WLT’s ‘million pound corridor’ used by young Orangutan SEARCH NEWS

Toby the Orang-utan

The Keruak corridor is well established and working for wildlife, reports World Land Trust (WLT) partner Hutan.

The Keruak corridor was prioritised for protection in 2013, as Hutan recognised its important function as a path of connecting habitat between the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary and the Keruak Virgin Jungle Reserve, and WLT’s Borneo Rainforest Appeal in 2013 successfully raised £1 million to secure the land purchase.

The importance of Orangutan ‘corridors’

Hutan’s Orangutan Research Unit have been studying the ecology and behaviour of the sub-population of Bornean Orangutans living in ‘Lot 2’, the section of the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary (LKWS) that neighbours the Keruak corridor, for the past 20 years.

They have observed that the main issue in this fragmented habitat is how difficult it is for young male orang-utans to disperse to areas away from their female relatives where they may meet unrelated females.

Isabelle Lackman, Co-Director of Hutan and Bornean Orangutan specialist, says “If these males are unable to travel away in search of a new area and unrelated females, they are essentially “trapped’ in an isolated fragment of forest. Here, the risks of inbreeding are high and genetic diversity in the sub-population quickly crashes to the point of local extinction. It is therefore particularly important for young male orang-utans to maintain connectivity between fragments of protected areas.”

Toby the Bornean Orangutan

Last year, the unit was following a young male orangutan they had nicknamed Toby who lived in Lot 2. Sightings of Toby (who was easily recognised by a mole on his forehead) were quite regular until he disappeared last May and was not seen in the LKWS again.

However, thanks to the protection of the Keruak corridor, this was not the end of the story. “We were amazed to see him again recently, nesting in the Keruak VJR, on the other side of the Keruak Corridor. It seems that he has now successfully dispersed,” says Isabelle.

Kinabatangan map showing Keruak corridor and new project area

More information

World Land Trust is currently working with Hutan to protect another piece of rainforest, across the river from the Keruak corridor, which could be the start of a new corridor from the Pangi Virgin Jungle Reserve down to the riverbank.

Thanks to the generous supporters of Steve and Helen Backshall’s ‘Race for Borneo’ fundraising towards the Saving Kinabatangan appeal, we have raised more than half of the funds needed to purchase these properties, but still have just over £58,000 to go before this land can be placed under permanent protection.

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Watch this interview with Isabelle Lackman for more information on the importance of corridors in this area:

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