Decrease of Borneo’s Orang Utan

Reality check in Borneo – The decline of Borneo’s orang utan population is not just due to recent deforestation but had begun to occur over 2,000 years.



A scientific paper study published in Plus One journal by a team experts found that the Borneo orang utans begun experiencing a major demographic decline from about 2,000 years ago based on samples collected in six different study sites in Sabah and Kalimantan.

Researchers from Europe, South America, and in Borneo have discussed the endangered orang utan habitat.

“The recent loss of habitat and its dramatic fragmentation has affected the patterns of genetic variability and differentiation among the remaining populations of orang utans and increased the extinction risk of the most isolated ones,” Dr Reeta Sharma from Instituto Gulbenkian de Cincia (IGC, Portugal).

“We used orang utans samples collected in six different study sites in Sabah (Kinabatangan and Danum Valley) and Kalimantan and genetic markers to identify signals of population decline,” added Sharma.

“The dating of the population decline varied across sites but was always within the 200-2,000 years period,” Dr Benoit Goossens, director of DGFC and a co-author on the paper.

“This suggests that in some sites at least, orang utan populations were affected by demographic events (like climate change and arrival of modern humans) that started much before the recent human impact on environment in Borneo,” added Dr Goossens, Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC, Sabah).

“However, these results do not mean that the recent forest exploitation did not leave its genetic mark on orangutans but suggests that the genetic pool of orang utans is also impacted by more ancient events,” suggested Goossens.

“The orang utan population in the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary is an example of a recent collapse due to anthropogenic pressure which culminated 50 years ago,” he said.

The recent findings complemented those published in 2006 on the Kinabatangan population and underscored the need to expand the conservation measures suggested under the Orang Utan Action Plan.

This include protection of private lands to connect the existing protected forest lots, corridor establishment, wildlife monitoring and law enforcement, added Dr Goossens.

Being healthy

Moyog assemblyman Datuk Donald Mojuntin is urging residents in the district of Penampang, Sabah, Malaysia to adopt a healthy lifestyle in order to avoid non-communicable diseases (NCD).

This is because deaths caused by NCD such as cancer, cardiovascular, diabetes as well as chronic respiratory diseases can bring about hardship, especially if they claim the lives of a family breadwinner, the Assistant Finance Minister said.

“Not only will the loss be felt by the family, it will also be a loss to the country’s productivity,” Donald stressed.

According to him NCD could be prevented through easy measures which do not involve high costs, such as walking 10,000 steps daily and eating healthy by reducing the consumption of sugar and salt in food.

In his speech at the ‘Merakyatkan Kesihatan Desa’ mini carnival which was held at Sekolah Kebangsaan St Theresa Inobong here yesterday, Donald added that local fruits which are cheap and high in vitamins as well as nutrients are a healthy choice for the people.

His speech was delivered by Penampang Community Development Officer Bryan Matasing.

“I hope this carnival can create awareness among the local community about NCD and communicable diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria, dengue and cholera among others,” Donald said.


Improvement for Borneo’s Education System

The former British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown may visit Borneo’s states, to learn the issues affecting natives on school facilities and to higher education.

Sabah political activist, Daniel John Jambun, who is supporting for Borneo causes, said he learned this new development from other sources including from the Borneo’s ardent advocate, Clare Rewcastle, who he met here.

Rewcastle has been running the highly popular Radio Free Sarawak and the online news portal Sarawak Report.

Jambun, who is also chairman of UK-based Borneo’s Plight in Malaysia (BoPi MaFo), said in a statement from London that Brown’s visit should take place as soon as he has adequate justification to see the “progress” of education in Borneo.

He said Brown’s office should be getting more reports and representations on education in Borneo.

“Certainly Borneo is a place that has the brightest and creative people with global potential but look what had happened to the island natives now.

All that happened there had hampered every one of our efforts to have a more educated population, as widespread as possible.

“There are real issues in Borneo, not only on education but on religious problems, environment as well as human rights. The international community and the UN should look into this and help hasten relief or else we will end up forever in the backwater of the whole progressing region.

