Among the green: A male orangutan in Bukit Piton FR, a formerly degraded forest reserve currently restored by WWF-Malaysia and other contributors. — Photo courtesy of WWF-Malaysia
KOTA KINABALU: Environmen-talists are coming together to restore a mini forest reserve teeming with wildlife in Sabah’s interior.
The Trusan Sugut Forest Reserve (Trusan Sugut FR) in the state’s north-eastern part, which is home to 365 butterfly species, 57 types of amphibians, 103 reptile species, 335 bird varieties and 168 kinds of mammals, was recently elevated from a Class II to Class I (totally protected area) forest reserve.
However, The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Malaysia says there is still much to be done in terms of restoring the forest.
Its executive director and chief executive officer Datuk Dr Dionysius Sharma said the 8,690ha forest reserve was severely degraded in many parts due to human activity.
He said natural regeneration took a long time and usually, the altered conditions did not suit the orang utan and other wildlife.
“We intend to lend nature a helping hand, and urge the public to support our fundraising efforts for Sabah’s wildlife haven,” he said in a statement.
The Trusan Sugut FR houses iconic wildlife such as the proboscis monkey, banteng, Bornean orangutan and Sundaland clouded leopard, among others.
In terms of habitat, the forest reserve also boasts of various forest types including endangered ones such as lowland mixed dipterocarp forest, a variant of which is the kapur (limestone) forest, lowland kerangas (heath) forest, lowland peat swamp forest, and lowland freshwater swamp forest.
WWF-Malaysia senior programme officer for orangutan conservation Donna Simon said some parts of Trusan Sugut FR occupied by Bornean orangutan had become severely degraded due to past logging activities and fires.
“We are keen to help the Sabah Forestry Department restore the landscape with native and fast-growing tree species,” she said.
She said the Bornean orangutan was a tree-dependent species which used trees for food and shelter, and usually moved about by swinging between treetops
“The Trusan Sugut population is small and isolated. As such, connecting the peat swamp forest to the west of Sugut River will serve as the last lowland area hosting a significant population of orangutan in the northern half of Sabah,” Simon said.
Some RM1.8mil is needed to restore 150ha of the forest reserve, depending on the type of planting method for the compartments involved.
The forest reserve is bordered by oil palm plantations and human settlements, which puts it at risk for agricultural and domestic waste pollution, encroachment, poaching, illegal harvesting of forest trees, and many more.
WWF-Malaysia’s Anti-Poaching manager Sharon Koh said poachers should be deterred from entering Trusan Sugut also because they could start forest fires simply by throwing cigarette butts or leaving a camp fire unattended.
Those wishing to contribute to the restoration of the forest can do so via www.pandashop.my/symbolically-adopt-orangutan