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Community

Working with the community

People are fundamental elements of conservation and animal welfare. Yet engaging them actively in the care and conservation of wildlife and the environment surrounding them involves considerable effort, ingenuity, flexibility and patience.

The village of Sukau sits on the banks of the Kinabatangan River in Sabah, Borneo. These gentle “River People” or “Orang Sungai” are surrounded by fragile ecosystems and threatened wildlife and must try to make a living in whatever way they can from the very environment they have lived in for generations.

We have been using Sukau as a base for our Sabah volunteers since 2008. Our aim is to actively engage local people in the regeneration of important wildlife habitats around their village whilst at the same time creating income opportunities which are not damaging to the environment. All of our programmes employ local villagers as boatmen and trekking guides, volunteer meals are prepared and eaten at family homes within the village and where possible we use local homestay accommodation for our guests. We also employ local people to help prepare and maintain our tree-planting sites, and many also choose to take part in tree planting activities despite not being directly employed for this.

One of our most significant impacts is working with the local schools such as the Sukau village school and the Humana schools. Our volunteers and the visiting international school students engage with the children through environmental related games, English lessons and craft activities in the local village school. The programmes have resulted in an improvement in English among students and a better understanding of their role within this high conservation area.

Other than the villagers and school children, communities at our project sites include the zookeepers in Zoo Negara as well as members of the public. APE Malaysia has collaborated with other Malaysian and international organisations to organise training on chimpanzees and orang-utans, enrichment sessions, information weekends and fund-raising events for various animal charities.