Reality check in Borneo - The decline of Borneo's orang utan population is not just due to recent deforestation but had begun to occur over 2,000 years.


A scientific paper study published in Plus One journal by a team experts found that the Borneo orang utans begun experiencing a major demographic decline from about 2,000 years ago based on samples collected in six different study sites in Sabah and Kalimantan.

Researchers from Europe, South America, and in Borneo have discussed the endangered orang utan habitat.

"The recent loss of habitat and its dramatic fragmentation has affected the patterns of genetic variability and differentiation among the remaining populations of orang utans and increased the extinction risk of the most isolated ones," Dr Reeta Sharma from Instituto Gulbenkian de Cincia (IGC, Portugal).

"We used orang utans samples collected in six different study sites in Sabah (Kinabatangan and Danum Valley) and Kalimantan and genetic markers to identify signals of population decline," added Sharma.

"The dating of the population decline varied across sites but was always within the 200-2,000 years period," Dr Benoit Goossens, director of DGFC and a co-author on the paper.

``This suggests that in some sites at least, orang utan populations were affected by demographic events (like climate change and arrival of modern humans) that started much before the recent human impact on environment in Borneo," added Dr Goossens, Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC, Sabah).

"However, these results do not mean that the recent forest exploitation did not leave its genetic mark on orangutans but suggests that the genetic pool of orang utans is also impacted by more ancient events," suggested Goossens.

"The orang utan population in the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary is an example of a recent collapse due to anthropogenic pressure which culminated 50 years ago,'' he said.

The recent findings complemented those published in 2006 on the Kinabatangan population and underscored the need to expand the conservation measures suggested under the Orang Utan Action Plan.

This include protection of private lands to connect the existing protected forest lots, corridor establishment, wildlife monitoring and law enforcement, added Dr Goossens.

Being healthy

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Moyog assemblyman Datuk Donald Mojuntin is urging residents in the district of Penampang, Sabah, Malaysia to adopt a healthy lifestyle in order to avoid non-communicable diseases (NCD).

This is because deaths caused by NCD such as cancer, cardiovascular, diabetes as well as chronic respiratory diseases can bring about hardship, especially if they claim the lives of a family breadwinner, the Assistant Finance Minister said.

"Not only will the loss be felt by the family, it will also be a loss to the country's productivity," Donald stressed.

According to him NCD could be prevented through easy measures which do not involve high costs, such as walking 10,000 steps daily and eating healthy by reducing the consumption of sugar and salt in food.

In his speech at the 'Merakyatkan Kesihatan Desa' mini carnival which was held at Sekolah Kebangsaan St Theresa Inobong here yesterday, Donald added that local fruits which are cheap and high in vitamins as well as nutrients are a healthy choice for the people.

His speech was delivered by Penampang Community Development Officer Bryan Matasing.

"I hope this carnival can create awareness among the local community about NCD and communicable diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria, dengue and cholera among others," Donald said.


The former British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown may visit Borneo's states, to learn the issues affecting natives on school facilities and to higher education.

Sabah political activist, Daniel John Jambun, who is supporting for Borneo causes, said he learned this new development from other sources including from the Borneo's ardent advocate, Clare Rewcastle, who he met here.

Rewcastle has been running the highly popular Radio Free Sarawak and the online news portal Sarawak Report.

Jambun, who is also chairman of UK-based Borneo's Plight in Malaysia (BoPi MaFo), said in a statement from London that Brown's visit should take place as soon as he has adequate justification to see the "progress" of education in Borneo.

He said Brown's office should be getting more reports and representations on education in Borneo.

"Certainly Borneo is a place that has the brightest and creative people with global potential but look what had happened to the island natives now.

All that happened there had hampered every one of our efforts to have a more educated population, as widespread as possible.

"There are real issues in Borneo, not only on education but on religious problems, environment as well as human rights. The international community and the UN should look into this and help hasten relief or else we will end up forever in the backwater of the whole progressing region.

"In fact on many fronts we in Sabah and Sarawak are worse than when we were still under British protection. Now the Borneo's natives are boiling for change," said Jambun who is also State Reform Party's Sabah deputy chairman.

Jambun further alleged that in some areas, the very few who have had the opportunity to access higher education in Sabah and Sarawak in the 1960s were the fortunate ones and some of them continued controlling the masses.

"They are in control of politics and are amassing wealth while the vast population were left to be marginalised and victimised by the political circumstances, ever since the colonials left.

"Really drastic steps need to be taken to accelerate education development in Sabah and Sarawak.

"Some native schoolchildren are still forced to walk for hours in jungles just to reach their school. This should not be the case anymore, but it still is the reality in Borneo," he alleged.

"Besides those in cities and urban areas, many of the school infrastructures in rural Sabah and Sarawak are dilapidated and in inadequate condition," he said.

This shocking situation still exists even in the near city areas like Inanam and Penampang.

"In some areas in Sabah and Sarawak there is no school whatsoever."

The Federation leaders' way of thinking must change when it comes to Borneo. This land is very vast and settlements are scattered, the authority should not simply take the Malayan model for us," he added.

Another Borneo activist, Kanul Gindol, who is also in London for the past two weeks attending several conferences and doing a bibliographical research on Sabah, said that education is certainly one of the pressing issues that "sucked" Sabah and Sarawak into agreeing to co-found a new enlarged Federation in 1963.

"In fact 'education' was one pull and push factor for Sabah and Sarawak to Malaysia.

They felt that they needed more educated local people to first gain self-determination before they could sit down with Malayan leaders to discuss Malaysia.

"But at the same time, the Malayan leaders and the leaving British then, pledged that 'education' was easier and faster to access if both Sabah and Sarawak joined in a new Federation that had already shown rapid progress in Malaya, which gained its own independence earlier from the British in 1957," he said.

Gindol, who heads another UK-based NGO, Borneo Rights International (BRI), said he planned to be writing booklets based on his research when he comes back to Sabah next month.

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