Borneo's Orang-utans are losing their habitat at an alarming rate but strongholds remain and must be protected.
Find out how World Land Trust’s (WLT) Borneo Rainforest Appeal: aiming to raise One Million pounds will help secure the future of this most iconic of species…
In August 2013 WLT launched the Borneo Rainforest Appeal to secure habitat vital for the survival of the Bornean Orang-utan in the wild in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. A million pounds is an ambitious fundraising target but one that WLT feels it appropriate to aim for as the lives of significant populations of Orang-utans hang in the balance.
With the funds raised WLT will be able to help create the Keruak Corridor, which will link Keruak Forest Reserve with one part of Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary (LKWS). The corridor is being created in partnership with WLT’s partner NGO in Malaysia, Hutan.
The first phase of the project will secure a stretch of several properties along the north bank of the Kinabatangan River.
After the completion of the first phase, if funds can be raised, the project will move into a second phase to widen the corridor.
To create the Keruak Corridor WLT needs to raise in the region of one million pounds - a lot of money for a relatively small area, but land is very expensive in Borneo because of the booming palm oil sector.
And, in Borneo, even small parcels of land can be a lifeline for Orang-utans so long as they link together protected forests enabling animals to move safely over greater distances.
Orang-utans are considered keystone species, playing a critical role in maintaining the structure of the whole ecology of the region. If they were to become extinct it would have a knock-on effect throughout the whole ecosystem.
Orang-utans play a vital role in maintaining the health of the forest. They eat fruit and, by ranging far and wide, they disperse the seeds of the fruits they consume. (A male orang-utan covers up to 9884 acres - 4,000 hectares - in his lifetime.) Orang-utans also trim forest trees by eating leaves and using branches to make their nests, which allows more light to the under storey.
- Forest destruction and habitat fragmentation: Orang-utans are dependent on continuous forest but, primarily due to land clearance for oil palm plantations, their natural habitat is being destroyed at an alarming rate, and what remains is in isolated patches. Lack of forest cover reduces the Orang-utan’s ability to find a sufficiently nutritious diet, and (in the case of males) to roam in search of a mate.
- Diminishing gene pool: There may be as many as 1,000 Orang-utans in Kinabatangan, but due to forest destruction Orang-utans are increasingly isolated from each other, living in groups of between 5 and 200. With unlimited habitat male Orang-utans will travel across large areas to find a mate, covering up to 4,000 hectares in his lifetime, but due to the fragmentation of forest habitat some Orang-utans are unable to move outside their ‘forest island’ to find a mate, meaning that there is a great risk of inbreeding. The shrinking of the Orang-utan gene pool threatens the viability of the species.
- Extinction: 90 per cent of Sabah’s native Orang-utan population has been lost in the past 100 years due to habitat destruction. Worst-case scenarios suggest that if deforestation continues the Orang-utan could soon become extinct in many areas.
- Land price inflation: the price of land is increasing due to demand from oil palm producers, which means that the financial cost of purchasing and protecting land for Orang-utans is very high.
In the Kinabatangan floodplain, one of Malaysia’s most beautiful wetlands, the Keruak Corridor will reconnect patches of rainforest that have become fragmented due to logging and intensive cultivation. Once complete, the Keruak Corridor will enable Orang-utans once more to roam the forest of the north bank of the Kinabatangan River.