Borneo, located in Southeast Asia, is the world’s third largest island. Borneo is also divided into three different nations, Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei. The island of Borneo is rich in biodiversity; Borneo’s rainforests are the home to world’s largest flower, the world’s largest carnivorous plants, the world’s largest orchid, and the world’s last orangutans. Not long ago, Borneo had an extensive rainforest that covered the majority of the island. However, the ever increasing demand for timber in the international markets, coupled with government corruption, has turned the green lungs of Asia into the world’s biggest exporter of tropical timber. According to the World Wildlife Fund, the rate of environmental destruction in Borneo is now faster than in the Amazon Basin.
In the early 1990s, a surge in the demand for palm oil as an ingredient in processed foods, as well as for biofuel production, was seen as an economic opportunity in the region. Oil palm became much more lucrative traditional crops, like bananas, and resulted in the decimation of 86% of Malaysia’s rainforests for the development of oil palm plantations. In fact, environmentalists have been alarmed at the rate in which oil palm plantations have been replacing tropical rainforests. But the numbers are hard to beat. Compared to soybeans and corn, which yield only 446 and 172 liters of crude oil per hectare, a hectare of oil palm may yield nearly 6,000 liters of crude oil.
While the palm oil devastation is far reaching, reforestation efforts by the Borneo Orangutan Survival (BOS) Foundation are promising. Their Samboja Lestari Reforestation project demonstrated that it was indeed possible to transform a 2000 hectare wasteland into a thriving forest with 1800 native species of plants in only a few short years. The end result was the return of hundreds of species of wildlife, from butterflies and beetles to hornbills and gibbons. Furthermore, with its high concentration of fruiting trees, Samboja Lestari is a sanctuary for the rehabilitation of rescued orangutans.
BOS is currently looking after more than 1000 displaced young and adult orangutans, and are looking for ways to release them into safe forests.
The EcoPreservation Society is partnerring with BOS on land acquisition, for the purposes of reforestation and orangutan rehabilitation. Check out their Borneo Reforestation Project for more information.