KUALA LUMPUR: A RM1.2mil allocation has been set aside to finance a study of the orang utan population in Sabah for a period of two years.
The fund was allocated by the Malaysian Palm Oil Green Conservation Foundation (MPOGCF), an agency under the Plantation and Commodities Ministry.
The ministry’s secretary-general, Datuk Mad Zaidi Mohd Karli @ Sukari, said the study was important to obtain the latest number of the orang utan population.
The study would begin soon to obtain facts related to the activities and locations, among others, of the protected animal that had become iconic in Sabah, he said.
“Even though there have been various studies in the past, we will conduct this one and we want to see how the population trend is.
“When a comprehensive study is done, we have data which can be shared,” he said after launching International Orang Utan Day themed “Mereka Juga Warga Malaysia”, observed annually on Aug 19, at Zoo Negara yesterday, Bernama reported.
Mad Zaidi said the celebration was a continuation of the RM1.1mil sponsorship by the country’s oil palm industry, through MPOGCF, to fund the upgrade of the Borneo Orang Utan Exhibition at the zoo last year.
“The purpose of this event is to inform everyone that we are not only giving priority to the oil palm industry but also preserving the biodiversity of wildlife, including the orang utan.
“We want to counter claims by outsiders that the oil palm industry is threatening wildlife,” he added.
In his speech earlier, Mad Zaidi said that MPOGCF also called on all Malaysians to support the orang utan conservation efforts by prioritising sustainable palm products, which are recognised by the Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil certification.
“The biggest threat to the orang utan population is poaching, and the Borneo orang utan is categorised as a critically endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature with an estimated population of 104,700,” he said.
Mad Zaidi said the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) report in 2019, based on a survey of orang utan nests between May 2014 and March 2017, found that the animal population in Sabah had been stable for 15 years.
However, the Borneo orang utan population in the forest surrounded by oil palm plantations showed a declining trend, he added.
He said the Malaysian oil palm industry had carried out several conservation activities for the endangered animals.
“The programmes include planting a million trees for the rehabilitation of the orang utan habitat, involving an area of 2,500ha in the Ulu Segama-Malua Forest Reserve in Lahad Datu.
“We also fund the Wildlife Rescue Unit to rescue and move orang utan to a safe habitat. A total of 61 orang utan were rescued between 2010 and 2020,” he added.
He said these efforts showed that the oil palm industry, which is the main sector in the country’s agri-commodity with a trade value of RM268.1bil in 2022, was being transformed into a sustainable industry, friendly to the environment and wildlife, in addition to having the least impact on the natural ecosystem.