The orangutan is a highly intelligent member of the Great Apes – but this brightly colored animal rarely gets the respect it deserves – a fact that has left the species threatened with extinction in both Sumatra and Borneo. Public perception of the orangutan in that area is either that of an animal of little consequence, a pest responsible for agricultural damages, or simply a cute little ape that can be kept as a pet for entertainment. This lack of interest and appreciation has resulted in the acceptance of widespread deforestation which has affected these imperiled primates and their habitat in negative way.
Tackling the public impression of orangutans is a crucial step toward creating a strategy for saving the species from extinction in Malaysia. To address this important issue, the Kinabatangan Orangutan Conservation Project (KOCP) was formed.
The organization works to raise community awareness about the importance of orangutans, to convey an understanding of how to manage and to protect wild orangutan populations, and to develop a motivation in both young and old to act to conserve wildlife and fragile habitats.
Through the development of a mobile program, KOCP has succeeded in organizing various on-site visits with school children and teachers in remote villages that are not usually exposed to environmental education programs. They also engage in in-depth discussion with the oil palm and forestry industries in an effort to build a bridge between human activities and the maintenance of biodiversity. The SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund has supported KOCP since 2006 and believes in its mission.