The growing urban umbrella

I recently wrote this post for my company (see here) and was myself interested to see the extensive amount of deforestation still happening. In my early ecological career, many of these areas were not emphasised as major deforestation sites. Malaysian Borneo is the world’s largest producer of palm oil. Hopefully posts like this can begin to raise awareness of global trends of habitat loss… 

Forest fights for space against industrialisation

We have already invested in vital habitat that company expansions now threaten…

At the moment, the urban and farming lifestyles are expanding in Borneo. Much of this expansion is to feed the growing local and global population, achieved in this area primarily via palm oil plantations. Sir David Attenborough comments on plantations in Borneo in a recent interview, available here.

There is currently a proposed extension of an industrial area in East Kalimantan, Indonesia. The area is currently occupied by a population of rehabilitated orangutans. According to the Indonesian environmental group Peduli Teluk Balikpapan, if the expansion goes ahead, it will probably mean this rehabilitated population will be wiped out. We must acknowledge (1) the loss of potentially over 100 individuals of this fantastic, endangered species, and (2) the amount of time, hard work and $10,000s it took to get these rehabilitated individuals medically and behaviourally ready to be released into the wild.

 The entire 5,130 hectares (thats roughly 5,130 foot ball fields) is currently covered by hardwood forests and mangroves, which includes one third of orangutan habitat in Sungai Wain forest. The preposed Kariangau Industrial Area (KIK) will comprise 5,130 hectares of land. The expansion has not yet been finalized, but two companies—PT Dermaga Kencana Indonesia (Kencana Agri Ltd. Group) and PT Mekar Bumi Andalas (Wilmar Group)—have already proceeded to clear forest and reclaim mangrove swamps in areas still classified as protected in order to build crude palm oil mills near Upper Balikpapan Bay.

This crucial section of the population is not within the boundaries of the Sungai Wain Protection Forest and therefore not under any governmental protection. 

The Sungai Wain orangutans are part of a rehabilitation program established by the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation in the 1990s. Over 80 orangutans have been released into the surrounding primary and secondary forests. There is evidence to show the population is now already subject to the orangutans being killed. It has been long enough since the release for the population to become well established, meaning most females are now have one or two infants or juveniles. However, when Peduli Teluk Balikpapan and Dr. Stanislav Lhota conducted large mammals surveys in and around Sungai Wain, the population was estimated at only 15-30 individuals. There is a strong belief that the population disappeared due to opportunistic killing by local people as the apes moved into encroachment zones along the southern and northern boundaries of the forest. The secondary roads that make Sungai Wain accessible defiantly contribute to the level of this killing.

A male, flanged orangutan. Photo ©Thea Powell (@Thea_124) / OuTrop

 With this new expansion, the number and quality of roads in the area will increase considerably. This will of course increase the hunting. Additionally, the development from the expansion of the KIK would destroy 20% of the orangutan habitat – according to a Lhota press statement. The total area lost would amount to more than 1/3 of the available habitat. Encroachment zones can extend to more than 2 kilometers into the forest, levels which continue to expand. Despite intensive patrolling by forest guards, police and army, and the legislation – including a local decree, which strictly prohibits access to the major part of the Protection Forest – encroachment shows little sign of subsiding.

Read the full article here and please spread the word about the damage such developments can do.

Please follow my other blog posts for my company via the OuTrop blog.

These examples of modern human activity only increase the need to conserve Borneo’s habitat and natural wilderness. 



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