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Kinabatangan Conservation Program

Supporting the conservation of Borneo’s orang-utans and rainforests.

Zoos Victoria works with Hutan to support the Kinabatangan Conservation Program in Sabah, northern Borneo. Hutan has developed an integrated approach that combines scientific research and habitat protection with capacity building, awareness campaigns, sustainable livelihood projects and community outreach and development programs.

The program uses the Bornean Orang-utan, Pongo pygmaeus, as a flagship for a wide range of integrated biodiversity conservation projects along the Kinabatangan River in eastern Sabah. Although the program focuses on the 41,000ha of the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, the greater program operates across approximately 200,000 hectares, including the Ulu Segama Malua ecosystem.

The conservation issue

Widespread land clearing in eastern Sabah has resulted in the loss and fragmentation of forests. Remnant forest patches are still being destroyed for agriculture, with oil palm being a major driver of habitat loss. To protect the remaining forest, the isolated patches need to be reconnected with a greater understanding of species richness in the area also required.

Key program objectives

  • Help to conserve orang-utans through research and management
  • Increase knowledge and conservation of Sabah’s biodiversity through training, research and partnerships
  • Reduce human-wildlife conflict
  • Enhance community engagement through training, employment, sustainable livelihoods and ecotourism.

Zoos Victoria’s role

Zoos Victoria is committed to improving the management and conservation of Sabah’s biodiversity. In order to fulfil this commitment, we have provided funding to support outcomes in three distinct areas:

Scientific knowledge of orang-utans

Regular monitoring of Bornean Orang-utans (every six weeks) to learn more about this species’ ecology and conservation status.

Community engagement

Delivery of projects that promote the conservation of orang-utans and their habitat and support community initiatives that benefit people and wildlife. These include community nurseries for native tree species eaten by orang-utans (including wages for local management) and reforestation plots along the river.

Human resource capacity

Increasing community awareness of environmental issues by funding the design and production of brochures and videos for local communities.

Program outcomes

The Kinabatangan Orang-utan Conservation Project was established in 1998 to develop and implement innovative solutions to conserve orang-utans in Sabah. Outcomes of the project so far are:

  • The most detailed study of wild orang-utans to date, enabling assessment of their capacity to live in selectively logged forest
  • Forest management protocols established for commercial timber production throughout Sabah
  • Community-based wildlife conflict mitigation squads established, leading to a reduction in human-wildlife conflict
  • Sustainable alternative livelihood projects established around the propagation and sale of native tree seedlings, and sustainable fish farming
  • Field research station established, providing opportunities for conservation and research by local and international researchers and volunteers
  • A successful ecotourism program, generating income for local communities.

As of June 2011, Zoos Victoria’s support has focused on the development and implementation of a wildlife monitoring program. This work seeks to understand the relationships between habitat condition and biodiversity, and inform decisions about future management of the site. 

Program partners