Having spent over 30 years working and living in Borneo, the founding members of Borneo Futures have witnessed the rapid decline of native species as a result of prolific habitat loss and have therefore put wildlife conservation at the forefront of the Borneo Futures mission. As economic development, driven largely by resource extraction, continues to flourish in both Malaysia and Indonesia, natural forests are being cleared at an astonishing rate for monetary gains on both a smallholder and industrial scale. In order to address this issue, Borneo Futures has generated a working plan that prioritizes conservation both in- and outside protected area networks, using local research and meta-analyses to understand the costs and benefits of particular land uses and management strategies.
Much of our wildlife conservation work focuses on Borneo, a large tropical island with vast natural forests, freshwater ecosystems such as the Mahakam River, and high species diversity
Much of the research conducted and analysed by the Borneo Futures team is used to inform better policies and practices for sustainable natural resource use and wildlife conservation. This involves a range of management scales from government-driven land use planning to company management. We also recognize that rural communities play an essential role in implementing sustainable and efficient strategies for managing forests and other natural ecosystems, while earning a living from agriculture. Take oil palm, for example. Many local communities on Borneo rely on income from palm oil production to make a living, and oil palm is grown on deforested land. It can therefore be assumed, that with insufficient knowledge, communities may reject wildlife and forest conservation projects that prioritize the environment over their livelihood. Involving communities in research and implementation of community forest programs, however, allows for local engagement and learning. Knowing the cost of plantations, such as increased flooding or lack of clean water, may encourage community members to promote and comply with forest protection strategies that, in the long run, will reap benefits for wildlife conservation and community well-being.
Borneo's forests are rapidly disappearing - how well do we know the costs and benefits of deforestation?
That being said, wildlife conservation can be a difficult task that requires consistent enforcement, particularly in areas where law enforcement regarding land-clearing and resource acquisition may be lacking. Knowing that leaving an accessible area of forest on Borneo alone will inevitably lead to its degradation, requires that we must install some means of management. Ideally this management would be through legally protected areas, but the current protected area network is already underfunded and struggling to cope with pressures on wildlife and ecosystems. Where establishing government-managed protected areas is difficult, alternative types of management can step in. Borneo Futures focuses on these alternative management opportunities, outside protected areas, specifically working with communities and concessions, such as timber and palm oil companies.
Borneo’s indigenous communities, such as the Wehea people in East Kalimantan, are among the stewards of the island’s resources and wildlife
Although the company’s conservation efforts do not favour particular species or ecosystems, we acknowledge that much of our work focusses on orangutans. The simple reason for this being that larger, international audiences are more likely to help facilitate the conservation of the iconic orangutan, than, for example, the critically endangered Leptobrachella botsfordi – which is a virtually unknown brown frog from Vietnam, but we’re sure you knew that. Our conservation work on orangutans, however, is not just because of its public appeal. We consider the orangutan an umbrella species. We believe that by addressing the issues of orangutan habitat loss and unsustainable killing rates, there will be a knock-on effect on many other current conservation challenges. Finalizing this in our latest and most exciting piece of research we have quantified all investments put into orangutan conservation by governments, NGOs, sanctuaries, companies and communities to determine which strategies are most effective in reducing the threats to remaining orangutan populations, with the hope of informing governments and conservation donors to optimally allocate conservation policies and financing. In another study, we show that the Tapanuli Orangutan, one of the three orangutan species, only retains between 2.5 and 5% of the range it occupied some 130 years ago.