KOTA KINABALU: A census of Sabah’s iconic orang utan will be carried out to determine its current population.
State Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry’s permanent secretary Datu Ruslan Datu Sulai said the latest data was needed so that the Sabah government could update its policies concerning the primates.
“The last census was conducted in 2004. We had about 11,000 orang utan in Sabah then,” Ruslan said when launching the Orang Utan Awareness Week at the Sepilok rehabilitation centre in Sandakan.
“We need the latest information.”
He said the state was spending some RM8,000 a year for every orang utan undergoing rehabilitation and that the innaugural Orang Utan Awareness Week programme, involving students, was necessary.
“The public, especially our young, need to know what is involved in the rehabilitation of the orphaned orang utan and how these primates are natural assets for Sabah,” he added.
Sabah Wildlife Department director Augustine Tuuga said since the 1990s, some 700 rehabilitated orang utan had been returned to their natural habitat from the Sepilok centre.
The renowned centre continued to attract visitors from around the world, he said, adding: “More than 50,000 people came to the facility this year alone.”
In July, the International Union for Conservation of Nature declared that the Bornean orang utan (Pongo pygmaeus) was critically endangered, adding that the primate now faced an “extremely high risk of extinction in the wild”.