With the loss of 80 percent of their former pristine habitat, the Bornean Orangutans are endangered. In Sabah, Malaysia, many orangutans still live outside of their primary forests, which have been selectively logged. Rather than regard these animals as doomed, Pittsburgh Zoo Research Fellow Dr. Isabelle Lackman-Ancrenaz and her husband, Dr. Marc Ancrenaz, together with the Sabah Wildlife Prevention Department (SWD), decided to conduct the first ever study on how orangutans cope with changes in their habitat. With this aim, the Kinabatangan Orangutan Conservation Project (KOCP) was established.
Since its inception, the KOCP project has grown from a team of five villagers to 42 skilled local research assistants. The scope of the project has increased to include:
HONORARY WILDLIFE WARDENS
The Sabah Wildlife Department has appointed volunteer members of the local community as Honorary Wildlife Wardens. The wardens have the power to enforce local wildlife laws.
MONITORING FOREST ELEPHANTS AND EXPLORING WAYS TO KEEP THESE ANIMALS FROM RAIDING CROPS
The forest elephants of Sabah have been shown to be genetically distinct from other Asian elephant species. Like all elephants, they have the bad habit of raiding people's crops, which can cause great hardship. KOCP is conducting basic research on these animals and working on ways to prevent crop-raiding.
To simultaneously promote local conservation and the local economy, KOCP partners with Red Ape Encounters to promote habitat and wildlife friendly travel.
The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, together with the Columbus Zoo & Aquarium, and the Cleveland Zoo, won the 2006 Association of Zoos and Aquariums' International Conservation Award for its long-term support of KOCP.
(Photos courtesy of Jamil Symior of KOCP)