Conservationists have spotted a secret population of 200 of the world's rarest orangutans in the forests of the Borneo island.
Pongo pygmaeus pygmaeus, a sub species of the Bornean orangutan, is listed as a threatened species with only 3,000 to 4,000 individuals living worldwide. Some 2,000 orangutans are known to live in Sarawak's Batang Ai National Park and Lanjak-Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary. Sarawak is one of the Malaysian states located on Borneo.
Conservationists carried out field and aerial surveys of the region covering 80 percent of the study area. They spotted a total of 995 orangutan nests including fresh nests, suggesting that the rare population of orangutans was using the area recently.
Interestingly, researchers found a hidden population of 200 of the Bornean orangutans near an area of about 140-square-kilometre in Ulu Sungai Menyang, close to Batang Ai National Park.
Local Iban communities had earlier known about the existence of the orangutan population, but no significant study has carried out in the region until now.
The new population of orangutans will receive protection from the Government of Sarawak, according to the World Conservation Society (WCS). "It is indeed wonderful to hear the Government's initiative towards protecting these orangutan and their habitat, especially when preliminary scientific data indicates the existence of a globally significant population," Melvin Gumal, Director of WCS's Malaysia Program, said in a statement.
The Sarawak government is planning to hold dialogue with local communities and key stakeholders to discuss options in taking better conservation efforts to protect the area.
Orangutans are the world's largest tree-climbing mammals. There are two species of Orangutans - Sumatran orangutan (Pongo abelii) and Bornean orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus). They are native to Asian countries like Indonesia and Malaysia.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has declared all the subspecies of Bornean orangutans as endangered. The Bornean orangutans face major threat due to habitat loss, illegal logging and pet trading.
According to IUCN, the Bornean orangutan is a fully protected species in both Malaysia and Indonesia legislation. While some of the orangutan population is found within the protected areas, majority of them live outside protected forests.