Project Description

The collaboration with the NGO HUTAN  goes back before DGFC was established. HUTAN has been running the Kinabatangan Orangutan Conservation Programme (KOCP) since 1996. Their intensive study site is located in Lot 2 of the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary. KOCP’s site is a 4 km2 forest area in which in which KOCP research assistants conduct behavioural observations on habituated orang-utans.

HUTAN and Benoît Goossens started their collaboration back in 1999 and this has continued between HUTAN and DGFC until today.



The Kinabatangan Corridor Research Project: Designing living landscapes for conservation in Sabah, Borneo.

The aim of this project has been to undertake a comprehensive landscape-level assessment, using a systematic conservation planning approach (i.e. a target-driven framework that includes conservation assessments with stakeholder input and implementation analysis). This approach aims to identify areas that: (i) provide important habitat and forest connectivity for endangered species; (ii) contain important vegetation types; (iii) are important for ecosystem processes; and, (iv) will be adopted by landowners through financial incentives. This project has investigated implementation strategies such as carbon payments and sustainable oil palm certification, to produce a viable Kinabatangan conservation corridor plan. The plan will be designed to inform decision-making for land-use planners and conservation managers in the region.

Related publications

Synergies for improving oil palm production and forest conservation in floodplain landscapes

Identifying where REDD+ financially out-competes oil palm in floodplain landscapes using a fine-scale approach.


Bornean elephants

HUTAN and DGFC have co-supervised students working on habitat and resource use of the Bornean elephant in the Kinabatangan. They have also worked together to mitigate Human-Elephant Conflicts through the Elephant Conservation Unit. Part of the collaboration has been the drafting of the State Action Plan  for this species. Another outcome is a conservation oriented book on this species called “Itin: A Bornean Elephant.

Some related publications

Quantity and Configuration of Available Elephant Habitat and Related Conservation Concerns in the Lower Kinabatangan Floodplain of Sabah, Malaysia.

Foraging site recursion by forest Elephants Elephas maximus borneensis. 

Plant selection and avoidance by the Bornean elephant (Elephas maximus borneensis) in tropical forest: does plant recovery rate after herbivory influence food choices? 

Bornean orang-utans

For years, DGFC and HUTAN have shared data on Bornean orang-utans, contributing to the knowledge on this species in the Kinabatangan region as well as throughout its range. Some of the information produced by their collaboration on population genetics has been incorporated into the State Action Plan  for the management of this species in Sabah.

Some related publications

Projecting genetic diversity and population viability for the fragmented orang-utan population in the Kinabatangan floodplain, Sabah, Malaysia. 

Long-Term Field Data and Climate-Habitat Models Show That Orangutan Persistence Depends on Effective Forest Management and Greenhouse Gas Mitigation. 

Understanding the Impacts of Land-Use Policies on a Threatened Species: Is There a Future for the Bornean Orang-utan? 

Coming down from the trees: Is terrestrial activity in Bornean orangutans natural or disturbance driven?


Orang-utan Paternity/Relatedness Project

In 2000, Benoît Goossens started a Darwin Initiative Project on the conservation of the orang-utan in Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary. The goal was to utilize non-invasively collected samples from wild orang-utans to investigate the genetic consequences of recent demographic changes brought about by human pressure, habitat disturbance, population fragmentation and high density of orang-utans.  The results of the study showed that adult females were indeed more related to one another than were adult males (Goossens et al., 2005)

After 18 years, HUTAN and DGFC decided to re-assess the parentage and relatedness of the orang-utans at KOCPs study site. Although the orang-utans in the study site are habituated and many of them have been followed since before the Darwin Initiative Project, it is practically impossible to keep track with all individuals. This is especially true for animals that leave the study site at a young age and precise identification characteristics have not been fully established. With the habitat reduction and anthropogenic pressure in the area, it appears there are more males roaming the intensive study site than before. The project is currently being developed by Felicity Oram (KOCP), Milena Salgado Lynn  and Nuralwanie Maruji.

Some of the research questions are:

  1. Are the new individuals being found at the study site the same that left it while being adolescent?
  2. Are the new coming males related to the existing females?
  3. How are the males in the study site related to each other?
  4. Are the new flanged males found at the site, the same unflanged males from the previous study?
  5. Are males that have been long-time residents of the study site more successfully parenting offspring than new comers?
  6. What are the current and future dispersal patterns that could result in increased inbreeding and maintenance of a genetically viable population?

The results of this study will provide current information on the dispersal patterns of the orang-utans of the Kinabatangan Sanctuary, and potentially on the behaviour of male orang-utans. This could be used as a model in areas where anthropogenic pressure might be forcing orang-utans to return to their native range in densities and frequencies not experienced before. Ultimately it might provide recommendations for the management of the species in the whole Kinabatangan Sanctuary.


River Keeper Unit

From 2013 to 2015, a River Keeper Unit was set resulting from a collaboration between the SWD, the NGO HUTAN and DGFC. It consisted of a team of two local honorary wildlife wardens who monitored wildlife and its threats along the river and within the LKWS. The unit conducted day and night patrols to monitor and prevent illegal activities such as encroachment into riparian reserves, as well as illegal logging and hunting. It also monitored tourism activities along the Kinabatangan river stopping any boat approaching the elephants too closely or tourists from disembarking on forbidden areas of the riparian corridor.