Environmental News: New Malaysian Road Project Threatens Orangutan Habitat

The Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, already facing increased fragmentation, would be further harmed by the planned construction of a new paved road and a bridge in the area. Photo Credit: NGO Friends of the Orangutans
The Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, already facing increased fragmentation, would be further harmed by the planned construction of a new paved road and a bridge in the area. Photo Credit: NGO Friends of the Orangutans

The Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary in Sabah state is home to rich and varied ecosystems of exotic species featuring a photogenic kaleidoscope of iconic animals: proboscis monkeys, several species of hornbills, the Asian pygmy elephant and Borneo’s emblematic orangutan. The reserve’s forests are at constant risk of further environmental degradation through land conversion and fragmentation fueled by illegal logging, agriculture and palm oil cultivation.

But there is another grave new threat to the wellbeing of flora and fauna in the 26,000-hectare sanctuary. In a bid to stimulate the local economy, Sabah’s state government wants to expand a paved road and build a new bridge that would cut through the wildlife reserve. The planned bridge will connect the western bank of the Kinabatangan River to Sukau village, replacing the current ferry, which  runs between Sukau and a gravel road built by an oil palm company. The new paved road will in turn connect Sukau village to Litang and Tomanggong, over 40 kilometers away to the southeast.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature  is set to declare Bornean orangutans “critically endangered” as a result of the continued loss of their habitat. Efforts are underway to protect these unique animals, whose numbers have dwindled to a mere 800 in the wild, but the new infrastructure could well undermine those efforts. The proposed building project would also go against the existing Sabah Elephant & Orangutan Action Plans, which calls on Sabah to “Prevent any process that would further fragment the habitat of” wild elephants and orangutans, including the construction of roads and bridges.

This excerpt from a news article appeared in and is courtesy of Clean Malaysia and can be read in its entirety here.

A subsequent story from Free Malaysia Today focuses on the threats to orangutans should this project go through.  Read that story here.

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