Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Why the Team Came to Sukau

Dr. Isabelle Lackman, a world renowned French primatologist and Director of Kinabatangan Orangutan Conservation Project (KOCP), visited Cheyenne Mountain Zoo and other zoos in the United States last October. She presented to CMZ staff about her work in Sabah, Malaysia. We were very interested in the projects and so impressed that Isabelle does not have a doom and gloom attitude about orangutan conservation. We asked her what we could do in the U.S. to help wild orangutans, and one of the things she said was that we should really come visit Sukau. Amazingly we were able to make this happen thanks to CMZ’s Q4C (Quarters for Conservation) program!

Kinabatangan Orangutan Conservation Project (KOCP):
At the headquarters, Isabelle presented to our whole group about the many ways KOCP has improved Sukau and the surrounding forest. Isabelle and Marc Ancrenaz started working in Sukau in 1998. Here are just a few highlights of their work:

• Educating and influencing local people about the value of the rainforest, and the Kinabatangan River biodiversity. When Isabelle and Marc first arrived in Sukau the people were almost at war against animals, the rainforest, etc. Now they truly do seem to value it.

• Helping the local people find ways to make a living without harming the rainforest or rivers.

• Giving guidance, as needed, as the local people established Red Ape Encounters, an ecotourism company.

• Setting up a research station to study orangutans and their behavior. Due to their research, we now know that orangutans can thrive in secondary (recovered/replanted) forests.

• Helping local people find ways to live in harmony with the local Borneo elephant herds. They have established an elephant conservation unit that monitors elephant herd movement, helps put up electric fences as needed and prevents conflicts between people and elephants.

•Buying up land and building corridors and firehose bridges with organizations such as BCT, Bornean Conservation Trust.

•Creating a reforestation team – they hired a team of four local women to plant and care for seedlings in the reforestation areas. These areas need to be monitored, protected (from elephants) and maintained for several years after planting.

•Rainforest seedling nurseries – training many families in the community how to sustainably harvest and grow some key rainforest tree species; the forestry department pays for the seedlings, about fifty cents per tree, and will order thousands at a time as the need arises. Twelve families have set up nurseries and are supported by this sustainable income.

We were amazed at the effectiveness of these projects in changing the attitudes of the local people.

Note: KOCP is funded by Hutan, an NGO based in France. Funds come largely from donors, including some zoos in the U.S.

Our group with Dr. Isabelle and the Reforestation Team

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