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Climate change major threat to Malaysia's orangutans

Published on 19 September 2014 Malaysia

KOTA KINABALU, Sept 14 (Bernama) -- The Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) is concerned over the long-term survival of Malaysia's orangutan if safeguards are not put into place to prevent future issues arising from climate change.

"As climate change causes an increase in temperatures, plants orangutans eat will change and decline, leaving them no option but to move further up in higher areas.

"However this will be very difficult and mostly impossible in the future due to the current state of their forest which is mostly isolated and fragmented,"warned SWD Director Datuk Dr Laurentius Ambu in a statement here today.

He said Sabah was now home to 80 percent of the Malaysian orangutan population, making SWD the custodians of a large majority of the country's orangutans.

He said Stephen Gregory of Adelaide University in Australia and a team of researchers including those based in Sabah, had developed a series of models to simulate what would be needed to sustain the orangutans.

Meanwhile, Gregory said he and the other researchers based their approach on their current knowledge of orangutans' population trends and distribution.

"We found that anticipated climate changes are going to cause reduction of the overall number of orangutans because of the impacts these changes will have on the forest," he shared.

Gregory spent three years working on the data provided by researchers in Sabah.

Laurentius said the results of the research were very important since they could show the land deciders where are the crucial areas for safeguarding orangutan conservation in the long term.

"Considering the impact of climate changes for orangutan conservation is key, I hope that the results produced by the researchers will inform land deciders accordingly," he said.

Source: Bernama | 14 September 2014