Orang-utans, one of humanity’s closest relatives, are in danger of extinction. Borneo and the neighbouring island of Sumatra are the only places where orangutans survive in the wild. But over the last two decades, orang-utans in Borneo have lost more than half their rainforest home. Logging and conversion of natural forest to agriculture and plantations have taken a heavy toll. Numbers have plummeted as Borneo’s orang-utans have lost 80 per cent of their former territory.
While WWF wants to see more and betterconnected protected areas for orang-utans, this is only part of the answer. The species’ long-term survival will also depend on finding ways for economic activity to take place without damaging crucial habitats in production areas.
"Today, 70% of the orang-utan population in Kalimantan [the Indonesian part of the island] lives outside protected areas,” says Chairul Saleh, who coordinates WWF-Indonesia’s orang-utan programme.
“Their chances of survival are much higher if they live in an area that has an orang-utan conservation plan as an integrated part of its responsible forest management plan.”
Responsible Forest Management
One place that shows how this could be done is a forest concession of more than 170,000 hectares in West Kalimantan operated by PT Suka Jaya Makmur (SJM), a subsidiary of the Jakarta-based Alas Kusuma Group.
A participant of WWF’s Global Forest & Trade Network (GFTN)
in Indonesia, SJM achieved Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)
certification in June 2011 – with WWF and other NGOs’ support.
“We decided to get FSC certified to strengthen our positive image and to prove our commitment to sustainable forest management standards,” says IBW Putra, SJM’s Operations Director. “We also believe that FSC certification increases our competitiveness in international markets and adds value to our products.”
As part of the certification process, SJM worked with WWF to carry out a survey of orang-utans within the concession. They found hundreds of orang-utan nests, old and new, and spotted many individuals.
Estimates suggest between 619 and 672 orang-utans are living within the concession – more than 1 per cent of the island’s total population. The survey also found that almost half the identified tree species (222 out of 460) are orang-utan food sources.
Protecting important areas of habitat and reducing the impact of its logging is a requirement of SJM’s certification. WWF has helped it to design orang-utan conservation measures, which will form an integral part of the company’s management plan. These include not cutting down fruit trees that provide food for orangutans – which staff have been trained to identify and monitor – and avoiding areas with a high orang-utan population. The company is also taking steps to prevent poaching. These measures will continue to be monitored by WWF and as part of future certification auditing.
Chairul believes that FSC certification can guarantee the conservation of vital orangutan habitat.
“The integration of SJM’s orang-utan conservation management with the FSC’s sustainable forest management will effectively protect the orang-utan population in the logging concession,” he says.
WWF is now working with two other concessions in West Kalimantan belonging to the Alas Kusuma Group, PT Wanasokan and PT Sari Bumi Delang, to conserve and connect important orang-utan habitats over a large landscape. The “Alas Kusama Orang-utan Corridor” will cover an area of around 300,000 hectares.
This case study illustrates the findings of a WWF report ‘Great Apes and Logging’ (2009)
, which shows that this is not an isolated example. The report indicates that protected areas are best able to support healthy great ape populations, but wellmanaged, FSC-certified responsible logging concessions in Africa and South East Asia can expand that protection.
FSC principles require selective logging and the protection of endangered species and their habitats and well as management to control hunting. Fruit trees, an important food source for great apes, are maintained and roads are kept closed to decrease illegal logging and hunting. Independent auditors monitor adherence to FSC principles every year for FSC certified forests.