Orangutan with infant in tree © WWF-MALAYSIA / EDWIN MATULIN

Orangutan with infant in tree © WWF-MALAYSIA / EDWIN MATULIN

An old forest friend makes a welcome return

28 Apr 2022

Keywords
  • orangutans
  • threatened species

Compiled by Donna Simon and William Joseph from WWF-Malaysia’s orangutan team.

 

We had a lovely surprise recently when we came across our dear old orangutan friend Momo and her gorgeous infant.
Over the years, Momo has been a regular visitor to Bukit Piton Forest Reserve, and we’re always thrilled to see her. We first recorded her back in 2008, when she was a young adolescent who’d just left her mother and was finding her way in the forest. Now Momo is a mother herself, and we watched entranced as she moved through the trees with her little infant clinging to her back.

 

Orangutan Momo with infant in tree © WWF-MALAYSIA / ZURAIMI RAHMAN

 

Orangutan infant with mother in tree © WWF-MALAYSIA / ZURAIMI RAHMAN

 

Playing Peek-A-Boo

We stayed and observed Momo for a while as she fed on some fruit, seeming totally at ease with our presence. Understandably, her infant seemed quite nervous and kept gazing at us over Momo’s shoulder, the pale pink circles around its eyes still clearly visible. Orangutan infants are born with pale skin around their eyes and mouths, which slowly darkens as they mature.

It will be interesting to see whether Momo stays in the reserve and makes the most of the lush forest, full of tasty fruit trees that orangutans and other wildlife love. Meanwhile, we’ve had another rare forest finding – this time a critically endangered Bornean banteng.

The banteng is a species of cattle – and one of Borneo’s most endangered mammals. It hasn’t been seen in the reserve since the late 1980s, so you can imagine how excited we were to discover camera trap images of one in a restored area of forest, suggesting the species might be making a comeback.

 

Banteng in forest © SLP / WWF-MALAYSIA

Shared Threats

Like orangutans, the decline in wild banteng numbers is mainly due to habitat loss caused by trees being cleared for oil palm and rubber plantations. But they are also hunted for bushmeat and their horns, which are used as trophies.

The fact that the banteng was photographed in a restored area of the reserve is another positive sign that conservation measures are working. With our partners, we’re carrying out further banteng monitoring across the state of Sabah to learn more about their numbers and distribution. We’re also working with the government to tackle the threat of poaching and give banteng more protection, allowing these still vulnerable animals a better chance of recovery.


Making Connections

We’re beginning a crucial new project to help establish an important wildlife corridor.
Bagahak ecological corridor in Sabah lies around 100km to the east of Bukit Piton Forest Reserve, between Tabin Wildlife Reserve and Silabukan Forest Reserve. Tabin and Silabukan are homes to anything from 50 to 1,000 orangutans at any one time. As orangutans are often on the move it's vital that the populations mix to ensure a healthy spread of genes.

Currently, the two forest reserves are separated by oil palm plantations. WWF-Malaysia is working with one of Sabah’s largest palm oil producers to create a wildlife corridor by planting over 20,000 trees and other vegetation alongside rivers, enabling orangutans, elephants and other wildlife to move more freely.

 

A group of elephants roams through the forest © WWF-MALAYSIA / WILLIAM JOSEPH


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