Orangutan News: Rebuttal to Claim That Borneo Has Lost More Than 100,000 Orangutans From 1999 to 2015

MEDIA STATEMENT BY: Director of Sabah Wildlife Department, Mr Augustine Tuuga

Major newspapers worldwide have reported the finding of a research that was published for March 2018 edition of Current Biology journal authored by Maria Voigt and co-authored, among others, by Dr Marc Ancrenaz of HUTAN who is based in Sukau, Kinabatangan and Dr Benoit Goossens, Director of Danau Girang Field Centre. The research findings claimed that between 1999 and 2015, more than 100,000 Orangutan was lost mainly due to illegal hunting and deforestation in Borneo.

It has to be noted that the island of Borneo is made up of East Malaysia’s States of Sabah & Sarawak, Brunei & Indonesia’s Kalimantan.

“Large numbers of Orangutans were simply being slaughtered” said the lead researcher Maria Voigt of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Antraphology, Germany about their research findings.

The report also claimed that the loss of Orangutan in Sabah for the study period is 6,100 individuals for reasons identified in the study.

A research findings published in the PLOS journal in 2004 estimated that the population of Orangutan in Sabah was 11,000 individuals. At the time of the study, 60% of Orangutan population in Sabah was believed to be living outside of protected areas. Based on this research findings, the State Government of Sabah took very serious effort to increase the protection of Orangutan population in Sabah by declaring and gazetting more and bigger protected areas.

There was only 839,385 ha of Totally Protected Areas in Sabah in 1999 but as of September 2017, a total of 1,906,896 ha of Sabah’s forests has been gazetted as Totally Protected Areas which ammount to 27% of Sabah’s land area. This has increased the coverage of Orangutan’s protected habitats by 75%.

Ulu Segama-Malua Sustainable Forest Management Project was established on 15th. March 2006 by State Government of Sabah especially to protect and rehabilitate Orangutan habitat. The 242,884 ha has been reclassified in stages and by 2014, the whole area has been gazetted as Class I Protection Forest.

The State Government of Sabah is very determined to protect and conserve all our iconic species in Sabah and therefore determined to achieve its policy target to have 30% of Sabah under Totally Protected Areas by or before 2025.

All these efforts are directed at protecting Sabah’s rich biodiversity. Almost all of the additional protected areas are also within Orangutan habitats.

Despite these efforts, none have been acknowledged by the authors of the recent study, of which two were non Malaysian scientists based in Sabah and working with Sabah Wildlife Department and Sabah Forestry Department as contributing factors to the conservation of Orangutan in Sabah. Instead, the study, without hard facts and evidence, has misguided the world community to believe that there were 6,100 individuals Orangutan killed in Sabah between 1999 and 2015.

Without hard facts and evidence presented in the research finding, the Sabah Wildlife Department strongly refute and disagree with the report & will advise the Sabah State Government accordingly.

(Augustine Tuuga)


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