Betung Kerihun National Park, Indonesia | WWF

Betung Kerihun National Park, Indonesia

Geographical location:

Asia/Pacific > Southeast Asia > Indonesia > Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo)

Dayak with tattoos in Sadap, a small village in the surroundings of Betung Kerihun National Park. The timber is for local use. Kapuas Hulu District, West Kalimantan, Indonesia.
© WWF-Canon / Jikkie JONKMAN


Betung Kerihun National Park in Kalimantan on the island of Borneo is home to more than 1,200 plant species (75 which are endemic to Borneo) and 48 mammal species, including the endangered orang-utan. The Kapuas River, which at 1,143km is Indonesia’s longest river, starts in the park.

WWF was involved in the initial development of Bentung Kerihun as a national park in 1995. The global conservation organization continues to work with local wildlife authorities to improve the park’s management, protect the orang-utan and other threatened species, and promote sustainable livelihoods for local people through agro-forestry and ecotourism.


Betung Kerihun (previously Bentuang Karimun) National Park (BKNP) was originally established as a 600,000ha nature reserve in 1982 by a Ministry of Agriculture decree. The size was enlarged to 800,000 ha in 1992 and the conservation status was changed to national park in 1995.

BKNP is one of the most important protected areas and the second largest protected area in Kalimantan after Kayan Mentarang National Park. The park is mostly mountainous and contains a broad range of vegetation types including lowland, hill and lower montane, and upper montane tropical rain forests. This park also contains the origins of the Kapuas River, which at 1,143km is Indonesia’s longest river.

With its unique ecosystems, BKNP holds rich and high conservation biodiversity of plants, primates, birds, and fishes. The park is home to more than 48 mammal species, including the endangered great ape orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus). The forests of Betung Kerihun contain more than 1,200 plant species, 75 of which are endemic to Borneo, while 14 species are newly listed including 13 species of palm. A total of 301 bird species were identified in the park, 63 are protected species, with 24 endemic to Borneo. 112 fish species have been identified in the major rivers of the park, and 14 of these are endemic to Borneo.

Betung Kerihun is one of the key units in Indonesia’s conservation area network, and one of the most important protected areas in Asia. Situated in the Heart of Borneo, Betung Kerihun shares common borders with 2 protected areas in Sarawak, Malaysia, namely Lanjak Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary and Batang Ai National Park. In February 2004, both countries (Indonesia and Malaysia) formally submitted a proposal to UNESCO to designate the 3 conservation areas as the first ever transboundary World Heritage Site.

Socio-economic conditions in the buffer zone

The local communities in and around the Park consist of 8 ethnic groups (Dayak Iban, Tamambaloh, Taman Sibau, Kantu, Kayan Mendalam, Bukat Mendalam, Bukat Metelunai and Punan Hovongan) which represent 3 of the 4 Dayak groups living in Borneo. These groups live in 12 separate major settlements (village or sub-village), 2 of which are located inside BKNP (Nanga Bungan and Tanjung Lokang) and 6 are adjacent to the park boundary (Sadap, Banua Martinus, Ulu Palin, Nanga Potan, and Nanga Ovaat). The population density and growth rates of the local communities are far below the national average. Within general low levels of education and limited economic opportunities, most communities practice traditional shifting agriculture mainly for hill-rice cultivation and wildlife hunting. One exception is found in the villages of Nanga Bungan and Tanjung Lokang where the communities are primarily gold miners and swiftlet bird’s nest collectors. Due to the limited economic opportunities the economies of the forest dependent ethnic groups practically stay at the subsistent level.

Decentralization policy and conservation issues

The decentralization policy issued by the Indonesian Government in 1999 endorsed responsibility for each provincial, municipality, and district level government to manage its local natural resources. However, certain ambiguities remain, including the fact that management of national parks and other protected areas is maintained by central government. The lack of accompanying operational guidelines could lead to local regulations on natural resource exploitation at the expense of the environment. This new regional autonomy could have positive impacts if local stakeholders were allowed to manage natural resources.

Conservation problems

a) Institutional capacities are still insufficient to deal with the management of such a large area, the integration of Park issues with district government and transboundary developments, and the threats and specific conservation required for the orangutan population. The Betung Kerihun Park Management Unit (PMU) was formally launched by the Minister of Forestry in 1997. Currently, there are 57 full-timers and 20 honorary (local) personnel at the PMU. Among these, 24 park rangers are responsible for supervising each of the 4 field posts in the 800,000ha BKNP area. The existing funding capacity of the PMU allow a bi-monthly field visit for around one to maximal two weeks for each of these ranger teams. As foresters by training and externally recruited, the park rangers are less adept at dealing with local communities.

b) Significant threats towards the integrity of BKNP are illegal logging and wildlife poaching. WWF data collected in 2002 found that about 31,000 trees were illegally logged in BKNP, amounting to 214,000 cubic meters of logs. Although there was controversial record or incident regarding logging, wildlife poaching including collection of wood and non-timber forest products regularly occurred. While a number of previous studies indicated the presence of viable populations of orangutan in national parks in Kalimantan, more recent analysis show a lack of information on the population of orangutan in the southern part of Betung Kerihun, as well as in the swamps between the park and Danau Sentarum. Recent reports suggest poaching of the most endangered primate orangutan is reaching alarming levels. About 10 - 15 orangutans are traded every month from West and Central Kalimantan forests to supply markets in big cities in Indonesia, including Jakarta and Denpasar, Bali. This trade in orangutan needs to be addressed. Without reliable information on orangutan populations in and around the park it will be difficult to develop adequate conservation strategies.

c) The underlying reasons for engagement of local people in illegal activities in the park are poverty and limited options for economic development. High market demands for forest products and the relatively immediate cash earnings lure many local people in the illegal trade and conversion of forests. Limited local goverment assistance is available for development and education of these communities who live in the remote areas. Unless communities are provided with sufficient knowledge on sustainable natural resource use for livelihood, illegal poaching and logging will remain.


The following objectives have been defined for the next 3 years:

a) Improved management effectiveness of the park.

b) Protection of the endangered orangutan.

c) Promotion of sustainable livelihoods for local people through agro-forestry and ecotourism.


Building on the previous work in BKNP, WWF Indonesia with funding support from WWF Germany over the next 3 years will work on the following components:

- Management effectiveness of the park through provision of technical assistance and training for park rangers and officers.

- Field conservation actions to strengthen park patrol for illegal logging prevention and orangutan habitat protection with involvement of stakeholders beyond the park rangers, including community members.

- Community empowerment for sustainable livelihood through development of community-based economic activities with the groups living within the park territories and its buffer zone.

- Cooperation with local government for policy development to capture both the conservation actions and sustainable livelihood for the local people.

WWF Indonesia will apply a multi-stakeholder approach and will work closely together with BKNP Park Authority, community groups, local government and other relevant institutions.

In a wider context, WWF Indonesia is making efforts to protect the areas of high conservation value in the Heart of Borneo by initiating collaboration with Sarawak Parks and consultations with the governments, and seeking strategic funding partnerships with different donors, including WWF Germany. In doing so, WWF Indonesia with the support from other WWF family members seeks to develop a model on how to integrate a conservation and development programme in the larger conservation scale or ecoregion, surpassing country boundaries.

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