Orang-utan

@ WCS Malaysia
Photo Credit: @ WCS Malaysia

A wild orang-utan spotted in the Engkari-Telaus Community Conservation Landscape. Photo © Daniel Kong

The orang-utans in Sarawak are recognised as the northwest Bornean sub-species, Pongo pygmaeus pygmaeus. It is estimated that 90% of this sub-species in Sarawak is found in the Batang Ai National Park (BANP) and Lanjak-Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary (LEWS) landscape. This landscape is approximately 1,920 km sq in area size. Together with the Betung Kerihun National Park of West Kalimantan, Indonesia, they form the Trans-boundary Biodiversity Conservation Area (TBCA), which forms the largest protected area where the Bornean species of orang-utan occur. 

Three more national parks were gazetted outside the BANP-LEWS landscape for the purpose of orang-utan conservation. They are the Ulu Sebuyau National Park (July 2010), Sedilu National Park (September 2010) and Sabal National Park (August 2018).

In May 2013, another landscape to the south of the proposed Southern extension of BANP known as the Ulu Sungai Menyang landscape was announced at the Sarawak’s State Legislative Assembly as a High Conservation Value Forest (HCVF) after a survey of the area confirmed that there was up to 200 orang-utans. Also in the same month, two formerly proposed extensions to LEWS were gazetted as part of the Wildlife Sanctuary for the purpose of orang-utan conservation which added 142.25 km sq to the landscape. 

Threats

Although Bornean orang-utans are endangered and protected by the strictest laws on this island, it is threatened because of forest loss, habitat degradation and illegal hunting.

Past WCS Activities

  • Developed the Orang-utan Strategic Action Plan (OUSAP) for the TBCA with the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO), Forest Department Sarawak (FDS) and Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC) (2009-2011).
  • Since 2003, conducted orang-utan nest count survey and developed a study design for the orang-utan nest count survey at the BANP-LEWS landscape, its proposed extension areas, Ulu Sungai Menyang and Engkari-Telaus. The aim of the surveys was to estimate current abundances of orang-utan surrounding the study sites.
  • Jointly developed a radio program with SFC. The radio program was used as a conservation tool to engage communities beyond the conservation education and outreach programs carried out in the past. Sixteen pre-recorded episodes in the Iban language were broadcasted between August 2011 and January 2012 via Radio Television Malaysia (Iban Services Section). A rebroadcast was done in 2018.
  • Orang-utan rapid assessment for Heart of Borneo program twice in Ulu Sungai Menyang and once in both Ulu Katibas and Engkari-Telaus.
  • Orang-utan rapid assessment in Batang Lemanak-Batang Skrang of Lanjak-Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary.
  • Jointly organized the following workshops with SFC: 1) Law and Enforcement Techniques Workshop for Miri-Bintulu Region at Semarakan in 2015; 2) Law and Enforcement Techniques Workshop at Gunung Gading National Park in 2017; and, 3) Basic Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART) workshop at Gunung Gading National Park in 2019.
  • Illegal Wildlife Trade (IWT) training for Malaysia and Indonesia at Bogor, Indonesia.
  • Published two papers:
  1. Pandong, J., Gumal, M., Aton, Z.M., Sabki, M.S., and Koh, L.P. (2019) "Threats and lessons learned from past orangutan conservation strategies in Sarawak, Malaysia", Biological Conservation: 234 (56-63).
  2. Pandong, J., Gumal, M., Alen, L., Sidu, N., Ng, S., and Koh, L.P. (2018) "Population estimates of Bornean orang-utans using Bayesian analysis at the greater Batang Ai - Lanjak-Entimau landscape in Sarawak, Malaysia", Scientific Reports. 8:15672 DOI: 10.1038/s41598-018-33872-3


On-going WCS activities

  • Discussions on management and alternative sustainable livelihood activities with stakeholders living around the larger BANP-LEWS landscape including Ulu Sungai Menyang. The aim of these discussions is to increase protection for the orang-utans while allowing the local communities to thrive. 
  • Implementation of the Orang-utan Strategic Action Plan for Sarawak (OUSAP) with SFC, FDS and Ministry of Urban Development and Natural Resources (2009-ongoing).
  • Orang-utan rapid assessment beyond the BANP-LEWS Landscape at Ulu Sebuyau National Park, Sedilu National Park, Gunung Lesong National Park, Sabal National Park, Bungo Range National Park and the Klingkang Range.
  • Development of cross-border enforcement support with Indonesia.

Future Directions

Work with authorities to strengthen the enforcement and monitoring of illegal wildlife activities through SMART, and other relevant activities. SMART is a management tool developed to assist decision makers in managing protected areas.

Acknowledgements

The WCS Malaysia's orang-utan conservation activities were financially supported by the Arcus Foundation, Crest Megaway, Fondation Segré, Kathy Ruttenberg, Margot Marsh Biodiversity Foundation, The Enlyst Fund, US Fish and Wildlife Service Great Ape Conservation Fund, Whitley Fund for Nature and the Whitley-Segré Conservation Fund. Additional funds were provided by the Orang-utan Project Sdn Bhd (formerly known as Way Out Experiences (M) Sdn Bhd) and Borneo Adventure. In-kind contribution for accommodation at the operational bases, boats and additional manpower were provided by Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC), the conservation partner for this project. Additional off-road transportation was provided by Hariwood Sdn. Bhd. Administrative support was provided by the District Offices as well as District Police Offices of Lubok Antu, Kanowit, Song, Sebuyau, Simunjan, Sri Aman, Bau and Padawan. Permits to conduct the surveys, past and present were provided by the Forest Department of Sarawak (FDS).

Further Reading:

Wich, S.A., Meijaard, E., Marshall, A.J., Husson, S. Ancrenaz, M., Lacy, R.C., van Schaik, C.P., Sugardjito, J., Simorangkir, T., Traylor-Holzer, K., Doughty, M., Supriatna, J., Dennis, R., Gumal, M., Knott, C.D. & Singleton, I. (2008). Distribution and conservation status of the orang-utan (Pongo spp.) on Borneo and Sumatra: how many remain? Oryx 42(3): 329-339

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