Over the last two years Fieldskills, an adventure travel operator in Borneo, has considerably developed its rigging arm through Ropeskills Rigging, a specialist rope access provider working mainly on film and TV projects but also supporting canopy science in the tropical forests. In the last few weeks however theyve been working on a highly unusual but rewarding rigging job, building bridges for orangutans in the fragile Kinabatangan wildlife reserve, Malaysia.The wildlife reserve is bordered by plantations so the orangutans (and many other species) cannot cross the many tributaries to move along the river. Genetic mix is extremely important for the continuance of a robust population of orangutans and while small populations become isolated this is not possible.Conservation research has shown that by providing special bridges made from fire hoses, the orangutans can migrate along the river to find mates and dietary variety with relative ease. Camera traps placed on these bridges have shown them to be successful and a full-scale operation is under way to install the orangutan bridges the whole length of the reserve in Malaysia”It takes a while for the orangutans and other animals to get used to it. … If we are not able to reconnect them, they will go extinct very soon,” said Marc Ancrenaz , co-founder of French-based conservation group Hutan, which is working with Malaysian state wildlife department officials on orangutan protection.
Conservationists estimate about 11,000 orangutans live in Malaysia’s Sabah state in Borneo, but many are isolated from each other because swaths of forest have been cut for development, logging and oil palm plantations.Hutan estimates the number of orangutans in Sabah has decreased eight-fold in the past 15 years, though conservation efforts in recent times have slowed the decline.Dom from Fieldskills has this to say: It has been a great project for us to be involved in, working with the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD), non-governmental organisation HUTAN, Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC) and Borneo Conservation Trust Japan. Since starting Fieldskills we have always looked for ways to combine our adventure holidays, training and rigging skills to make a living whilst supporting local conservation efforts and the people of Borneo. It was very rewarding to put our skills to such good use working on such an important conservation project.
DGFC director Dr Benoit Goossens said similar orangutan conservation bridges would be set up at tributaries in the vicinity of DGFC following a survey carried out by HUTAN last year which identified sites suitable for bridge construction to alleviate the issues of orangutan population fragmentation.
Check out mountain biking holidays in Malaysia provided by Field Skills – the riggers behind the bridges!