utan State Action Plan is one of three State Action Plans launched by the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) at the Sabah Wildlife Conservation Colloquium (SWCC) 2012. The 5-year plan is a comprehensive document detailing mitigation efforts in the conservation of the orang utan. The other Action Plans focus on the Bornean elephant and the Sumatran rhinoceros.

SWD has recognised a need to urgently address the concerns of conservation and long term management of the Sabah orang utan Pongo pygmaeus morio. Condensed from numerous consultation processes including the First International Workshop on Orang-utan Conservation in Sabah and the Species Action Plan workshop, this plan takes into account the views and concerns of all major stakeholder involved in the management and conservation of orang utans.

SWD has decided that immediate attention is needed on the state’s behalf to ensure the continued survival of this iconic species. Sabah, over the course of the last five years, has identified areas called “Orang-utan High Priority Areas” where 70% of the orang-utan population in Sabah are located. These areas of high priority were determined by a study in 2005 conducted in collaboration with the oil palm industry. The study also estimated that the number of orang-utan remaining in the wilds of Sabah is about 11,000 strong. It was also noted that the protected areas designated in Sabah might not be the ideal habitat of orang-utans as the majority of them tended to live outside those protected areas.

Although in the past the Sabah authorities had activated several action plans on orang-utans aimed at maintaining prime orang-utan habitats and managing sustainable logging, the current focus is to have a collaborative approach beyond protected areas that incorporated internationally proven conservation strategies. In addition, it would also pertinent to identify potential partners and donors who can assist in the implementation of the proposed action plans.

Finally, the vision of the Action Plan is to ‘secure the continued existence of viable orang-utan populations in Sabah and to maintain the major wild populations in accordance with other management practices that exist for each specific forest’. It aims to identify, develop and implement strategies and actions in mitigating the threats posed to the orang-utan though the outlined strategies and objectives, which includes the formation of a ‘Sabah Orangutan Alliance (SOCA)’, the implementation of wildlife corridors to connect forest fragments and stricter law enforcement to enforce a zero-killing policy.

While the Malaysian palm oil industry is cognizant of the fact that the conservation and protection of endangered species such as the orang utan are under the purview of the state wildlife departments, it has never shirked from lending a hand to support these efforts, be it though MPOC or individual plantation companies.

One of such examples is the Malaysian Palm Oil Wildlife Conservation Fund (MPOWCF) which was launched in 2006 with an initial funding of RM20 million, of which RM10 million is a grant from the Malaysian government and the balance of RM10 million is provided by the palm oil industry. The MPOCWF was an initiative created in order for the Malaysian palm oil industry to actively participate in conservation and wildlife biodiversity in Malaysia. Besides funding studies on the subject of biodiversity and wildlife conservation methods and their impact on oil palm cultivation, MPOWCF also promotes public awareness especially among plantation management and workers on the benefits of environmental and wildlife conservation. Since its inception, the fund has been heavily involved in the conservation efforts of the orang utan in Malaysia. These include:

· An orang utan population survey in Sabah with the Sabah Wildlife Department, the French NGO HUTAN and the Borneo Conservation Trust which has been crucial in mapping out most future actions that will be needed in Sabah to ensure the long term conservation of orang utan.

· A grant to the Malua BioBank in Sabah to undertake studies on wildlife and potential conflict with forested areas and fringes of oil palm plantations. This includes a rope bridge project within Malua for the orang utan in the wild, aimed at functioning as corridors connecting isolated populations.

· Working with Sarawak Forestry Cooperation to monitor wildlife especially orang utan in several protected areas in Sarawak that share common boundaries with oil palm plantations

· Collaboration between MPOC, Sabah Wildlife Department and Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts to establish the Sabah Wildlife Rescue Centre which rescues and translocates distressed wildlife found within the Sabah landscapes

· The orang utan infant care unit in Bukit Merah, Perak that helped to ensure better survival of orang utan infants born within the facility

· Establishment of a Jungle Patrol to protect wildlife in forest reserves bordering oil palm plantation in collaboration with the Sabah Forestry Department

Palm oil companies such as Genting Plantations Berhad, PBB Oil Palms Berhad and Sime Darby Berhad (though its Yayasan Sime Darby) are also noted for being actively involved in the funding of wildlife conservation projects in Malaysia. These contributions are not only limited to orang utan but also funds conservation programmes for other endangered species such as the Sumatran rhinos, hornbills, tigers and sub bears. These are indeed positive outcomes we see from the industry and we are confident that the Malaysian palm oil companies will continue to do so in the near future.

Click to download and read “Orang Utan Action Plan’s Strategies and Objectives”

Footnote: The Orangutan Action Plan (2012-2016) report is produced by the Sabah Wildlife Department, supported by the Species Action Plan Committee Members and with the assistance of its partners: the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC), HUTAN’s Kinabatangan Orang-utan Conservation Project (KOCP), Borneo Rhino Alliance, Danau Girang Field Centre and Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria Resort.

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