Sunday, 23 April 2017

David Attenborough’s ‘Guardian headline’ halts Borneo bridge

Conservationist denounced Sukau project as a threat to pygmy elephants and orangutans
Jeremy Hance

Friday 21 April 2017 12.03 BST Last modified on Friday 21 April 2017 12.09 BST

Officials in Borneo have cancelled plans to build a bridge across the Kinabatangan river, after warnings from Sir David Attenborough and other conservationists that it would gravely endanger pygmy elephants, orangutans and many other jungle species. The news comes just weeks after the Guardian revealed Attenborough’s opposition to the project.

Attenborough originally sent a private letter to the chief minister of the state of Sabah, Musa Aman, in September 2016. Last month, with signs pointing to the bridge still going ahead, the Guardian published excerpts from the letter. The authorities in Borneo have described Attenborough’s now-public opposition as the final blow to the project.

“I am immensely pleased to hear that plans to build a bridge at Sukau have been cancelled,” said Attenborough, who is a patron of the World Land Trust, which has saved forest in the Kinabatangan area. “This region is recognised worldwide as being a vital enclave for threatened wildlife, and it is indeed good news that the safe passage of orangutans, pygmy elephants and other endangered wildlife will not be threatened by the bridge and all that would have come with it. The decision will [also benefit] the local people who welcome visitors who come to see the wonderful biodiversity of their forests.”

I am immensely pleased that plans to build a bridge at Sukau have been cancelled David Attenborough

Datuk Sam Mannan, Sabah Forestry Department’s chief conservator, announced the state government’s decision on 19 April at a dinner in London held by the South East Asia Rainforest Research Partnership. “That headline broke the camel’s back,” Mannan said of the Guardian’s coverage. “It made us understand that the issue of a proposed bridge across a protected area for wildlife is now the number one environmental concern not just in Sabah, but globally too.”


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