Borneo Orangutans Get To See “Born To Be Wild 3D”

Have you heard about the documentary Born To Be Wild? It tells the stories of extraordinary people — primatologist Birute Mary Galdikas and elephant authority Daphne Sheldrick — in rescuing and rehabilitating orphaned Borneo orangutans and African bush elephants, respectively.

Both animals often end up on the receiving ends of human-animal conflicts, with orangutan hunted as pets and killed as pests and the African elephants, for their tusks.

The movie, many of the scenes were shot in Indonesian Borneo, has now been completed and premiered to worldwide audience and the response, according to reports, has been tremendous. In Indonesia, the movie, shot in 3D format, counts President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono as among the audience.

The producer of Born To Be Wild, Drew Fellman, is now planning to screen the movie to the orangutans in the rainforest where the film was shot, according to a report by AP. “They came to be like members of the crew,” Fellman said.

Corruption Main Challenge In Overcoming Wildlife Crimes

Here’s a recent report on why overcoming wildlife crimes is an uphill task:

Poaching and smuggling of exotic wildlife here continues unabated as these wildlife crimes are aided by a “third force”.

That “force”, which goes by the unsavoury name of corruption, is considered the main challenge in combating such crimes.

Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Masidi Manjun said, although the situation was not alarming in the state, there have been instances where, out of the blues, Borneo wildlife was recorded or photographed in other parts of the world, suggesting foul play at work.

“Suddenly, we see pictures on ‘Youtube’ or somewhere online, of some Borneo animals sitting comfortably in other parts of the world, for example wild cats.

“As far as we are concerned, it is impossible that wild cats are smuggled out (of the state) without our knowledge…it means some people have been opening doors for these people (smugglers).

“I can only say it must have cost the fellow for that door to be opened, because you don’t open doors for no reason and I can only see corruption as the main reason,” he told reporters after opening the Heart of Borneo (HoB) Wildlife Trade Regulation and Species Identification Course on Tuesday.

To address wildlife crimes, Masidi said the government had come up with three steps, namely: to ensure no poaching or illegal hunting was carried out, step up enforcement skills to detect new means of smuggling, and to keep tabs on the use of courier services to transport animals.

[Source: Bernama, June 23]

WWF Captures Images of Near Extinct Sumatran Rhino

WWF-Malaysia’s Borneo Species Programme team has captured images of Sumatran rhino, one of the world’s most endangered species.

Sumatran Rhino

The team said the pictures strengthen “the argument to sustainably manage the forests” in the Hearts of Borneo, where the pictures were taken.

“The future of rhinos in Borneo now depends on how seriously the forest reserves can be managed sustainably with effective monitoring carried out and supported by appropriate activities,” said Raymond Alfred, the senior manager of the programme.

Experts estimated that there are only about 30 rhinos left in the wild in Borneo, mostly in Sabah.

rhinoAlfred said that the rhinos’ key habitat in this forest may still or could be connected; especially between the Tabin Wildlife Reserve and Lower Kinabatangan River region.

“However, further conversion of the natural forests, especially those located adjacent to swamp-mangrove forests, into mono-plantation (particularly oil palm) would further eliminate the important corridor connecting these two key rhino areas,” he added.

New Orangutan Colony Found In Borneo

Conservationists have found a previously unknown orangutan colony in a largely unexplored area in Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of Borneo.

Erik Meijaard, a senior ecologist for The Nature Conservancy in Indonesia and the Kalimantan coordinator for the USAID-funded Orangutan Conservation Services Program, described the finding as “a welcome news on a generally gloomy conservation agenda.”

Wild Orang Utan Grabs Rope, Swims To Safety With Baby on Back

orang-utan-grabbing-ropeA wild female orang utan, who was stranded on a tree in the recent floods in Sabah on Borneo Island, grabbed hold of a rope thrown at her and swam to safety with a baby clinging onto her back.

WWF Malaysia captured the remarkable process in a series of picture showing the orang utan swimming to safety while making sure the baby’s head remained above water.

WWF said in a statement that the orang utan mother and her baby had been hanging on to a laran tree for a week due to flood in the area. A unit from the Sabah Wildlife Department was rushed to the site and a rope bridge was immediately set up about four metres from the shore.

Lifeline to a safer place

On seeing this, the orang utan climbed down the tree, grabbed hold of the rope and swam towards the river bank.

orang-utan-swimmingBoth the mother and the baby were fed for 30 minutes before they made their way into the jungle.

“Previous documentation had stated orang-utans to be non-swimmers, supposedly due to their fear of water. However, this new discovery shows that orang-utans are actually able to swim in desperate situations, with the help of a tool,” WWF said.

