Honorary Wildlife Wardens: Kinabatangan Orangutan Conservation Programme
The Kinabatangan Orangutan Conservation Programme (KOCP) was set up in 1998 by the French NGO HUTAN in collaboration with the Sabah Wildlife Department. The goal of the programme is to achieve long-term viability of orangutan populations in Sabah. The programme's objective is to restore harmonious relationships between people and the orangutan, which in turn will support local socio-economic development compatible with habitat and wildlife conservation.
Habitat loss, fragmentation and degradation are the major threats to orangutan survival. In Sabah, Malaysia, 35% of orangutan habitat has been lost since the early 1980’s. In 2005, a stretch of forest covering about 26,000ha and lying along the Kinabatangan River was officially gazetted as the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary. However, this forested corridor is bordered by growing human activities, both by local communities and extensive oil palm plantations. Former habitat reduction and fragmentation have resulted in many environmental issues, such as an increased rate of human-wildlife conflicts, pollution, depletion of timber and wildlife resources and lack of space to develop new economical activities. It is feared that the always-increasing human pressure on the last remaining natural resources of this floodplain might jeopardize the viability of these habitats.
The Honorary Wildlife Warden team conduct a wide range of activities such as guarding the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary from illegal activities, monitoring the status of the local natural resources and identifying relevant management measures, raising public awareness on conservation issues and channel community concerns into positive actions to protect both the community livelihood and the Wildlife Sanctuary. Wardens, being villagers themselves are in the best possible position to understand local issues and to engage local stakeholders in dialogues and mechanisms for a better management of the local natural resources found in the area. This positive and pro-active alliance between a state agency and community members results in an efficient adaptive and collaborative strategy aiming at securing the long-term management of the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary and of other forest reserves that are key wildlife habitats throughout the State.
Results over the past few years have shown a drastic decline of illegal activities in the areas that are intensively patrolled by the KOCP wardens, reinforcing the importance of these on the ground patrol units