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Orangutan numbers drop 30% in M'sian palm oil estate forests: WWF

Kuala Lumpur

ORANGUTAN populations in forest patches found in oil palm estates in the eastern Malaysian state of Sabah fell as much as 30 per cent in 15 years, but the overall population of the species in the area is stable, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) said.

WWF's findings show that orangutan numbers fell by 30 per cent and 15 per cent respectively in Kulamba and Tabin, in eastern Sabah, between 2002 and 2017.

Orangutans are found in the rainforests of Borneo, where Sabah lies, and on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. At least 650 orangutans were lost in protected areas of Sabah's eastern lowlands between 2002 and 2017, WWF said. The overall population of orangutans in Sabah remained steady at around 11,000.

"While the orangutan population has stabilised in large forest areas, their numbers declined in forest patches within oil palm landscapes of the eastern lowlands of Sabah," WWF said. "The monoculture nature of oil palm plantations means that they tend not to support species that are dependent on forest environment like the orangutan."

Malaysia relies on palm oil for billions of dollars in foreign exchange earnings and hundreds of thousands of jobs. It is the South-east Asian country's largest agricultural crop and export. Malaysia, the world's second-largest grower of palm oil after Indonesia, counts Sabah as its top producing state. REUTERS