Many threatened species occur outside legally protected areas. For example, more than half of orangutans on Borneo live alongside oil palm and other agriculture, tree plantations, or commercially logged forests. We find that there are opportunities to manage wildlife in these landscapes, even though this may not be optimal from an ecological point of view. We, therefore, work closely within the palm oil and other plantation sectors to see how such management in non-protected areas can be achieved. We help companies develop citizen-science-based methods for engaging all their staff in wildlife management and monitoring, making conservation a responsibility. We also work with the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil on a number of issues related to better environmental management in oil palm areas.
On the matter of conservation and agriculture, there are two things we can say for certain: people need to eat, and food is primarily produced in agricultural areas. Alongside promoting economic growth, governments invest a huge deal of their efforts in ensuring reliable food sources for the people of their country. This results in large areas of land being set aside each year for agricultural production – good for the people, not so great for conservation. As a company, Borneo Futures pushes for minimal expansion of agriculture into forested areas. At the same time, we recognize that most existing agricultural areas are here to stay. This indicates a need to think about how wildlife conservation can be achieved in agricultural areas and multifunctional landscapes. In studying species such as orangutans, we have learned that they are far more ecologically resilient than we previously thought, with many individuals surviving in small forest patches and corridors, given that they are safe from external threats, such as killing or other harm. This provides that, from an ecological perspective, wildlife conservation can occur alongside agricultural production – the issue is a matter of appropriate management.
Riparian forests in agricultural landscapes, such as here seen in Agropalma, Brazil, provide important ecological elements that connect larger forest blocks
Considering the outcomes of recent research and practice, Borneo Futures recognizes the increasing importance of maintaining small habitat matrices as a tool to maintain ecological and genetic connectivity between wildlife populations in larger protected forest areas. This strategy does, however, involve a number of risks such as fire and illegal logging by which small forest fragments are threatened. For this mechanism to work optimally, we require buy-in from land managers in both companies and communities to maintain these forest patches.
With the majority of orangutans on Borneo living outside protected areas we need to find alternative management approaches to ensure that we do not lose these populations
Now that forest loss rates in Indonesia are declining, the resulting, more stable landscapes, provide opportunities to experiment with different forms of management of small habitats. Not only in this important for wildlife conservation, but these small areas of stable land have been seen to provide important services to companies and communities, such as flood buffering, provision of clean water, opportunities for harvesting medicinal plants, and fishing. Once again, we believe that this link to local communities will provide Borneo Futures with more opportunities to engage with, educate, and work cooperatively with key populations in order to invest in and promote wildlife conservation mechanisms that are accepted at the local level and will therefore be more sustainable in the long run. We also hope that this level of entry will eventually allow our company to convince governments that conservation needs to happen everywhere that wildlife exists, not only in protected areas, which is currently a key challenge in our mission.