Over RM2mil has been allocated for the population survey of elephants and orangutans in Sabah.
This funding by the Malaysian Palm Oil Green Conservation Foundation (MPOGCF), is to help various non-government organizations and government agencies such as the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) get the latest population count of the two animals.
For the Bornean Elephant Population Survey that is set to run for three years from 2023 to 2026, more than RM1.16ml has been allocated while over RM1.23mil is for the Bornean Orangutan Population survey which will take place for two years until 2025.
MPOGCF acting general manager Hairulazim Mahmud said there is a need to study human-wildlife conflict for both species and devise a new paradigm for the awareness program that has been carried out by the SWD together with other stakeholders.
He said this project places emphasis on helping to build the capacity of local experts by providing training to young Malaysian scientists in the field of ecological conservation and wildlife through the funding of programs at local universities.
"We hope these researches can assist stakeholders especially SWD in obtaining the latest population information of both species for the purpose of creating an Action Plan," he said during the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding at University Malaysia Sabah (UMS) on Wednesday (Sept 6).
This Action Plan served to provide direction and guidance on strategies, priorities and conservation actions for the endangered species at the state level, said Hairulazim.
In addition, the outcome from this project can provide crucial information with issues related to human-wildlife conflicts that often occur in palm oil plantation areas in Sabah, he said.
He said despite unfair treatment and negative perceptions, Malaysian palm oil was still in high demand and the main choice of traditional market countries such as India, China, Turkiye, the Middle East nations and Europe, especially the Netherlands.
"MPOGCF is planning to make the population surveys an official government document to debunk misconceptions and negative perceptions and ensure the continuity of the Malaysian palm oil industry in the global market," Hairulazim said.
The Bornean Elephant Population Survey is led by Dr Nurzhafarina Othman from UMS, with the support from Prof Dr Henry Bernard, Dr Marc Acrenaz and SWD director Augustine Tuuga.
The Bornean Orangutan Population Survey is led by Dr Marc Acrenaz with the help from Dr Felicity Oram and Tuuga.
In his speech, Tuuga hopes both projects would help in the conservation of both iconic species in Sabah.
He said the conservation and rehabilitation of these two species would act as an umbrella to the conservation works of other wildlife species in Sabah.
During the program, a book entitled ‘A Ten-Year Journey Saving Sabah’s Wildlife Rescue Unit’, was also launched.