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Integrating community development and conservation of
forests and biodiversity in the Kinabatangan River area,
Final Progress Report 6, Jan – August 2013
IN PARTNERSHIP WITH
People Nature Consulting
Shining Hope Foundation
The Shining Hope Foundation has provided financial support to HUTAN and its implementing partners from
September 2010 to August 2013 to demonstrate that integrated management of environmental and socioeconomic aspects of land and natural resource management are needed to achieve long-lasting outcomes for
sustainable biodiversity and environmental conserva tion as well as human development in tropical developing
countries. Specifically, the project seeks to achieve a measureable improvement in the ecological conditions of
Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary and selected key stone species, and demonstrable improved welfare
and well-being of selected target groups in the Kinabatangan community, through effective integration of
community development with conservation of forests and biodiversity in the Kinabatangan River area.
A final review of project activiti es, outcomes, and financial expenditures wa s conducted by Erik Meijaard from
10-12 November 2013 for the period January to September 2013. No field visit was included this time, and the
reporting was done based on field reports submitted by individual units of HUTAN (OURS, HEAP, Wildlife
Wardens etc). The financial review was conducted in Kota Kinabalu on November 12 together with the HUTAN
accountant and involved checking of receipts, compiling expenditures over the period and comparing these
with predicted expenses. Information about project activities was obtained through interviews with several
Financial Progress Report January to August 2013
Project spending between January and September 2013 was limited to a reduced number of budget centers, as
agreed by the Shining Hope Foundation, with a view towards reconciling actual spending needs with available
budget (Table 1). This succeeded to reduce project overspending with regard to the budget as reported in
previous reports. Thus, the total expenditure for the Shining Hope Foundation funds used by Hutan between
September 2010 and August 2013 was approximately € 164,795.29 on a total disbursed budget of €
166,845.00, resulting in an absolute underspending of € 2049.71 (see Table 2 below). Based on these spending
rates a budget revision is proposed for the final 9 months of the project to ensure that the final spending is in
line with what was initially budgeted.
Ja n 13-Aug 13 (€)
Ja n 13-Aug 13 (€)
Salary Ahbam Abulani
Salary Hamisah Elahan
Salary Azri Sawang
Fuel for boat
Petrol for car
Total Office costs and consumable
Materials for HEAP activities in
Training for HEAP staff
Total Warden activities
Total Equipment and uniform
Total Boat expenses
Environmental awareness and
Total Orang utan bridges
Total Swift nest population and
Total Budget and Expenditures
Table 1. Total budget and expenditures from January to August 2013.
Comments on budget
Overspending in the early stages of the project with regard to projected budget expenditures was primarily
caused by strengthening of the Malay Ringgit and price inflation. Regarding the exchange rate, the Malaysian
Ringgit initially increased in value compared to the Euro from 4.5 at the start of the project to 3.85 at the end of
2012, but a relatively stronger euro has in 2013 resulted in similar MYR exchange rates as at the start of the
project (MYR 4.45 to the Euro). No inflation correction was applied when the budget was developed. Average
annual consumer price inflation in Malaysia was about 1.8% in 2012.
September to December MYR 93,123.95
January to June 2011
July to December 2011
ca. € 22,439
ca. € 30,819
ca. € 31,081
January to June 2012
July to December 2012
ca. € 26,706
ca. € 26,568
January to June 2013
July and August 2013
ca. € 20,933.09
ca. € 6,249.20
ca. € 164,795.29
Table 2. Budget forecasts and actual expenditures
Narrative Progress Report January – September 2013
Activity 1. Populations of orangutans, hornbills, and edible nest swiftlets are regularly monitored by KOCP's
Orangutan Research unit (OURS)
Hutan’s intensive OrangUtan Research Site was established in
1998 in 6.2 km of secondary forests in Lot 2 of the Lower
Kinabatangan Wildlife Reserve near the village of Sukau. A team
of ten intensively trained local research officers - Hutan’s
Orang-Utan Research Unit - take turns to track orangutans in
the forest and conduct eco-ethological observations. A wide
range of data are collected on standardized datasheet including
dietary observations, feeding behaviour, social aspects and
Recently, the OURs team has witnessed the influx of several
non-identified males (Figure 1) in the orangutan study site.
