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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Kinabatangan River
We've just completed our visit to the Kinabatangan River region of Sabah. We were hosted by the Kinabatangan Orangutan Conservation Project (KOCP), an organization working on biodiversity conservation issues in the area for ten years. They do an amazing amount of good work, with projects ranging from orangutan and elephant field research to community outreach and student education. The situation in the region is quite dire: oil palm plantations completely surround the small, degraded portions of forest that remain. Despite the small area and poor quality of forest, there is an amazing array and large amounts of wildlife. We were very impressed with the impact they have made getting the local communities to transition to practices that are more sustainable for the forest as well as raising awareness about the need for conservation. KOCP hires all of its staff (50 people) from the small community of Sukau, so they are closely connected to the community. They have also helped community members develop a homestay program so they can reap some of the benefits from tourists. We stayed in one such home with a local family and enjoyed great food and friendly hosts. We hope to be able to partner with this organization to help them develop education resources that include cats as the region is home to at least three of the five Borneo felids. We also hope to help them develop some assessment tools to assist them in measuring the educational impact of their programs.

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