Live Reporting from the Field

We are currently in Borneo supporting reforestation in the Kinabatangan area. The volunteer project is run by Ape Malaysia and is dedicated to work with the local Orang Sungai villagers to collaborate and educate about conservation as well as replenishing the original forests which were cut down for mainly logging and agriculture. This is Sharan’s second visit to this project and it will be interesting to find out how reforestation has expanded in the last 4 years and what current challenges there are as well. It will also be good to compare activities with reforestation around the Tanjung Puting National Park which has suffered due to palm oil plantations (where she worked 2 years ago with FNPF). For more details follow our Live FB updates.

About the Project

The in-country organization is Ape Malaysia and they have 3 arms to their ethical volunteering program:

  1. Welfare, Enrichment and upkeep of animals in captivity in Zoo Malaka in Kuala Lampur (generally the orangs are unlikely to be able to survive in the wild as they have been rescued from pet trade or have been orphaned from a young age).
  2. Bornean Sun Bear Conservation (opened to the public in 2014) – dedicated to supporting the population in integrating back with their species with the ultimate aim of rehabilitation where they can. Where they are unable to, the sun bears remain in one of 3 open enclosures to live as wild a life as possible.
  3. Reforestation program along the Kinabatangan River to increase the Corridor of Life allowing the animals to be as free roaming as possible with enough of a varied diet.

It is the last arm that we are currently involved in. Having worked here before, we can assure the program remains ethical, educational and truly value add in the work that is undertaken.

When we were here last the first arm of the volunteering was undertaken in Zoo Negara. However, due to the zoo’s and Ape Malaysia’s goals becoming misaligned they are currently no longer offering volunteering placements here and have chosen to work with the Malaka Zoo instead (although there is the potential to renew the working relationship to support the welfare of their animals). The Malaka Zoo had in fact approached Ape Malaysia to help them bring in an enrichment program and are currently inviting animal behavior and zoo experts to help them with their vision towards the comfort and upkeep of their animals.

One further thing of note regarding the marketing by third party agents. It is marketed to entice the volunteers with promises of specific animal sightings ( Yes we are supporting the wildlife habitat for orangutans and pygmy elephants… yes we may see river sightings… however –no– it is not a guarantee that one will see an animal. And some volunteers have come here with the wrong idea of the actual hard work involved in tree maintenance and planting. As a matter of fact, had we not worked here before, we would never have looked at the project the title of Great Orangutan and Pygmy Project.

We’ll post articles and shorts on specific areas of work and also of local sanctuaries such as Sepilok, the Sun Bears and Proboscis Monkeys. Stay tuned, follow our Live FB updates

About the Corridor of Life

The Kinabatangan River is the longest river in Sabah, Malaysia at 560 km. The river runs from the Heart of Borneo through tropical rainforests, floodplain forests and mangroves before merging into the Sulu-Sulawesi Sea. Forming the epicenter of an amazing biodiversity, this area is also earmarked for agriculture and development. The Corridor of Life, as it is now known, sits squarely in the Lower Kinabatangan Region, requires concerted long term effort to ensure the wildlife has protected habitat to continue surviving the onslaught of man and development. The Corridor of Life spans 26,000 hectares of gazetted wildlife sanctuaries. The area includes areas that have been severely damaged by logging and plantations and requires the urgent need for replanting to restore the habitat of over 250 birds, 50 mammals, 20 reptile species, 1060 plant species, countless insects and many, many others that have yet to be identified. The largest mammal in the area is the pygmy elephant while the largest of the 10 primate species found here is the orang-utan.

Read more: Kinabatangan – Corridor of Life (WWF Malaysia).

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