Since the offspring’s of several resident females to the
orangutan study site have reached the dispersing age and
become independent of their mother, Hutan’s orangutan
specialists think that these males could be coming in to check
on the sexual status of these females. Hutan has also
intensified their efforts to better understand the dynamics
between orangutans and how they use the mature oil palm
Figure 1. One of the unidentified plantations areas.
orangutans encountered during surveys in
the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Reserve, Orangutans are very difficult to follow in the human-made oil
palm landscape since they hide or run away when human
observers come too close to them. However,
efforts to follow the orangutans into the oil
palm landscape were successful in April 2013
when the team followed Otai, an adult
unflanged male for two consecutive days
inside an oil palm estate (Figure 2). The first
morning, Otai left the forest and walked into
the plantation bordering the northern side of
our intensive study area. Although Otai has
been followed by the OURs team for the past
three years and is fully habituated, as soon
as he entered in the plantation he started to
display signs of stress and wariness.
However, by hiding from him most of the
time, the team managed to keep Otai under
Figure 2. Otai in oil palm plantation.
observation for the next two days. At some point, Otai climbed onto a palm and started to pick up fruits one by
one ate them (see pictures next page). The team was very excited by this observation since this is the first
record of such behaviour of orangutan from the study site.
Figure 3. Rarely observed behaviour of orangutan feeding on oil palm.
Otai build a nest with the pal m plant, which means that orangutans are therefore using mature palm plants for
nesting or as possible source of food. More long-term research is needed to better understand the rela tionship
between orangutans and mature oil palm plantations in order to enhance the prospects of long-term survival of
orangutan populations living in multiple-use landscapes.
Hutan was excited to discover that a Helmeted Hornbill (Figure 4), one
of the rarest of the eight hornbill species in Sabah, was found to be
nesting in a tree within the orangutan study site. According to Ravinder
Kaur, a PhD student working on hornbills, this is the first positive
identification of a nesting site for this species of hornbill in Borneo!
Unlike other hornbill species, the Helmeted Hornbill is extremely picky
about selection of breeding sites. Like other hornbill species, it uses tree
hollows to make its nests. The Helmeted Hornbill, however, being the
largest of all Bornean species, needs the biggest nest hollows. Such
hollows can only be found in large trees, almost exclusively with a
diameter of more than 1 meter. Such trees are often removed during
selective logging because of their high timber values. Logging therefore
tends to displace Helmeted Hornbills more than other hornbill species
that may still use smaller trees.
Additionally, in recent years there has been a large increase in hunting
Figure 4. Helmeted Hornbill and collecting of hornbills, primarily for use in the production of artifacts
photographed in the Lower from horn. Also, there is apparently a demand for horn from the
Chinese medicine markets. This now means that hornbills everywhere in
SE Asia are targeted by hunters. The fact that one pair of Helmeted Hornbill may therefore be because of the
relatively absence of hunting and possibly because of ecological recovery of the Kinabatangan forests.
Currently Hutan is monitoring the recently discovered nesting site.
Nest swiftlet caves
In 2012, Hutan decided to guard only
the four bigger caves in Pangi FR
containing the largest breeding swiftlet
populations. Hutan hired 10 members
of the Sukau community to guard the
cave entrances from nest thieves and
other intruders. Throughout the year,
the 10 Pangi staff spent thei r entire
time in the forest, taking turns day and
night to patrol the Forest Reserve. No
nests were harvested in 2012 to
minimize the disturbance of the swiftlet
breeding pairs. In addition to these
guards, the Wildlife Wardens actively
Figure 5. A swift nests poacher's camp found near Pangi.
patrol the Pangi area to prevent the
theft of birds nests. As a direct result of such an operation in 2013, the team found and dismantled a poacher’s
camping sites and also apprehended 12 men who were then handed over to the authrorities for illegally
entering a Forest Reserve and also for illegally harvesting the birds nest (pictures above).
