KOTA KINABALU: Orangutan conservation and research is given a boost with the setting up of the Sabah Orangutan Conservation Alliance (SOCA).
Sabah Wildlife Department director Datuk Dr Laurentius Ambu said the SOCA would coordinate orangutan conservation and research efforts in Sabah, implement and monitor the Orangutan Action Plan, advise the government on orangutan conservation issues, share information on orangutans and promote orangutan conservation in Sabah by raising awareness nationally and globally.
“We will prepare a cabinet paper on the setting up of SOCA and we will bring it to the utmost attention of the State Cabinet. We hope that SOCA can be rapidly established,” he said at an orangutan conservation dialogue at Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria Resort in Tuaran. More than 80 participants were invited to discuss the implementation of the strategies and objectives highlighted in the Orangutan Action Plan 2012-2016 launched last January and set up the SOCA.
The Sabah Wildlife Department organised the dialogue.
“We recognised that the time for conversation was over, that it was time for conservation,” said Ambu.
“It is time for the oil palm industry to acknowledge that there are problems and take the necessary measures to address the issues of forest fragmentation and clearings of riparian forests in Sabah, as well as orangutan killings currently happening in palm oil estates in Kalimantan,” stressed Ambu.
He pointed out the problems in the Kinabatangan were also addressed.
“We have identified approaches to maintain viable wildlife populations in the Kinabatangan. Orangutans are also found outside protected forests in the Lower Kinabatangan floodplain. Our recent analysis of satellite images have shown that 25,000 ha of such forests still remain.
“If we want to secure the orangutan population in Kinabatangan we cannot afford to lose another hectare of forest. We asked the government to call for a moratorium on forest conversion in the Kinabatangan and to recreate forest connection in areas where riparian forests have been converted,” added Ambu.
Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun gave his support for rehabilitation and protection of riparian reserves in his speech at the closing ceremony.
“River reserves are strictly not to be used for any plantation development. Maybe many plantation owners did not know that riparian reserves are protected and must remain under natural forest. These reserves must be rehabilitated and if
they had been encroached on, actions will be taken,” stressed Masidi.
Also addressing a zero tolerance of wildlife killings in oil palm plantations, Masidi said: “I would like to call the plantation owners to sign an agreement adopting a zero tolerance of wildlife (and especially orangutans) killings in their respective estates.
Orangutans are totally protected in Sabah and anyone killing one must be prosecuted.”