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Japanese children help rescue Sabah wildlife

 | July 6, 2012

The recent sighting of a male orangutan using a 'bridge' spanning Sungai Resang in Lower Kinabatangan provse that such structures and corridors are vital links between habitats and populations.

KINABATANGAN: Schoolchildren in Japan have come to the rescue of endangered and “trapped” wildlife here by donating money to help buy forest land and prevent groups of the species from being isolated from each other.

The rescue of Sabah’s endangered pygmy elephants and orangutans is already paying off with sighting of animals crossing over from one area to another after having been corralled in increasingly smaller areas by the growing presence of plantation and timber companies.

A 6.2-acre plot of land, identified as a key ecological corridor for elephants and orangutans in Lower Kinabatangan, was recently secured by Borneo Conservation Trust (BCT) with financial support from Fukuyama Zoo, Japan.

According to Dr Toshinori Tsubouchi, chairman of BCT Japan, funds for the land purchase were donated by schoolchildren from Japan who are keenly aware of the plight of the Bornean elephant through educational talks held by the BCT Japan in their schools.

He said Fukuyama Zoo’s concern over Bornean elephant conservation in Lower Kinabatangan led them to spearhead a fundraising campaign for the land purchase.

Sabah Wildlife Department director, Dr Laurentius Ambu, in a joint statement with BCT, expressed his appreciation to Fukuyama Zoo for its effort and support in securing this “link” to re-connect fragmented forests in the state.

The purchase of the land, he said, was “an achievement and another positive step towards the department’s vision to secure the ecological corridors for the wildlife population”.

This particular plot will allow the migration of elephants from one part of the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary to another.

Raymond Alfred, BCT’s head of conservation and research, explained that this concept or model could be duplicated in Sabah as long as corporations know where and how they can contribute.

Vital links

Alfred said that part of BCT’s plan to secure the “links” is to get the participation of the commercial sector such as agricultural developers and product suppliers in conservation efforts. This way, they would know how their contributions are used.

“Through implementation of best management practices and restoration of riparian reserve, we would like to see re-established the vital wildlife corridors linking key habitats and protected areas to the larger forest landscape in Segaliud Lokan, Malua and North Ulu Segama”, he said.

The sighting of an “older” male orangutan using a bridge spanning Sungai Resang in Lower Kinabatangan last month, proves that such structures and corridors are vital links between habitats and populations.

Primate researcher from Kyoto University, Yosuke Otani, who observed the crossing on a bridge made out of used fire hoses from Japan, said it took the primate about 30 seconds to cross over without any difficulty.

The unhindered crossing excited wildlife experts here with Ambu re-emphasising the importance of such corridor in the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary.

Alfred said that two orangutans were also observed using another crossing built by Hutan and BCT in Sungai Menanggul.

Improving and retaining the existing riparian reserve along the Kinabatangan River will allow species such as elephants and orangutans access to food sources and establish crucial genetic links between populations.

BCT is among a group of organisations racing against time to assist Sabah wildlife authorities improve habitat connectivity for the orangutans in Lower Kinabatangan. It is also hoping to re-establish a long-term biodiversity corridor with the help of land developers such as plantations and timber companies.

Alfred said that BCT is working closely with several major stakeholders to develop a follow-up plan to re-establish a biodiversity corridor from the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary to other continuous forest reserves such as Segaliud Lokan Forest Reserve, Malua Forest Reserve and North Ulu Segama (Bukit Piton Protection Forest).


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