GRASP Hails Sarawak Support for Orangutans
The Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP) welcomed the bold commitment to halt deforestation and support orangutan conservation in the Malaysian state of Sarawak that was announced at the recent GRASP Regional Meeting – Southeast Asia.
Chief Minister Tan Sri Haji Adenan Bin Satem announced a series of actions to protect Sarawak’s estimated 2,500 orangutans, which are endangered by clearing of forests for new oil palm plantations, illegal logging and other threats. Describing himself as an “amateur naturalist,” Adenan pledged “make decisions that are in the favour of nature.”
The GRASP Regional Meeting – Southeast Asia brought together government and civil society experts for two days of meetings in late July regarding the conservation of orangutans and their habitat.
“GRASP is pleased that the Chief Minister recognizes the value of protecting not only orangutans, but all of Sarawak’s biodiversity,” said GRASP coordinator Doug Cress. “Government support is essential for creating real change and consolidating real gains, and the Chief Minister’s commitment is unequivocal.”
Adenan specifically pledged to not approve any new logging or plantation licences and approvals for plantations, and said he would push for more protected and communal conservation areas in orangutan habitats. He said the Batang Ai and Lajak-Entimau protected areas that border West Kalimantan, Indonesia, would likely be expanded based on new orangutan sightings.
In March, the Sarawak Government announced a plan to create 1.5 million hectares of totally protected areas, which is slightly above 10% of the state’s landmass. Twenty new national parks and wildlife sanctuaries are also in the development stage, along with extensions on existing parks such as the Kubah National Park.
The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) recently signed an agreement with the Government of Sarawak to promote and implement conservation projects and activities in various protected areas through scientific research, education, information sharing and capacity building.
“The message by the Chief Minister is powerful and sends a clear message that orangutans and other wildlife are a priority in Sarawak,” said Melvin Gumal, director of the WCS Malaysia Program. “This statement gives conservation much hope especially at a time when a lot of wildlife across the region face doom and gloom as forests are cleared in a wanton, needless, and greedy manner. The sight of orangutans being killed or struggling in a sea of cleared lands is extremely distressing and the hope that the Minister’s message conveys is therefore extremely powerful.”