As part of the Kinabatangan Orang-utan Conservation Project construction of special “orang utan bridges”, using the same materials as in Chester Zoo, is scheduled this year in Malaysian Borneo. A team from Chester Zoo will support conservationists in this project. The “bridges” are designed to allow the primates to move around in an area that has become fragmented by deforestation.
The Chester Zoo team is involved because since 2007 the Zoo runs the Realm of the Red Ape Conservation Programme, a field programme which belongs to its conservation efforts. Therefore Marc Ancrenaz, co-founder of the Kinabatangan Orang utan Conservation Project, has a good relationship with the Zoo’s conservationists. When he visited Chester Zoo he noticed the tough polyester webbing material they use for the Orang utan enclosure. According to Nick Davis from Chester Zoo they are limited in the materials they can use for Orang utans, because they destroy everything. The material they use is “Orang-proof” and it does not rot. So, it has been decided that this material will be incorporated in the bridges that will be built in Borneo later this year.
In the Kinabatangan project the bridge building activities started about five years ago when a study showed that the local Orang utan population had been fragmented into 20 sub-populations isolated from each other by vast tracts of palm oil plantations, roads, villages, and rivers. By nature the Orang utans cannot swim, like the other great apes and humans but unlike many other primate species. So, with a disrupted tree canopy due to logging activities and impassible rivers (and roads), the Orang utans can’t move around. The bridges should de-fragment the Orang’s habitat and enable them to “spread their wings”.
(Source: BBC Nature, 22.08.2011)