Ongoing risks of poaching indicate that the community program set up by Hutan to sustainably manage the
Pangi swift nests caves requires further input. If cave protection efforts were reduced, all nests would likely be
taken out within a very short time frame.
Activity 2. Participate in forest rehabilitation programs in degraded orangutan ha bitat by reforestation
In Kinabatangan, forest loss and fragmentation is jeopardising biodiversity by adversely affecting species’
distribution and dispersal patterns, lowering genetic diversity, and threatening habitats and ecosystem
services. Planning for connectivity between forests blocks is now crucial to ensure the long-term viability of the
Kinabatangan’s’ biodiversity. With the Kinabatangan Corridor Research Project, Hutan and its partners aim to
design a network of conservation corridors and conservation expansion areas within the Kinabatangan. It uses
a systematic conservation planning approach to identify high conservation value areas based on threatened
species, priority habitats and aboveground carbon stock.
Since January 2008 HUTAN has engaged in a project to rehabil itate crucial orangutan habitat in the Lower
Kinabatangan. The project aims at recreating forest corridors for wildlife. Forest degradation and
fragmentation in the Lower Kinabatangan region are the major threats to the long-term survival of wildlife and
proactive measures are the key to success. Past logging activities have at places resulted in the destruction of
the seed bank contained in the soil and have compacted the soil thus preventing natural forest regeneration.
In order to recreate corridors for wildlife, particularly orangutans, native, fast-growing tree species are to be
Four village women were hired and trained for the initial phase of this project. Three plots were selected in the
Lot 2 of the LKWS and a total of 1,752 seedlings were planted of 6 different tree species known to be
commonly consumed by orangutans at the HUTAN’s Sukau Research site (i.e. Dracontomelon dao, Octomeles
sumatrana, Microcos sp, Mitrogyana speciosa, Diospyros sp, Neonauclea sp.). The survival and growth rates of
the planted seedlings were monitored monthly. It was established that while some species prefer dry open
areas, others survive and grow better in shaded humid areas. Octomeles sumatrana (or “Binuang”) was the
fastest growing species with an average growth of 36.5 cm per month. Trampling by elephants and predation
by pigs, deers, snails, caterpillars and other insects mostly caused seedling mortality.
Figure 6. Norianah, Zaiton, Darianah and Asmidah, the hard working tree planting ladies. Photo by
To prevent the elephants to destroy the seedlings, each plot had to be protected by an electric fence. We also
valued the seedling needs for maintenance such as weeding to ensure optimal survival and growth (frequency
and methods of weeding).
Previous tree planting experiments by HUTAN showed that a minimum of 2 to 3 years of regular weeding
around the trees planted is needed. It therefore appears that the overall costs for efficient forest rehabilitation
are much higher than the mere cost of the seedlings, mostly because the maintenance needs (workers’ salary,
boats and petrol to access the plots, electric fences) to ensure the survival of the young trees are high.
Figure 7. Electric fencing at a reforestation plot. Photo by HUTAN/Harjinder Kler.
Progress in 2013 included the incorporation of conservation opportunities and constraints into the planning
process. Land value information and agricultural productivity maps were thus integrated into the planning
assessment. Additionally, evaluations of implementation strategies are now being undertaken to secure
targeted lands for conservation, focusing on mechanisms such as carbon payments from Reduced Emissions
from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD), certified sustainable palm oil certification under the
Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and the combined alternative of these mechanism RT- REDD+. To
integrate these data a specialised area selection algorithm is being developed to select areas based on
conservation values and associated financial costs a nd benefits.
Activity 3. Reinforce the successful “Honorary Wildlife Warden” project that is being developed in the
Since 2005, Hutan has worked with the Sabah Wildlife Department on a model project where members of the
local community are directly involved in the management and protection of the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife
Sanctuary. The Sabah Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997 allows the Sabah Wildlife Department to appoint
selected members of the public as “Honorary Wildlife Wardens” (HWW).