“In fact on many fronts we in Sabah and Sarawak are worse than when we were still under British protection. Now the Borneo’s natives are boiling for change,” said Jambun who is also State Reform Party’s Sabah deputy chairman.

Jambun further alleged that in some areas, the very few who have had the opportunity to access higher education in Sabah and Sarawak in the 1960s were the fortunate ones and some of them continued controlling the masses.

“They are in control of politics and are amassing wealth while the vast population were left to be marginalised and victimised by the political circumstances, ever since the colonials left.

“Really drastic steps need to be taken to accelerate education development in Sabah and Sarawak.

“Some native schoolchildren are still forced to walk for hours in jungles just to reach their school. This should not be the case anymore, but it still is the reality in Borneo,” he alleged.

“Besides those in cities and urban areas, many of the school infrastructures in rural Sabah and Sarawak are dilapidated and in inadequate condition,” he said.

This shocking situation still exists even in the near city areas like Inanam and Penampang.

“In some areas in Sabah and Sarawak there is no school whatsoever.”

The Federation leaders’ way of thinking must change when it comes to Borneo. This land is very vast and settlements are scattered, the authority should not simply take the Malayan model for us,” he added.

Another Borneo activist, Kanul Gindol, who is also in London for the past two weeks attending several conferences and doing a bibliographical research on Sabah, said that education is certainly one of the pressing issues that “sucked” Sabah and Sarawak into agreeing to co-found a new enlarged Federation in 1963.

“In fact ‘education’ was one pull and push factor for Sabah and Sarawak to Malaysia.

They felt that they needed more educated local people to first gain self-determination before they could sit down with Malayan leaders to discuss Malaysia.

“But at the same time, the Malayan leaders and the leaving British then, pledged that ‘education’ was easier and faster to access if both Sabah and Sarawak joined in a new Federation that had already shown rapid progress in Malaya, which gained its own independence earlier from the British in 1957,” he said.

Gindol, who heads another UK-based NGO, Borneo Rights International (BRI), said he planned to be writing booklets based on his research when he comes back to Sabah next month.

Mysterious animal scares villagers

Earlier this month, an Indonesian plantation worker and a 75-year-old farmer did not have an ordinary day during their time farming, they were attacked by an unknown animal species in two separate occasions.

The farmer, Aris Kuna of Kampung Paon Gahat, was attacked by the rare animal while attending to his garden. The foreigner, however, was attacked a week later at a plantation near Kpg Baing while gathering oil palm fresh fruit bunches.

The animal that attacked the both men was described as having a ‘bear and wild boar’ resemblance. Fellow workers and villagers who saw the carcass, brought by the Indonesian, could not identify the animal species.

“It’s a rare species. None of the villagers could identify it when we saw the body and pictures of it. Some even took to the Internet to find out but to no avail. Could it be one of those already considered extinct?

“In all my life venturing into the jungle, hunting and such, I’ve never come across this species,” 62-year-old Louis Nyaoi said when met at his house in Kpg Mentung Marau, some 50km from here yesterday.

His son Jimmy Tubo, 27, believed that the rare animal could have reappeared due to the opening of the nearby jungle for agriculture and other developments.

When relating the ordeal of the foreign worker, Jimmy said the Indonesian had claimed that the animal gave a strange noise, firstly sounding like a hen followed by a wild boar sound, before proceeding to attack.

The victim alleged that the animal stood up on its hind legs when charging at him. He immediately swung his sickle, killing the animal instantly.

The animal had a long mane and sharp wolverine-like claws. Another mysterious attribute to the animal was that it gave out foul smell only hours after it was killed.

Another local expert jungle trekker and hunter Paul H., 41, said he never smelled anything like the stench. He also said that one could smell the stench from some 10 metres away when the Indonesian brought the carcass to the plantation’s FFB pick up ram for observation by fellow workers and villagers.

On Aris’ encounter, Paul, a security guard at SK St John, Kpg Mentung Murau said his grandparents were resting at a hut after tending to their pepper crops at the time.

