Orang Utan extinction report ‘a wake-up call’

Prof Maketab Mohamed.

PETALING JAYA: Lack of information makes it difficult to say whether the Borneon Orang Utan are really one step away from extinction as stated by an international conservation organisation, says environmentalist Prof Maketab Mohamed.

He said there was no reliable inventory of Orang Utan left in the wild in Malaysia and Indonesia, while at the same time, the Sabah and Sarawak state governments were working hard to conserve the Orang Utans.

Maketab was commenting on a recent report in which the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) announced that the Bornean Orang Utan is now a “critically endangered” animal, and close to extinction.

Speaking to FMT, Maketab, who is immediate past president of the Malaysian Nature Society, said the Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation centre in Sandakan, Sabah and Batang Ai National Park and Lanjak-Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary in Sarawak were among the efforts being made for the Orang Utan.

“While they are doing good work in these areas, we are not sure how much of an impact their efforts have in comparison to what is happening in the wild,” he told FMT.

Maketab said however that it was undeniable that fragmentation of wildlife habitats was taking place everywhere due to deforestation and land conversion for agricultural purposes.

The authorities could do more, by better protecting areas where Orang Utan were concentrated.

“Orang Utan generally do not travel far much, so in areas where they are concentrated, the authorities must put more effort and allocate more resources to protect these areas.”

Ecotourism & Conservation Society Malaysia (EcoMy) CEO Andrew Sebastian said he was not surprised with the IUCN’s report, which he said was a “wake up call” and that things needed to change.

He told FMT that for years, the Orang Utan had been a symbol for Malaysia in promoting eco-tourism, and that in East Malaysia, the great ape was just as symbolic as the Malayan tiger in West Malaysia.

“We have benefited from the Orang Utan for years, but sadly, our conservation efforts do not seem proportionate, even though the Sabah and Sarawak state governments and relevant NGOs, have done some great work.”

He said despite the good work of the authorities there, the main question was whether it was enough.

Andrew said that Malaysia must have continuous dialogues with Brunei and Indonesia to develop better cross-border cooperation to protect Orang Utan habitats.