Each orang utan helps rake in RM81,000 a year: WWF
Each orang utan living along a tributary of the nation’s second longest waterway, Kinabatangan River, can help rake in more than RM8 1,000 a year in the form of tourism revenue, WWF Malaysia Chief Executive Datuk Dr Dionysius Sharma said. He said the tourism revenue from the primates was based on an estimated 34,000 tourists heading to the Menangul tributary every year multiplied by the RM700 each would spend for the experience and divided by the 293 primates in the area. Going by these figures as well, Dr Sharma said each hectare of the 1,876ha forest at the Menanggul tributary would annually contribute nearly RM12,700 in tourism revenue as well. He said based on this figure, Sabah could earn at least RM1. 5 billion in tourism receipts from the Lower Kinabatangan region alone. Dr Sharma quoted the figures to illustrate the point that the State’s forests and wildlife are infinitive resources so long as they are managed in a sustainable manner. He said this in his paper on the Preservation of the Rain Forest, its Costs and Benefits towards the tourism sector at the Sabah International Business Conference 2008 here yesterday. Noting that Sabah’s forestry revenue had declined from RM818 million in 1990 to just over RM355 million last year, he said tourism held the most promise as a key alternative income earner as it provides numerous job opportunities to locals in the food and beverage sector, hospitality sector such as the hotel industry and related industries such as handicraft making. “Tourism thus offers opportunities to diversify Sabah’s economy and stimulate growth in the state’s isolated areas,” Dr Sharma added. In comparison, he said employment in the forestry sector was largely limited to skilled loggers. He said the State thus had all the compelling reasons to ensure that its remaining jungles were managed in sustainable way. “More conservation efforts are needed to protect our forests and unique flagship species such as orang utan, Sumatran rhinos, orchids, Rafflesia,” Dr Sharma added. He said sustainable ecotourism management plan would enable Sabah to enjoy long term economic growth. “It would also provide a good balance between social development, economic growth and environmental conservation,” Dr Sharma said.