KINABATANGAN ORANG UTAN
CONSERVATION PROJECT (KOCP)
Over the past ten years, the “Kinabatangan OrangUtan Conservation Project” (KOCP), a joint collaboration between the French NGO Hutan and the Sabah Wildlife Department, has embarked in the crucial challenge of securing the long-term survival of wild orang utans in the state of Sabah (Malaysian Borneo). To achieve this goal, they have developed an integrated approach that combines scientific research, protection and management of orang utan habitat, capacity building, awareness campaigns and community outreach and development projects. While Hutan has encountered many challenges, their tireless efforts have also brought about many successes: discoveries of the necessary ecology for the orang utan to live in exploited forests, population surveys and genetic assessments that provide support for the creation of new conservation areas, and the establishment of sound national orangutan conservation policies. Through innovation and persistence, KOCP has established a dynamic program that enables the protection of orang utans and their habitat while fostering local economic development, an approach that is proving to be one of best hopes for the species survival.
The far-reaching positive impacts of Hutan are exemplified in the Kinabatangan floodplain, where efforts are now underway to recreate a forest corridor for orang utans and other wildlife along the river. The local communities will be directly involved in the forest corridors’ management through an Honorary Wildlife Warden scheme and a community-based wildlife conflict mitigation squad. This pioneering initiative established by Hutan and the local communities, aims to provide new sustainable economic development opportunities, while maintaining a viable habitat for the orang utan. Hutan has also aided in the establishment of the first community-based ecotourism tour operator in Malaysia – Red Ape Encounters – which has led to an increasing number of local families involvement in a village homestay program where they are able to derive tangible economic and cultural benefits from the creation of the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary and the conservation of the orang utan.
The Project’s conservation center has also become a training platform for Malaysian and international conservation professionals, local communities, and an environmental education base for Sabah school children. Today, the Hutan team is composed of 40 highly skilled staff from the local community, working with immense dedication in close collaboration with an effective network of Sabahan partners including government agencies, NGOs and research institutions as well as private stakeholders.
LEAP helps fundraise for KOCP and facilitates institutional support for US grants. LEAP also supports KOCP’s goal to broaden their impact in the region by expanding their programmes and expertise to other sites.
Further informaion can be found in www.hutan.org.my.