“My grandfather (Aris) heard an unfamiliar animal outside the hut, so he went out to check. At first, he could not see where the animal was coming from although he anticipated that danger was lurking.

“Sensing that the animal was near, he said a prayer before starting to swing his machete numerous times to fend off as what he described as an ‘invisible’ attack. Only after he felt he had slashed something that he saw a limb of the animal’s leg on the ground. Moments later, he saw the lifeless animal.”

Aris immediately dispersed the body at the jungle. As for the one that attacked the Indonesian worker, the body was partly buried at the plantation.

Not ruling out the fact that the animal could have been an endangered species, Louis believed the actions of both men as self-defense.


Best time to visit Borneo

Borneo is one of the world’s greatest holiday destinations for nature lovers. A visit to the Sepilok Orang-utan Sanctuary, allows you to come in close contact with this remarkable “man of the forest”. Orang-utans are so finely adapted to the rainforests that they are unable to adapt well to any other habitat.

The Sepilok Orang-utan Sanctuary is set in 15 square miles of beautiful lush rainforest. It opened in 1964 to help once captive orang-utans learn to fend for themselves in the wild. Interesting and exciting to watch, these large red apes are also astonishingly gentle, highly intelligent and will gaze at you with almost disconcerting frankness.

Don’t only visit the orangutans, there are other activities to explore such as birding, trekking and river trips in the neighbouring areas.
Kinabatangan wildlife safaris – It is not surprising that given this rich mosaic of habitats, the abundance and rich diversity of wildlife are so apparent along the Kinabatangan River and floodplain. The exceptional variety of primates that share these forests is astounding: Orang-utans, the agile Gibbon, Borneo’s Proboscis Monkey are three of its most charismatic primates. Less often seen are the nocturnal flying lemur, slow Loris and tarsiers. This sanctuary home to crested serpent eagles, rhinoceros hornbills and a variety of other birdlife is also a paradise for birders.

During the drier months of the year, the Asian Elephant roam these forests during their annual migration to the floodplain. With the large network of swamps and lakes in the region, a large number of aquatic animals inhabit the Kinabatangan River including, freshwater rays and sharks; crocodiles and wild otters. Exploring the Kinabatangan River in the early evening, as Proboscis Monkeys roost in the trees along the riverbank and elephants move through the undergrowth is an unforgettable experience.

Mt Kinabalu walking holidays – The highest mountain in Borneo rises majestically into the sky at 4,095m. Dominating the surrounding landscape and often shrouded in mist, Mt Kinabalu offers the traveller the chance to watch the sunrise over the state of Sabah as you reach the peak. On descending the mountain why not refresh yourself at the Poring Hot Springs, a natural open air spa where you can bathe amidst the tropical rainforests of Borneo. No climbing experience is required to conquer the peak and only one night is spent on the mountain. Although, it is harder than it looks.

Sipadan Island diving holidays – The name of Sipadan is simply legendary in diving circles, conjuring images of twirling tornados of barracudas and jacks, patrolling hammerhead sharks, millions of technicoloured reef fish and, above all, dozens of sea turtles. Sipadan is considered one of the two or three top diving destinations in the world. This small, rainforest-covered tropical island rising from a 700 meter abyss in the Celebes Sea is a destination the committed diver cannot miss. Other locations offer fantastic diving include Lankayan Island and Mataking Island.

Danum Valley safari holidays – Your holiday not be complete without a visit to the famous Danum Valley. Set up to protect the area from logging, Danum Valley encompasses 438 kilometres squared of pristine rainforest. Aside from this the conservation area has a variety of wildlife including, orang-utans, gibbons, a variety of birdlife, clouded leopard, elephant and if one is very lucky the Sumatran rhino. With both a canopy walkway and a viewpoint which looks out over the jungle canopy and the dramatic mountains this conservation area is definitely worth dropping in on.

Best time to visit Borneo is between March and October although this does not preclude travel at other times of the year. Travellers should note that as this is a rainforest destination they should be prepared for rain at any time of the year.