Human encroachment of natural habitats in Kinabatangan

KINABATANGAN – Several organisations have joined hands withthe Sabah Wildlife Department to re-build a rope bridge for orang utans, which collapsed due to severe floods at the Takala river, a tributary of the Kinabatangan. Department director Dr Laurentius Ambu said artificial bridges attributaries along the Kinabatangan, Sabah’s longest river, allowed the orangutan to migrate from one patch of forest to another.

Danau Girang Field Centre director Dr Benoit Goossens said orang utans inthe Kinabatangan area were becoming isolated as their ability to move around was restricted by rivers and man-made drains.

“Orang utans would naturally make their way upstream along tributaries towhere the rivers are narrower and the trees above, connected, allowing them tocross and move around freely. Now, there are oil palm plantations, with their drains, that prevent this from happening. The apes are trapped in small patches of forest, unable to find food and other individuals to mate with,” said Goossens.

Those extending their support to the department were the Danau Girang Field Centre, community-based organisations Hutan and Mescot, Ropeskills Rigging Sdn Bhd and non-governmental organisation (NGO) Borneo Conservation Trust Japan.

“This project is made all the more special by the fact that the Japanese NGO felt the project was important enough to pursue, despite the national difficulties it faces in Japan, following the earthquake and tsunami. Veterinarians, scientists and staff from Japanese zoos have joined the team,” Laurentius said in a statement today.

Ropeskills Rigging Sdn Bhd operations director Simon Amos said the companywas happy to provide technical assistance and skills in rigging and tree climbing, as part of its contribution to conserve orang utans and other primatesin the Lower Kinabatangan floodplain.