Restoring orang-utan habitat in Borneo | WWF

Restoring orang-utan habitat in Borneo

Geographical location:

Asia/Pacific > Southeast Asia > Malaysia

Early morning mist on river Kinabatangan, Sabah, Malaysia.
© WWF-Canon / Alain COMPOST


The Malaysian state of Sabah in northeast Borneo is home to several thousand orang-utans. Parts of the orang-utan population here live in unprotected areas and in forests fragmented by development. These areas have been subject to logging and forest conversion to palm oil plantations. In some areas of Borneo, orang-utans are still hunted for food.

WWF is working at several sites along the lower Kinabatangan River to improve orang-utan habitat by restoring forest habitat through tree-planting efforts and monitoring the status of populations under threat.


Sabah, the second largest state in Malaysia, is located on the north east of Borneo and is now thought to contain about 11,000 orangutans. The state is therefore one of the most important areas for conservation of the species.

The lower Kinabatangan River has very high densities of orangutans living in degraded forest. Although many of the biggest trees have disappeared, the variety of the remaining trees combined with the dietary flexibility of orangutans - they eat many types of fruits, flowers, leaves, bark, insects and small animals - allows them to survive well at this site. Recent work supported partly by WWF has shown that the Upper Segama River, and areas north-west of Danum Valley, hold particularly important populations of orangutans.


1) Conservation activities. At several sites along the lower Kinabatangan River, WWF is striving to improve the orangutan habitat. This is achieved by:

a) Expanding the existing nursery to accommodate the planting of more seedlings.

b) Planting out the seedlings, and cleaning and weeding so that the young trees can become well established.

c) Encouraging others to undertake tree planting efforts.

2) Communication activities.

a) Media launch and mock cheque presentation to mark the launch of the partnership between Boh Plantations (the donor) and WWF Malaysia.

b) On pack promotion. Three selected Boh products (one product per year) will carry the orangutan conservation message, with the Panda logo present on these agreed products. Boh will communicate three conservation messages on these products during the course of this partnership. Each conservation message should be featured consistently for a year to create the most amount of awareness.

c) Insertion of WWF information mailer into the packaging of Boh products. This will help WWF Malaysia build its database of prospective donors and create awareness on nature conservation. Boh will give away some premiums to encourage customers to return these forms.

d) Boh will sponsor a WWF orangutan light rail transit (LRT) train in support of WWF Malaysia's orangutan conservation awareness programme. The focus of this planned awareness activity is to raise public awareness on how individuals can play their part in helping protect this unique and endangered species.


Because of the variety of WWF’s work, several projects are relevant to the conservation of orangutan habitat, and it is vital that these various activities provide mutual support.

WWF is now setting up a small nursery at the village of Bilit, located near to the mid-point of the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary. This will be the nucleus for efforts to improve the habitat quality of this part of the sanctuary, and strengthen the link between the sanctuary and Gomantong Forest Reserve. This will be achieved by planting a range of different trees, including trees that are known sources of food for orangutans. WWF will also carry out the cutting of a species of climbing bamboo that prevents tree growth.

A booklet is planned on tree-planting methods. This will include information about the suitability of the various species, their seeds, how to grow them, and how to plant and care for them.

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