‘Business as Usual’ is No Longer an Option: Saving Borneo’s Forests
Borneo is home to a great diversity of plant and animal species, with rich resources for the livelihood of 11 million people including one million Indigenous Peoples who inhabit the area called the Heart of Borneo (HoB) and have sustainably managed its natural capital for centuries. However, not all is well!
The report finds that Borneo is in danger of losing its major ecosystems and the valuable eco-services they provide which are critical to the long-term survival of local communities and the economies – both national and regional – of Brunei Darussalam, the Indonesian provinces in Kalimantan, and the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak. Based on the report, the original 74 million ha of overall forest cover had declined to 55% in 2015 and within the forested areas, fragmentation is widespread with deforestation on the rise. Under a business-as-usual (BAU) scenario, by 2020, Borneo could lose 75% of its forest.
According to projections in the report, if the 2005-2015 deforestation rates continue, under a BAU scenario, a further 6 million ha of forest may be deforested over the next five-year period from 2015 and 2020.
Despite some challenges presented, the report provides good news on some ecosystem fronts. The area known as the Heart of Borneo in the centre of the island has indeed fared far better than the lowlands and coastal areas. Highlighting perhaps the wisdom, forethought and relative success of the three Borneo Member Countries’ 2007 historic declaration to conserve HoB, considerable work has been carried out under the HoB banner by the three Member Countries and its local and international supporters, not the least being WWF.
“This World Environment Day is a good opportunity to draw attention to the state of the environment that we are passing onto to the generations to come. We need to act now and act fast to save Borneo’s forests. Together, we can help make one of the world's last remaining expanses of forest in Borneo a better place to live in, both for us human as well as the biodiversity that thrives in this unique tropical rainforest island,” said Dato’ Dr Dionysius Sharma, Executive Director / CEO of WWF-Malaysia.
“The Heart of Borneo Initiative has been ongoing for ten years now and has gained increasing support from all of our major stakeholders,” said Benja V. Mambai, acting CEO at WWF-Indonesia. “It is important to have a clear and comprehensive overview of the current and previous environmental status of Borneo including HoB, to see where major changes of the ecological conditions are occurring. This would help monitor and help us in better planning of our future endeavours in the island. As this report presents as such, we hope that the result of this regular environmental analysis would guide the authorities and our stakeholders to take effective steps to address the declining state of the environment,” he added.
WWF’s Environmental Status of Borneo 2016 is due to be released by end of the month. It is the third edition of the report which details the environmental health of critical ecosystems and biological plant and animal indicators. The purpose of this status report is to use these indicators in assessing the changing landscape and decline of forest cover by making reference to historical extent, and then in three, five-year intervals, from 2005 to 2015. Using the latest 2015 data, this year for the first time, the report was extended from the area designated as the Heart of Borneo to the whole of the island – a reflection of the cross boundary landscape approach needed to adequately address the loss of natural capital in globally significant environmental hotspots.
This report is an inventory of the changing status of the major ecosystems and key species of Borneo, the land use developments that affect that status, and the current conservation management issues – all of which would serve as the baseline for the Borneo-wide conservation strategy of WWF.
Borneo's status as one of the world's last remaining expanses of forest and the fact that it is in peril means that ‘Business as usual’ is no longer an option for Borneo. The goals for conservation in the HoB cannot be truly achieved without taking the whole of Borneo into consideration. Hence, concerted and large scale efforts in restoration, reforestation and protection would be needed to save Borneo’s forests.
WWF-Malaysia and WWF-Indonesia are committed to continue supporting the three Governments in implementing the HoB Initiative and urge everyone to take part in this endeavour to make a better future for the HoB and the island of Borneo as a whole, and help maintain the sustainability of its natural capital, for the welfare of present and future generations.
Happy Environment Day!
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The Executive Summary of The Environmental Status of Borneo 2016 is available for download here.
WWF-Malaysia (World Wide Fund for Nature-Malaysia) was established in Malaysia in 1972. It currently runs more than 90 projects covering a diverse range of environmental conservation and protection work, from saving endangered species such as tigers and turtles, to protecting our highland forests, rivers and seas. The national conservation organization also undertakes environmental education and advocacy work to achieve its conservation goals. Its mission is to stop the degradation of the earth’s natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the nation’s biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption. For latest news and media resources, visit http://www.wwf.org.my/media_and_information/media_centre/
WWF-Indonesia is an independent national conservation organization and is part of a global network of WWF. It started out in 1962 with research on Javan rhino in Ujung Kulon and today, it has conservation work in 28 regions in 17 provinces from Aceh to Papua. Supported by approximately 500 staff, WWF-Indonesia works with the government, local communities, private sector, NGOs, civil society and the public at large. From 2006 to 2013, WWF-Indonesia has about 64,000 supporters in the country. For more information, visit www.wwf.or.id
About Heart of Borneo (HoB)
The Heart of Borneo (HoB) is a 22-million hectare landscape of natural capital with intact forests that is home to a diverse group of wildlife species such as orang-utan, clouded leopard, pygmy elephant and Sumatran rhino. Apart from being one of WWF’s global priority conservation areas, HoB is also an important socio-economic development area for the livelihoods of the local and indigenous people.
The HoB Initiative is a transboundary collaboration of the three Governments of Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia and Malaysia to conserve and sustainably manage the biodiversity, ecosystems and natural resources in the HoB. Since the signing of the joint declaration by the three countries in 2007, WWF continues to play a key role in supporting the three Governments implement the Initiative, enhancing collaboration as well as implementing conservation programmes across the landscape of Borneo. Working closely with both national and regional key partners - governments, private sector, civil society and other support institutions (donors, technical specialists, public and media) - various conservation projects are being led by WWF HoB Programme, a joint collaboration between WWF-Indonesia and WWF-Malaysia with support from WWF offices around the world.
For more information, please contact:
Heart of Borneo Programme Communication Manager
Tel: +603-7450 3773
Heart of Borneo Thematic Leader for Species and Places