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Threats and lessons learned from past orangutan conservation strategies in Sarawak, Malaysia

Pandong, Joshua, Gumal, Melvin, Aton, Zolkipli Mohamad, Sabki, Mohd. Shahbudin, Koh, Lian Pin
Biological conservation 2019 v.234 pp. 56-63
Pongo pygmaeus, community development, forests, habitat destruction, habitats, issues and policy, land use change, law enforcement, livelihood, logging, monitoring, national parks, Borneo, Malaysia
In 2015, the Sarawak Government made a public pledge to stop illegal logging in the State, to create more national parks, and to move towards a zero-loss policy of orangutans and their habitats in Sarawak. Conservationists welcomed this policy in view that threat level for the Bornean orangutans under the IUCN Red List has been upgraded to Critically Endangered in 2016. The main threats to orangutan survival include habitat degradation and forest loss which is rapidly driven by large-scale development of unsustainable land-use change. The cultural taboo against orangutan hunting is slowly eroding with evidence of the species being killed in vulnerable areas. We discussed shortfalls of conservation responses in the past 60 years in Sarawak which included unknown rate of illegal orangutan killings, inadequate law enforcement, and incomprehensive community development strategies. The recommendations to address these shortfalls then include: a) inter-agency collaboration for orangutan population monitoring, b) technological application and intelligence networks to intensify enforcement strategies, c) alternative community livelihood development and self-enforcement, and d) increased public support for conservation policies. The implementation of the zero-loss policy is anticipated to emphasize the needs for orangutan protection amid rapid development plans around critical habitats.