Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Landmark Protection for Borneo’s Endangered Wildlife

Thanks to Rainforest Trust donors, a major logging concession in Sabah, Borneo, has been converted into a 168,032-acre permanent sanctuary for wildlife that links two of the most important reserves in Asia – the Maliau Basin and Danum Valley – saving one of the most critical stretches of lowland rainforest remaining on the island.

On December 21, 2015, Rainforest Trust received news from its local partner in Borneo that the Sabah State Assembly formally approved the permanent protection of 168,032 acres of the Kuamut logging concession as a Class I Forest Reserve. This status confers the same level of protection as a national park.

The new protected area – nearly four times the size of the District of Columbia –strategically links two of Borneo’s largest protected areas, which are vital to protecting one of the planet’s last remaining strongholds of biodiversity.

Rainforest Trust in collaboration with Bornean partners Yayasan Sabah Foundation, the Royal Society South-East Asia Rainforest Research Program (SEARRP), and Permian Global worked with Sabah’s state government to formally establish the new Kuamut Forest Reserve.

Its protection comes after intense pressure to open these forests to repeated logging and oil palm development.

“The Kuamut Forest Reserve is a crucial link in a huge protected area complex extending across more than 77 miles of lowland rainforest and encompassing a wide variety of habitats for wildlife,” said Dr. Paul Salaman, CEO of Rainforest Trust. “After a struggle against logging and oil palm companies and their desire to open up these forests to development, we have finally secured protection for this exceptional area. The declaration of the Kuamut Forest Reserve is one of the greatest refuges for biodiversity in all of Borneo.”

The lowland forests in Danum Valley are among the world’s most important – and threatened – biodiversity hotspots. The area supports 340 species of birds, including the Critically Endangered Helmeted Hornbill and numerous endemics. Over 60 species of amphibians, 75 reptile species, and 40 fish species are found in the area.

The valley is also home to Borneo’s Pygmy Elephant. Numbering less than 1,000 total individuals, this is the smallest elephant in the world and it depends upon Kuamut for its survival. Studied for less than a decade, it remains one of the least understood elephant species in the world.