So in 2007, in collaboration with the Sabah Foundation, Sime Darby Foundation, and Sabah Forestry Department, WWF embarked on a forest restoration program within Bukit Piton. WWF’s own work focused on a pilot site of around 4,000 acres, planting nearly 350,000 native trees over the next 12 years. Some were pioneer species – hardy trees that don’t mind full sunlight and poor soils, which provide the shade the other species need. Others were fruit trees specially selected to provide food for orangutans as well as other species like hornbills – which in turn disperse the seeds to other areas, aiding further natural regeneration.
In total, the teams planted 55 different species of indigenous trees – that’s about the same as the total number of native tree and shrub species in all of Great Britain. This project’s main priority was to restore orangutan habitat but because of these efforts, the overall richness of the forest will increase over time: to date, an incredible 1,195 different tree species have been recorded within the landscape.
Today, Bukit Piton looks like a true forest again. Orangutans are using the reforested areas to expand their feeding grounds, to travel between previously segmented patches of forest, and are even building nests in newly planted trees. The population appears to have stabilized. Increasing sightings, particularly of baby orangutans, suggest numbers may be increasing.