Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Sabah's orang-utan conservation effort receives shot-in-the-arm

Kota Kinabalu: The State's orang-utan conservation effort received a shot-in-the-arm with the signing of a contract agreement between WWF-Malaysia and AEON Co. (M) Berhad here Monday.

The five-year agreement is to provide for reforestation and rehabilitation of the orang-utan's natural habitat in North Ulu Segama, Lahad Datu.

The forest in this area was severely degraded due to several cycles of logging operations in the past and the frequent occurrence of forest fire, but miraculously the orang-utan which inhabit the area survived despite the ordeal they have had to endure.

The reforestation and rehabilitation effort will involve planting saplings of high trees, middle high trees, low trees and shrubs in approximately 80 hectares of the area over the next five years, with a RM500,000 investment by AEON.

The fast growing tree species to be planted will help restore the connectivity of the forest canopy so that the orang-utan will be free to roam in search of food in all the areas within the area and places to build their nests. The wild fruit trees will be source of food for the orang-utan.

Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun witnessed the contract agreement signing and exchanging of documents between AEON Managing Director Nagahisa Oyama and WWF-Malaysia CEO Datuk Dr Dionysius Sharma in a ceremony held at Le Meridien Kota Kinabalu here.

Thanking AEON for choosing Sabah as a place for it to carry out its corporate social responsibility, Masidi said the project is a recognition to WWF-Malaysia's good work in Sabah apart from being a kind of vote of confidence in the State Government's effort through the Forestry Department to rehabilitate and conserve the forest.

"It is my sincere hope that there will be more corporate organisations like AEON to come over to Sabah and assist us in our effort to not only save the orang-utan but also other species which are in danger of extinction like the rhinoceros and sun bear," he said.

He said the reason is simple, that is, because the forest is being fragmented by the opening up of land that affected their reproduction process, which in turn, contributed to the decline of the animal populations.

"Such an assistance from various quarters there is now light at the end of the tunnelÉin Sabah we are doing the right thing, at the right track, to help these animals to continue surviving for the future generations to appreciate," he said.

For AEON, this is not its first because it has actually been involved in tree-planting activities since 1991 at the JUSCO Malacca branch in Ayer Keroh.

It was called "AEON Hometown Forest Programme" where 50,000 saplings were planted.

AEON Co. Ltd in Japan is the pioneer of AEON Environment Foundation that has been contributing towards greening areas in Sudan and several sites surrounding the Great Wall of China.

"It has always been the company's aspiration to preserve the environment and the orang-utan's habitat in North Ulu SegamaÉwe see the growing importance of conservation measures to protect and nurture a green environment," said Oyama. The project will help foster closer ties between AEON and the local residents, not only as a business venture but also in the hope of educating the locals on the importance of preserving the environment, he said.

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