Protecting the Heart of Borneo

Posted on April, 11 2011

The tide is turning in the battle to stop the destruction of this island’s treasure trove of biodiversity
The tide is turning in the battle to stop the destruction of this island’s treasure trove of biodiversity

Imagine a tropical island where colourful birds soar through the sky, unique mammals wander, astonishing reptiles roam and beautiful and exotic plants flourish.

A place where explorers discover amazing new plants and animals every week.

It’s not somewhere from a film or child’s fantasy.

It’s Borneo – one of the most amazing locations on Earth.

What’s at stake?

Borneo has breathtaking biodiversity in its still vast forests. Scientists have discovered an average of three new species there every month for the past 15 years.

Orang-utans, pygmy elephants, rhinos and clouded leopards share the forest with more than 600 bird species and 15,000 types of plant.

But despite Borneo’s natural wonders, huge swathes of its forests have been cut down for timber and to make way for oil palm and paper pulp plantations.

This needs to stop if we want to save this amazing natural treasure.

The story so far

We’ve fought the destruction of Borneo’s forests for many years, and had a major breakthrough in 2007.

The governments of Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia (each governs part of the island) made a joint declaration to conserve around  220,000 sq km of rainforest – the “Heart of Borneo” – through a network of protected areas and sustainable forest management.

Since then, plans for the world’s largest  oil palm plantation carved in the forest’s heart have been scrapped, as has a road network that would have destroyed much of the intact forests. Logging has been stopped in 2,600 sq km of forest where endangered orang-utans live, and more commitments are in progress.

Did you know?

It’s not just plants and animals threatened by the destruction of Borneo’s forests. Nearly 1 million indigenous people depend on the forest for food and shelter too.

Facts and stats

  • 500+ – new species discovered in the Heart of Borneo  over the last 15 years
  • 14 – number of Borneo’s 20 major river systems whose catchment area is in the Heart of Borneo – a life source for the population and crucial for many industries
  • US$30 billion – estimated value of carbon stored in the area
  • 8,000 sq km – size of a new protected area due to be created in 2011
  • 220,000 sq km – area of rainforest our Heart of Borneo Initiative aims to protect, manage, sustainably develop and restore.

What next?

There’s lots in the pipeline to build on our past successes.

In 2011, we’ll be working with the three governments of Borneo and other partners to develop a roadmap towards a “green economy”. We want to see governments, businesses and communities value Borneo’s natural resources,  and work to conserve biodiversity, reduce CO2 emissions and stop deforestation, while at the same time fostering green economic growth.

To support this, we’re demonstrating that responsible forest management is good for business, as it protects the resources that businesses rely on, like timber and water. Across the Heart of Borneo, WWF is working with companies to promote the implementation of Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) principles of wise forest management so as to improve the sustainability of commercial logging and also to connect important protected areas and protect river catchments. Find out more about our work with business in Borneo.

What you can do

  • Choose paper and wood products certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), which guarantees that forests are being managed sustainably.
  • Demand that retailers and manufacturers use sustainable palm oil that doesn’t destroy Borneo’s forests: find out more about palm oil.

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Tropical rainforest near Berau demonstrating environmental and social functions of pre-FSC certification. East Kalimantan, Indonesia.
© Edward Parker
Mulu flying frog at night, Borneo.
© WWF / Stefan Hertwig
Logging pond in forest near Samarinda in East Kalimantan, Indonesia.
© Edward Parker