Clouded Leopard Conservation and Research in Borneo
Borneo is Earth’s third largest island, located in northwest of Australia and southeast of the Asian mainland. It is made up of three countries, Malaysia (the states of Sabah and Sarawak), Indonesia (Kalimantan), and Brunei.
Click here to see Borneo in Google Maps.
Borneo is rich in diversity, with 15,000 flowering plants, 420 bird species, and 221 terrestrial mammals. Some of its most rare and famous creatures include the Borneo orangutan, the pygmy forest elephant, and the Sumatran rhino.
However, the unique plants and animals of Borneo are increasingly under threat from changes to the island’s forest structure. According to WWF-Worldwide Fund for Nature, today only half of Borneo’s original forest cover remains, down from 75% in the mid 1980s. Experts predict that, without quick action, within 10 years nearly all of Borneo’s lowland forest will disappear.
Click here for a map of the forest cover loss.
Borneo’s forests are disappearing at the rate of 1.3 million hectares each year, driven by multiple factors including road building, logging the development of palm plantations, and forest fires. The growing desire of international markets for hardwoods has accelerated logging activity. Once cleared, nearly all land is converted to palm oil plantations. There are currently 2.5 million hectares under palm oil production on Borneo, although that number continues to rise rapidly. The use of palm oil is growing internationally with palm oil predicted to be the leading edible oil worldwide by 2016. Palm oil is used in a wide variety of food products and has also recently gained prominence in the biofuel industry.
Despite the impact of logging and palm plantations, some areas of Borneo are under protected status. Approximately 6.9% of Borneo is protected in National Parks. Additional areas are considered Forest Reserves or other reserves with varying degrees of forest protection. The Malaysian state of Sabah has 14% of its land under some form of protected status. Sarawak protects 8% and Kalimantan 9%. However, protected areas often receive lax enforcement, with logging and hunting occurring in plain sight within their borders.
The result of logging and development of palm plantations is the creation of a fragmented patchwork of remaining forest. These forest parcels are often too small to hold large enough wildlife populations to maintain genetic diversity. Conservationists hope to encourage plantation owners to leave forest corridors intact to connect the widely scattered protected areas to allow the movement of wildlife. They also hope to encourage the wider use of selective logging practices to maintain some degree of natural forest cover in timber concessions.
In addition to Borneo’s habitat loss, its wildlife is also suffering at the hands of the illegal wildlife trade. Threatened species including orangutans, sun bears, and clouded leopards are sold for pets, meat, and traditional medicines.
For more on Borneo conservation issues, download WWF’s report, Borneo: Treasure Island at Risk