Teams adopt Orang Utans during nature reserve visit

Sabah, Malaysian Borneo -- In the lead up to A1GP Sepang, Malaysia, a selection of A1GP drivers and team members travelled to the island of Borneo in the eastern part of Malaysia on Monday to visit the Nature Reserve and Orang Utan sanctuary at...

Sabah, Malaysian Borneo -- In the lead up to A1GP Sepang, Malaysia, a selection of A1GP drivers and team members travelled to the island of Borneo in the eastern part of Malaysia on Monday to visit the Nature Reserve and Orang Utan sanctuary at the Shangri-La Rasa Ria resort near Kota Kinabalu.

On Tuesday morning, Malaysia's Alex Yoong and Aaron Lim, Lebanon's Khalil Beschir and Chris Alajajian, Indonesia's Satrio Hermanto, Brazil's Sergio Jimenez and Great Britain team principal Katie Clements, took time out of their busy schedules to visit the Nature Reserve, Orang Utan sanctuary and education centre to learn more about the Orang Utan rehabilitation and nature conservation programme.

The aim of the rehabilitation centre is to guide the young Orang Utans through their development and ultimately return them to the forest. After meeting the rangers and learning about the work of the sanctuary, the drivers were taken on a guided walk into the jungle to watch the Orang Utans play and feed in their natural habitat. When they returned to the sanctuary, all five teams and A1GP pledged their support to the sanctuary by each adopting an Orang Utan, which will help provide funding for the care and feeding of the endangered animals.

The group also took part in the Reserve's Plant a Tree programme, which underscores efforts to reforestate areas within the resort's 400-acreage that were affected by tropical storm Greg in December of 1996. This programme is a joint effort between Rasa Ria Resort and the World Wildlife Fund Sabah, whose role is to provide participants in the programme with tree saplings for planting.

Malaysian Airlines, the country's national airline, supported the event by being the carrier of the A1GP teams from Kuala Lumpur to Kota Kinabalu.

Orang Utans (from the Malay phrase Orang Hutan, 'man of the forest') are totally protected in Malaysia. They live on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra with a total estimated population of just 27,000. The greatest threat to Orang Utans is habitat loss due to mechanised logging and agriculture is the most obvious threat presently facing Orang Utan populations. Young Orang Utans are also threatened by poachers who capture them to be sold as pets. The mother is often shot in order to gain access to the baby Orang Utan.

Alex Yoong, A1 Team Malaysia: 'It's good to be out here in the jungle and it's very important to be supporting the incredible work that they do at the Nature Reserve and sanctuary. We have some beautiful jungles in Malaysia and actually the oldest jungle in the world is here. Borneo is one of the only places Orang Utans still exist so it's very special to be here and to be able to get this close to the animals.'

Aaron Lim, A1 Team Malaysia: 'It's my first time here in the jungle with the Orang Utans so it's quite an experience for me and it's also been good fun. It's important to rehabilitate these endangered animals and preserve this jungle. We've all adopted an Orang Utan and planted a tree here so we are all doing out little bit to help.'

Khalil Beschir, A1 Team Lebanon: 'It's the first time I've been in a proper jungle and the first time I've seen an Orang Utan in the wild like this so it's quite exciting for me. I didn't realise before I came here that there aren't very many of these animals left in the world and that this is one of the only places they exist. It's great that A1 Team Lebanon has adopted an Orang Utan and we are all supporting the good work that they are doing here.'

Chris Alajajian, A1 Team Lebanon 'It's great to be up close with the Orang Utans in their natural environment and it's a real privilege for all of us to be here. They're an endangered species and this is one of the last places they live, so I'm glad we can do something to help by adopting an Orang Utan and planting a tree. We're enjoying the visit and we're also learning a lot.'

Satrio Hermanto, A1 Team Indonesia: 'It's very exciting and fun to be here. I've never been into the jungle before so it's a great opportunity and really impressive to see all the work that goes on here at the Reserve. It's very important to protect the Orang Utans because they are dying out and I'm pleased A1 Team Indonesia is able to help the species and the environment in some way.'

Sergio Jimenez, A1 Team Brazil: 'It is a real pleasure to be here and see the work that is being done with the Orang Utans to help them rehabilitate. I know some of the problems of animals losing their homes, because we have these things going on in the rainforests in Brazil as well, and it was nice to visit a sanctuary that is making efforts to work on these problems. It might not seem a big deal to adopt Siti, or to plant a tree, but if each of us does our little bit to help then it all adds up into a massive effort. All of us at the team are excited to see how Siti develops over the coming year.'


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Series A1GP
Drivers Alex Yoong , Khalil Beschir , Chris Alajajian , Aaron Lim , Sergio Jimenez , Satrio Hermanto