On Tuesday 9th April 2013, Sarawak’s Second Minister of Planning and Resource Management, Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan, announced that the State government intends to begin the process of gazetting Ulu Sungai Menyang as a national park. The Minister also praised the recent collaborative orangutan research that Borneo Adventure participated in. He said:
“I am also happy with the working relationship among the four agencies involved in the survey (Forest Department, Sarawak Forestry Corporation, Wildlife Conservation Society and Borneo Adventure). This pooling of human resources for a common conservation objective is something that needs to be emulated in other endeavours.”
It is great news that the forest and orangutans at Ulu Sungai Menyang are going to be protected. It has always been our vision to build and sustain collaborative partnerships between local communities that result in improved livelihoods for the residents of the area.
It has not been easy but over the course of the last 25-years the longhouse communities at Nanga Sumpa, Taong and Jambu have seen significant socio-economic improvements thanks to tourism. Our more recent partnership with Menyang Tais has also brought benefits to the local community. We are glad that government agencies can see that there is a viable alternative to the destruction of the rainforest. It is good that our long-term commitment and efforts in the Ulu Ai area have been recognized.
We intend to increase our efforts to improve the livelihood of the people of Batang Ai. Tourism may not be the only route to take but it is an important component of the local economy that has historically played a positive role. It is worth noting that tourism provided a catalyst for raising the incomes of local people and therefore an incentive to protect the forest.
We have always been aware of the existence of orangutan in the areas at Batang Ai where we bring visitors. However, we did not make this widely known until the longhouse community was ready and wanted to protect these animals. For example, it was only when the community could see the benefit of orangutans that they supported the development of the Red Ape Trail and other orangutan treks.
We welcome the government’s commitment to conserve Ulu Sungai Menyang and plans for strategic collaboration with the local community and other stakeholders. New initiatives and income generating activities will need to be sustainable and make a genuine and positive change to livelihoods. We would like to think that with our 25-years of experience working in the area we would be able to participate and offer practical advice.
As mentioned in the previous post, Borneo Adventure took part in a recent orangutan surveys in Ulu Sungai Menyang, an area of forest located close to Batang Ai National Park and Lake. Without the collaboration of the community, these surveys could not have taken place. The study found a globally significant population of up to 200 orangutans. Following the March 2013 research report, the Sarawak government indicated that it would protect Ulu Sungai Menyang and its orangutan population.
Many of our Ulu Ai tours, jungle treks and longer adventure treks such as the Red Ape Trail pass through this area of forest. If you have visited Nanga Sumpa, Lubok Kasai or Menyang Tais with Borneo Adventure and seen an orangutan on one of the jungle trails, the chances are you saw it the Ulu Sungai Menyang landscape.
It was always our wish to see this area conserved. Now it looks like this is happening. There is still a lot of work to be done but I am more optimistic than ever that years from now visitors will still be able to experience one of the most beautiful and unique areas in Sarawak.
Philip Yong, co-founder, Borneo Adventure