Studies on Sabah’s pygmy elephant, orang utan

KOTA KINABALU: Efforts will be made to establish the population of the endemic Borneo pygmy elephant and orang utan in Sabah.

This was after the inking of two agreements between several organisations on Wednesday.

The elephant research agreement was signed between Universiti Malaysia Sabah’s (UMS) Institute for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ITBC), Malaysian Palm Oil Green Conservation Foundation (MPOGCF) and Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD).

As for the orang utan survey, a memorandum of understanding was sealed between MPOGCF, SWD and Hutan, a non-governmental organisation.

In a statement, UMS said the Borneo pygmy elephant research would be undertaken from 2023 to 2026.

“This project will be spearheaded by ITBC senior lecturer Dr Nurzhafarina Othman with an allocation of RM1.16mil approved by MPOGCF,” it said.

The signing ceremony involved UMS deputy vice-chancellor (research and innovation) Prof Dr Rosalam Sabartly, MPOGCF acting general manager Hairulazim Mahmud and SWD deputy director Roland Oliver Niun.

The orang utan research will be conducted from 2023 to 2025, with funds of RM1.23mil allocated by MPOGCF.

“Both projects are aimed at surveying and updating data on the population of the Borneo pygmy elephant and orang utan in Sabah, which was last updated between nine and 14 years ago.

“Besides that, there is also a need to study human-wildlife conflict, particularly on these two species.

“The results of the studies will help the SWD frame a new paradigm in the implementation of future awareness programmes,” UMS said.

Those involved in the research comprise master of science degree students at local universities.

According to WWF-Malaysia, the orang utan population in Borneo dropped to 104,700 in 2016 from 288,500 in 1973.

As for Sabah, a 2019 population study by WWF estimated that there were some 11,000 of the primates in the wild.

The situation of the Borneo pygmy elephant is even more critical with only between 1,000 and 1,500 of the animals estimated to be roaming Sabah’s forests.

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