|Sukau Rainforest Lodge|
A decade ago, French Non Governmental Organisation (NGO), HUTAN began their ground breaking work on orang-utan populations surviving in secondary forest.
Little did they realise at that time that they would end up having a long-lasting effect on the local community of Sukau.
In 2008, the villagers of Kampung Sukau located by the iconic Kinabatangan River concluded their five-day celebration of World Environment Day.
In his speech, Sukau Assemblymen, Saddi Abdul Rahman spoke about the successes of the local sons and daughters of this village in Sukau who now travel overseas to partake in conferences and even give presentations on their work in Sukau.
"The youth in this village used to have very few employment opportunities and they would have had to move to Sandakan and other bigger towns. Today they work in Sukau as researchers and tour guides. Some of them have also travelled overseas to the United States, Japan, Indonesia and other countries to share their experiences," he said.
Saddi Rahman said this in his speech which was read by Kinabatangan assistant district officer Arisin Arifin at the conclusion of the celebrations in Kampung Sukau.
In 1998, HUTAN established the Kinabatangan Orang-utan Conservation Project (KOCP) and hired local villagers as research assistants.
In the beginning the locals were doubtful and language was a barrier for Dr. Isabelle Lackman-Ancrenaz and Dr. Marc Ancrenaz, however, they persevered and both parties learnt well from each other.
The French researchers today speak fluent Bahasa Malaysia and the local community is made up of now capable researchers, entrepreneurs, guides, videographers, GIS specialist and most of all, they are passionate conservationists.
"In the 10 years that HUTAN has been here, they have successfully provided guidance for the local community, and today we have a community-based and run Red Ape Encounters. HUTAN has succeeded in making the local community partners in their work and today the work carried out by the local community is recognised and appreciated by the Wildlife and Forestry Departments," stated Saddi in his speech.
The five-day event was jointly organized by HUTAN, together with the villagers of Sukau, Red Ape Encounters, the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) and the Sabah Environmental Education Network (SEEN).
This is the second year running that World Environment Day has been celebrated in Kampung Sukau. And the reception it has received here is a definite indication that this community truly does appreciate their natural heritage.
The forest surrounding their village is home to the orang-utan, Borneo pygmy elephant (found only in Sabah and on the north-eastern Kalimatan border), proboscis monkeys and other unique wildlife.
Children took part in a numerous challenges and games while several NGOs and government agencies set up exhibition booths at the event.
Source: New Sabah Times