Borneo Lowland Forests Face Extinction

BorneoLowland Forests Face Extinction

8June 2005


The lowland tropical rain forests in Indonesian Borneo could disappear infive years due to rampant logging and forest fires, endangering the survival ofmany exotic species, an international conservation group said on Tuesday.

The world’s third-largest island has lost forests equivalent to an area onethird the size of Switzerland every year, or at a rate of 1.3 million hectares.It is home to more than 210 mammal species, including 44 found only in Borneo.

In its report called “Treasure island at risk”, the World Wide Fund (WWF)said the loss of forest would drastically affect the island’s wildlife,endangering ecological wonders like the pygmy elephant and orang-utan, whoselong-term survival is already in doubt.

“The consequences of this scale of deforestation will not only result in amajor loss of species but also disrupt water supplies and reduce future economicopportunities such as tourism and subsistence for local communities,” ChrisElliott, director of the WWF’s Global Forest Programme, said in a statement.

By 2020, the remaining populations of orang-utans may be too small to begenetically viable due to fragmentation of their habitat, the WWF report said.

Indonesia, having lost more than 70 percent of its original frontier forest, haslaunched a crackdown on illegal logging, but many activists complain theauthorities have failed to catch the big bosses behind the lucrative trade.

Indonesia shares jurisdiction of Borneo, which lies at the centre of Indonesia’sarchipelago, with Malaysia and Brunei.

The WWF wants to help the three nations to convert more than 22 million hectaresof rainforest in an area known as “Heart of Borneo” into a reservetaking up a quarter of the island.

“In the Heart of Borneo we can still achieve conservation on a big scaleand win before we are left with small, fragmented forest patches,” saidStuart Chapman, international coordinator of the Heart of Borneo Initiative.


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