Wild orang-utans spend 90 per cent of their time on treetops, and very rarely descend to the ground, unless disaster strikes.

Intelligent animal

I always wonder whether orang utans are capable of thinking out complex thoughts. I guess they are.

I don’t think there are many species of wildlife out there which are capable of grasping the concept of “being thrown a lifeline” as convincing as this orang utan mother does.

This incident also demonstrates the orang utan’s ability to differentiate between hostile human beings and the friendly ones, thus it readily accepted help from the wildlife staff.

I doubt she would do the same if the wildlife staff were a group of hunters.

Massive Cicada, Half the Size of Adult Palm, Found in Borneo

Is this real or just an optical illusion? I mean, tiny things, when photographed up close, can look like monsters as perspective gets twisted and barrel gets distorted.

Having said that, I won’t be surprise if the insect is real. We haven’t yet known fully what Borneo jungle has in the woods.

Take a look at the massive cicada, said to be found in Sabah, the Malaysian state on Borneo island.

Rhino Species Thought To Be Extinct, Captured On Tape In Borneo

What Do Polar Bear, Borneo Pygmy Elephant, Cross River Gorilla Have In Common?

They are all iconic animals which are under severe threat of extinction due to poaching, loss of habitat and climate change.

World Wildlife Fund on Tuesday released its annual list of some of the most threatened species around the world, saying that the long-term survival of many iconic animals is increasingly in doubt due to a host of threats.

WWF’s list of “9 to Watch in 2009″ includes such well-known and beloved species as polar bears, tigers, gorillas, pandas, elephants, whales and rhinos, as well as the lesser-known black-footed ferret and vaquita.

The Borneo Pygmy elephants, which are found only in Sabah, is also on the list.

WWF scientists say these, and many other species, are at greater risk than ever before because of poaching, habitat loss and climate change-related threats.

“If we don’t get serious about saving these spectacular species, it’s quite likely that many won’t be around in the years to come,” said Tom Dillon, WWF’s senior vice president for Field Programs.

“The potential loss of some familiar and beloved wildlife should be a wake-up call that immediate action must be taken if we want to live in a world with wild elephants, polar bears, and tigers. At the dawn of the new year, our global resolution for 2009 should be to save these amazing species before it’s too late.”

WWF’s “9 to Watch in 2009” list:

1. Javan Rhinoceros [Population: Less than 60. Location: Indonesia and Vietnam]

This is probably the rarest large mammal species in the world and is critically endangered. Poaching and pressure from a growing human population pose greatest risk to the two protected areas where they live. WWF teams actively monitor these rhinos and protect them from poachers.

2. Vaquita [Population: 150. Location: Upper Gulf of California, Mexico]

The world’s smallest and most endangered cetacean, this tiny porpoise is often killed in gillnets and could soon be extinct. WWF is working with local fishermen, local and international non-profits, and private sector and government officials on an unprecedented effort to save the vaquita. This includes establishing a vaquita refuge, buying out gillnet fisheries and developing vaquita-friendly fishing gear and other economic alternatives for the fishermen and their families.

3. Cross River Gorilla [Population: 300. Location: Nigeria and Cameroon]

The few remaining forest patches of southeastern Nigeria and western Cameroon are home to the recently discovered Cross River gorilla, a subspecies of the western gorilla. But as its forests are opened up by timber companies, hunters move in. Conservation measures are urgently needed for this beleaguered animal, which is probably the world’s rarest great ape. In Nigeria, the Nigerian Conservation Foundation, a WWF Affiliate, is working with communities in the Cross River National Park to help save the Cross River gorilla.

4. Sumatran Tiger [Population: 400-500. Location: Sumatra, Indonesia]

Accelerating deforestation and rampant poaching could push the Sumatran tiger to the same fate as its now-extinct Javan and Balinese relatives in other parts of Indonesia. Tigers are poached for their body parts, which are used in traditional Chinese medicine, while skins are also highly prized. WWF is researching the Sumatran tiger population with camera traps, supports anti-poaching patrols and works to reduce human-tiger conflict as the cats’ habitat shrinks. Through the efforts of WWF and its partners, the Indonesian government in 2008 doubled the size of Tesso Nilo National Park, a critical tiger habitat.

5. North Pacific Right Whale [Population: Unknown, but less than 500. Location: Northern Pacific, U.S., Russia and Japan]

The North Pacific right whale is one of the world’s rarest cetaceans, almost hunted to extinction until the 1960s. It is rarely sighted and has a poor prognosis for survival due to collisions with ships, entanglement in fishing nets and the prospect of offshore oil and gas development in Alaska’s Bristol Bay. WWF is working to improve shipping safety to avoid collisions and trying to prevent oil and gas development in Bristol Bay, the whale’s primary summer feeding ground.

