From: Associated Press
Published May 7, 2007 12:00 AM

Report Says Malaysia Seeks To Rehabilitate Borneo Rain Forests Marred by Logging

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia -- Malaysian authorities need 200 million ringgit (US$58 million; euro42 million) to replant trees and restore heavily logged forests that are home to thousands of orangutans on Borneo island, a news report said Sunday.

Forest rehabilitation efforts will focus on 4,000 hectares (10,000 acres) of logged jungles that are considered the "crown jewels" of environmental diversity in Malaysia's Sabah state in Borneo, Sabah Forestry Director Sam Mannan was quoted as saying by The Star newspaper.

An environmental restoration and management plan for the Ulu Semaga-Malua forests will be finalized by the end of 2007, requiring at least 200 million ringgit of funds from the federal government and private donors, Mannan added.

Conservationists say rain forests in Malaysia and neighboring Indonesia have increasingly shrunk in recent decades because of the spread of the timber industry and palm oil plantations. Malaysian officials have played down these concerns, saying that the clearing of forests is monitored and controlled under environmental protection laws.

The key objective of Sabah's forest rehabilitation plan is the conservation of 3,000 orangutans in Ulu Semaga-Malua, which also contains a wide array of wildlife and plants, Mannan reportedly said.

Sabah Forestry Department officials could not immediately be reached to confirm the report.

Wildlife experts have estimated that 13,000 orangutans live in the wild in Sabah, accounting for one-fifth of their total population. Sabah's forests are also home to other rare animals such as Bornean pygmy elephants and Sumatran rhinos.

A recent United Nations report said oil palm plantations are expanding so fast in Malaysia and Indonesia that almost no virgin forest will remain by 2022. If that happens, the orangutan could be virtually extinct in five years, it said.

Source: Associated Press

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