Borneo project restores orangutan habitat and generates income for locals
The Borneo Orangutan Survival project in Indonesia could be a blueprint for saving habitat, cutting greenhouse gases.
Since 2002, on a 2,000 hectare (7.7 square mile) plot of deforested land in the Indonesian state of East Kalimantan on the island of Borneo, an organization called Borneo Orangutan Survival (BOS) has been regenerating forest to create habitat for orangutans. By combining agriculture and forestry, the Samboja Lestari project has planted more than a million trees – including 1,000 different species.Skip to next paragraph
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The reforestation effort has not only established a safe haven for orangutans, it has improved food security and incomes of the local community, stabilized the local micro-climate, increased the availability of water, and begun to established a sustainable agroforestry system managed by local people.
Borneo is the third-largest island in the world and historically has been covered with rainforest. Borneo’s forest is around 130 million years old, making it the world’s oldest rainforest.
But the island has lost an estimated 50 percent of its forest cover since the 1970s due to logging, slash and burn agriculture, and the establishment of large-scale oil palm plantations to produce biofuels.
The rapid loss of forest has produced massive amounts of CO2, making Indonesia the third-largest producer of greenhouse gases after the United States and China. Deforestation jeopardizes the future of many rare species – including clouded leopards, Sumatran rhinos, and orangutans.
It has also impoverished rural communities who have lost important resources, such as clean water, fish, fertile soil, and forest-grown food and medicines.
Willie Smits, a biologist and founder of BOS, has dedicated his career to saving the wild orangutan, which live exclusively on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo. BOS hosts over 1,000 orphaned orangutans.