By the end of 2012, a total of 565 HWWs
were appointed and trained by the Sabah
Wildlife Department in Sabah. Hutan now
counts 16 members of the Kinabatangan
community as HWW. The HWW are
members of the public working
voluntarily to enforce the State wil dlife
law. In 2012, the head of Hutan’s HWW
team was re-elected as a member of the
Sabah Honorary Warden & Ranger
Association’s steering committee.
HUTAN and Danau Girang Field Center
(DGFC) launched the “River Keeper Unit”
(Figure 8) in 2013. This unit is made up of
Figure 8. The new River Keepers Unit
originating from Sukau who used to
Conservation Unit”. The specific goal of
this unit is to regularly patrol the
Kinabatangan River to ensure that
tourist boats do not come too close
and disturb elephants and other
wildlife species. The unit is also in
charge of developing and enforcing
best management practices for
Enforcement and conflict mi tigation
activities still play a crucial role in the
Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary and
surrounding villagers, forest and
Figure 9. Newspaper article highlighting the new River Keeper
plantations. In the first six months of 2013, the Honorary Wildlife Wardens engaged in 90 ground patrols, 100
river patrols and 35 events of elephant mitigation control. In May 2013, the team had to do mitigate a
potential human-wildlife conflict when the energizer (which powers the electric fence) was stolen from the
local cemetery. Elephants seem to favour the route via this cemetry and unfortunately once again disturbed
several graves which in turns is a cause of understanble distress among local community. The team protected
the graves from the elephants until a replacement energizer was obtained by the village committee.
Activity 4. Develop a training platform in the Lower Kinabatangan for national and international
conservation professionals, staff of relevant government agencies, Malaysian students, project staff and local
communities (including the upgrading of the existing infrastructure)
HUTAN was asked to assist the Sabah Forestry Department (SFD) to conduct a rapid biodiversity survey to
justify the State Government’s case to re-acquire 400 hectares of forest area that was to be converted to oil
palm after they were alerted to the importance of the said area by the Borneo Rhino Alliance for possible
sighting of the Sumatran Rhino which is on the verge of extinction in Sabah. The area is also a corridor
between two protected Forest Reserves, Bukit Kretam and Kulumba Wildlife Res erve. Following the results of
our findings, the State Cabinet agreed to the re-acquisition of this area for its importance of wildlife including
the Sumatran Rhino and orangutans as well. While the details of the re-acquisition is on-going, the land has
been secured for wildlife.
In 2013, Hutan was also active in several training programs for the Sabah Forestry Department, specifically
regarding monitoring techniques.
Activity 5. Environmental education programmes for school children in Sabah through the HEAP program,
with the following specific interventions:
In 2003, Hutan created a special program to address the general lack of awareness on environmental
conservation issues in the Lower Kinabatangan. In 2007, this unit was named “Hutan Environmental and
Awareness Program” (HEAP) which subsequently extended its scope to schools and communities throughout
Sabah. HEAP’s main goal is to incorporate and support Hutan’s overall mission. HEAP’s activities, including
environmental education, community awareness programmes and capacity building, aim at strengthening the
impact and effectiveness of the other Hutan units. HEAP continues its objective to bring Environmental
Education (EE) to rural communities that have the most contact and affect on the natural environment. As the
efforts intensify, HEAP has been able to have EE events in 25 schools in four different districts in Sabah for the
first six months of 2013. As a direct result, the team has interacted with 200 teachers and 3,000 students bring
the message of the importance of our natural heritage to rural communities.
Figure 10. The HEAP team at work in Kinabatangan schools.
HEAP also involves Government partners such as the SWD and Environmental Protection Department when
possible to assist and strengthen the events. We are also part of the very active Sabah Environmental
Education Network (SEEN) and work together with other partners whenever possible to reinforce efforts and
avoid duplication of events/programmes.
The highly praised “Fishermen for Conservation” initiated by HUTAN continues to spread to other villagers
with HEAP being the lead coordinator. In January, the local community in Paitan adopted the sustainable
fishing traps. The official handover event was attended by the local Government officials and carried by most
Sabah newspapers (Figure 11).
Figure 11. One of the many local newspapers articles promoting environmentally sustainable management
and the work by Hutan.