A U.S. group says it applauds the government of the Malaysian state of Sarawak for its efforts to protect a globally significant population of rare orangutans. The Wildlife Conservation Society in New York said rare orangutans recently found by a team of conservationists in Sarawak are of the subspecies Pongo pygmaeus pygmaeus, listed as the most severely threatened orangutan worldwide with a total of only 3,000-4,500 animals.
The Sarawak conservation team found 2,000 of the orangutans living in Batang Ai National Park and Lanjak-Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary, a WCS release reported Wednesday.
Local communities had been aware of the existence of orangutans in the area, but no major research had been conducted until recently, the WCS said.
"It is indeed wonderful to hear the government's initiative towards protecting these orangutan and their habitat especially when preliminary scientific data indicates the existence of a globally significant population," Melvin Gumal, director of the WCS Malaysia Program, said.
Sarawak conservation researchers conducted field surveys in February, finding a total of 995 orangutan nest sites in the hilly central Borneo terrain.
The Sarawak state government said it would engage in a dialogue with local communities and other key stakeholders to discuss options and involve them in any conservation efforts in the area.