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Bridging the gap

06 May 2010

Photograph taken by Ajiran OsmanPhotograph taken by Ajiran Osman

A collaborative project involving researchers from the University’s Danau Girang Field Centre in Malaysia is offering new conservation hope to isolated orang-utans in Borneo.

A photographer has recently captured proof that a bridge project to reconnect isolated orang-utan populations is a success.

In recent years, due to logging and deforestation, orang-utans on the Kinabatangan River have been split into fragmented populations. The animals previously crossed small rivers using the canopies of old growth forests but, since the trees have been logged, artificial structures were needed.

Six rope bridges were built as part of a project run by the Kinabatangan Orang-utan Conservation Project (KOCP) and the Sabah Wildlife Department.

Photograph taken by Ajiran OsmanPhotograph taken by Ajiran Osman

Local eyewitnesses have reported seeing orang-utans using the rope bridges but the photographs taken by Ajiran Osman, showing a young male crossing over a small tributary of Kinabatangan, are the first hard evidence that the bridges are making a difference.

Dr Benoît Goossens, School of Biosciences and Director of the Danau Girang Field Centre, said: "Genetic studies have been carried out by the University, Danau Girang, KOCP and the Sabah Wildlife Department. The data from these shows that the populations of orang-utans in the Lower Kinabatangan river areas are estimated to go extinct in our lifetime if they are not reconnected through schemes like the rope bridges.

"Similar bridges will be set up at tributaries in the vicinity of the field centre. It will be supported by the Borneo Conservation Trust of Japan and monitored by our staff and students."

Danau Girang Field Centre is a collaborative research and training facility managed by Cardiff University and Sabah Wildlife Department.

It is situated in the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary in Sabah, Malaysia and is surrounded by a mixture of lowland dipterocarp forest types, ranging from primary forest to disturbed secondary forest, in a matrix landscape with significant human impact including villages, small scale agriculture and oil palm plantations.

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