6. Black-Footed Ferret [Population: 500 breeding adults. Location: Northern Great Plains, U.S. and Canada]

Found only in the Great Plains, it is one of the most endangered mammals in North America because its primary prey, the prairie dog, has been nearly exterminated by ranchers who consider it a nuisance. Few species have edged so close to extinction as the black-footed ferret and recovered, but through captive breeding and reintroduction, there are signs the species is slowly recovering. WWF has been working to save the black-footed ferret and the prairie dog population upon which the ferrets depend.

7. Borneo Pygmy Elephant [Population: Perhaps fewer than 1,000. Location: Borneo, Malaysia]

These smallest of all elephants must compete with logging and agriculture for space in the lowland forests of Borneo. WWF is working to ensure protection of the “Heart of Borneo” and tracks the elephants through the use of satellite collars to learn more about these little-understood elephants.

8. Giant Panda [Population: 1,600. Location: China]

An international symbol of conservation since WWF’s founding in 1961, the giant panda faces an uncertain future. Its forest habitat in the mountainous areas of southwest China has become fragmented, creating small and isolated populations. WWF has been active in giant panda conservation for nearly three decades, conducting field studies, working to protect habitats and, most recently, by providing assistance to the Chinese government in establishing a program to protect the panda and its habitat through the creation of reserves.

9. Polar Bear [Population: 20,000-25,000. Location: Arctic]

The greatest risk to their survival today is climate change. Designated a threatened species by the U.S., if warming trends in the Arctic continue at the current pace, polar bears will be vulnerable to extinction within the next century. WWF is supporting field research to understand how climate change will affect polar bears and to develop adaptation strategies. WWF also works to protect critical polar bear habitat by working with government and industry to reduce threats from shipping and oil and gas development in the region.

New deal to rescue Borneo orang utans in Malaysia

By SEAN YOONG, Associated Press [Picture source: LEAP]

KUALA LUMPUR — Conservationists said Tuesday they were planning a big push to protect Borneo’s orangutans, pygmy elephants and other endangered wildlife by purchasing land from palm oil producers to create a forest sanctuary.

The deal is meant to help stave off the demise of orangutans, whose numbers have dwindled amid illegal logging and the rapid spread of palm oil plantations in Malaysia and Indonesia, the only two countries where orangutans are found in the wild.

The Malaysian-based LEAP Conservancy group is in talks to buy 222 acres of tropical jungle land in Malaysia’s Sabah state on Borneo island from palm oil operators, said Cynthia Ong, LEAP’s executive director.

The territory is needed to link two sections of a wildlife reserve that is home to an estimated 600 orangutans, 150 Borneo pygmy elephants and a vast array of other animals including proboscis monkeys, hornbills and river otters.

The funds are being raised through public and private donations, Ong said. The British-based World Land Trust, which is working with LEAP on the initiative, said on its Web site that 343,000 pounds ($533,000) was needed to acquire the land.

This was the first time that nongovernment activists were trying to acquire land in Malaysian Borneo for environmental protection with the help of government officials, Ong said.

It was not immediately clear when the purchase might be finalized, but Ong said the land has not been cleared for plantations so far because of a lack of access roads.

“There is a desperate need for this purchase,” Ong told The Associated Press. “We have no other avenue to avoid a potential conflict between humans and wildlife.”

Environmental groups estimate the number of orangutans in Malaysia and Indonesia has fallen by half in the past 20 years to less than 60,000, largely due to human encroachment on forests. Researchers say more than 5,000 of the primates have been lost every year since 2004.

Borneo is also home to some 1,000 pygmy elephants, which are genetically distinct from other subspecies of Asian pachyderms because they have babyish faces, large ears and longer tails. They are also more rotund and less aggressive.

Motion-Triggered Camera Captures Second Image Of Elusive Borneo Rhino

A motion-triggered camera mounted deep in the Heart of Borneo forests of Sabah, the Malaysian state on Borneo island, has captured the image of a wild Borneo rhino, the only second such image captured in as many years.

WWF-Malaysia says  the rhino is different to the one previously photographed based on the body structure and size.

This one is believed to be a female.

There are only about 25 to 50 Borneo rhinos are thought to exist in Borneo, WWF says. It is a subspecies of the critically endangered Sumatran rhino.

The photo here is taken by Andrew Hearn and Joanna Ross of the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit in the UK.