The Sabangau Forest, Indonesian Borneo is home to many endangered species. Clouded leopards roam the forest floor, sun bears clamber through the trees and hornbills glide across the skyline. What makes Sabangau even more special is an estimated 6,000 Bornean orangutans reside in this 600,000 hectare peat-swamp forest.
Sabangau is considered one of the last strongholds for the Critically Endangered Bornean orangutan and one of the top priority sites for its conservation. But sadly, it is threatened and at risk from timber-cutting, encroachment, hunting of wildlife and forest fires. The 2015 fire season was particularly devastating, with 10% of Borneo Nature Foundation’s main field site in Sabangau being burnt during October 2015 alone. Despite this loss, the forest remains the largest non-fragmented area of lowland rainforest in Indonesian Borneo.
We are working to put an end to these threats with a holistic approach to conservation. We support and empower community-led initiatives to protect forest and biodiversity, including anti-logging patrols, fire-fighting teams, environmental education, and the replanting and restoration of damaged forests. All our programmes include high-quality scientific research as a basis for protecting and managing forests.
With support from White Tiger Qigong, this year we are planting 1,700 seedlings and distributing 8,000 seeds in burnt areas of Sabangau, where forest was lost in 2015. Cleared peat-swamp forest regenerates naturally, but burnt forest loses its seed bank and instead regenerates to a climax community of ferns and grasses that burn easily in the dry season. These areas therefore require a targeted reforestation programme.
We replant burnt areas with seedlings grown in our seedling nursery and assist their regeneration by clearing undergrowth, providing fertilizer and identifying those species that grow best in open conditions. This will help kick-start natural regeneration and, in the long-term, help achieve our ultimate goal of restoring crucial orangutan habitat that was once present in the area.
Thank you to Tevia Feng, White Tiger Qigong and the students for supporting our conservation work and making our projects a reality!
by Suzanne Turnock, Borneo Nature Foundation
For more information on this project check out their webpage: