Sunday, February 23

RM1.5 million to conserve proboscis monkeys

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DANAU GIRANG: Yayasan Sime Darby (YSD) yesterday donated RM1.5 million to the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) to conserve and manage the estimated 2,500 to 3,000 proboscis monkeys that are living in the fragmented forests in the Lower Kinabatangan.

The three-year commitment will see SWD and Cardiff University of the UK conduct a Proboscis Monkey Conservation Programme at the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC), a centre established by SWD.

The programme will support research and conservation work on proboscis

monkeys, considered as one of the most unique, charismatic and endemic primate species of Borneo.

YSD Governing Council member Caroline Russell said during a press conference following the handing over of a mock cheque of the amount to SWD at DGFC yesterday that this was part of Sime Darby’s corporate social responsibility efforts to give back to society.

She added that they were keen on the project as the proboscis monkeys are one of the YSD’s ‘Big 9’, which are the sun bear, orangutan, pygmy elephant, Bornean clouded leopard, hornbill, banteng, proboscis monkey, Bornean Sumatran rhinoceros and Malayan tiger.

Proboscis monkeys in Sabah are most commonly found in mangrove forests and are sighted in mangrove forests in Sandakan (Sukau, Sepilok) and Klias Wetlands as well as in Tabin. Deforestation is the main threat to the population.

In her speech earlier, Russell mentioned that the cooperation was the first of its kind in the world.

“It will allow for the management of proboscis monkeys in Sabah and allow SWD to execute research and management of the species, particularly in Danau Girang,” she said.

She added that YSD was attracted to the project due to its emphasis on sustainability and community building.

Eventually, she said that they hope to formulate a comprehensive management plan for Sabah with regards to the species and get a consensus for the proboscis monkeys.

The three-year project shall also include the rescue and translocation of proboscis monkeys residing at non-viable locations.

“It is estimated that 100 to 200 are living at sites that are under threat,” she said.

Meanwhile, DGFC director Dr Benoit Goossens said that they will be collecting samples from the proboscis monkey population of both sexes and hope the research will contribute to better knowledge concerning the species so that they could be better protected.

SWD senior veterinarian Dr Sen Nathan said that they will be collecting samples from 100 proboscis monkeys and so far, they have collected these from three individuals.

“We are three percent from achieving our main goal,” he said.

He said that they hope to look at the genetic diversity of proboscis monkeys throughout the State and mentioned that there are five major hotspots for the primate. These are the Klias Peninsula, Kinabatangan, Tawau Bay and Sandakan.

“It is the first project concerning the proboscis monkeys, which are endemic to Borneo,” he said.

He also said that it was a big challenge to safeguard the proboscis monkey population as their habitat is being converted for human activities.

“It is a big challenge to manage this species,” he said.

He added that their current finding is only 15 percent of the proboscis monkeys population resides within protected areas whereas the remaining are living at non viable zones.

Hence, the importance of the study and a management plan, he said.

Also present at the event were YSD chief executive officer Yatela Zainal Abidin and Borneo Rhino Alliance executive director Datuk Dr Haji Junaidi Payne.