WCS organises run for orang utans


By YU JI

Help them: Wild orangutan spotted in the Engkari-Telaus Community Conservation Landscape.

KUCHING: Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Malaysia Programme is organising a run in tandem with its New York counterpart on April 25.

WCS Malaysia director Dr Melvin Gumal said “Run for the Wild – Orang Utans” in Kuching will be on the same date and time as “Run for the Wild - Gorillas” in the American financial capital.

The not-for-profit organisation is working with two local bodies: O-Run-Utan Running Club and the Swinburne Sarawak Running Club on their weekly run.

“As this is a first time for WCS, we will be keeping it small. This run will only include the aforementioned clubs and this will be a trial run for us to learn how to organise a bigger event for everybody on a later date,” Gumal told Sarawak Metro.

The April 25 run here is a free event, he added, and would include a talk by WCS on the importance of orang utan conservation, which will be at the Dayak Bidayuh National Association headquarters at Jalan Ong Tiang Swee.

The run, roughly 7km, also begins from the association headquarters.

“The O-Run-Utan Running Club is pleased to support efforts by WCS to raise this awareness that begins ‘aptly’ with us!” said its Kuching president Alexander Liew.

Joshua Lai of the university’s running club said love for nature should start from home and be taught to the young.

“We hope the event will raise awareness. University students definitely support wildlife conservation,” Lai said.

Gumal, recipient of the 2014 Whitley Award for Conservation in Ape Habitats, said orang utans were among our closest relatives, the largest primates in Asia and the largest tree-dwelling animals in the world.

“Their resemblance to humans means that they have long been the subject of local myths and legends, and anecdotes about their lives peppered the writings of early explorers and naturalists,” Gumal said.

Once widespread throughout Asia (over 12,500 years ago), orang utans now occur only in the tropical rainforests of Sumatra and Borneo.

As more of their habitat is converted for oil palm and rubber plantations, and other development, orang utan numbers and their range continue to decline, he said. Sarawak seems to be reversing the trend and wants more areas protected for orang utans.

“Wild orangutans are amongst the slowest breeding mammals on earth, with each female giving birth to their first offspring between the ages of 14 and 15 years, and only giving birth to a single offspring every eight years.

“Largely solitary and occurring at low densities, large areas need to be fully protected if orang utans are to survive.”

For more information on WCS, facebook.com/WCS.Malaysia or wcsmalaysia.org.

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