Jun 29

The survival of orangutans and pygmy elephants has received a major boost in the Heart of Borneo, an area of highland forests at the core of the island, according to WWF.

Photo of Bornean orangutan juvenile biting tree

The Bornean orangutan is under threat from hunting and habitat loss, and is considered Endangered by the IUCN.

WWF reports that nearly 300,000 hectares of important habitat has been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) in the forest reserves of Ulu Segama-Malua and Tangkulap-Pinangah, in the Malaysian state of Sabah, Borneo. These newly certified sites are believed to harbour the world’s highest density of north-eastern Bornean orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus morio), and Borneo pygmy elephants (Elephas maximus borneensis), a subspecies of the Asian elephant.

FSC certification is considered to be the most credible global standard for responsible and sustainable forest management.

Photo of Bornean elephant female with young

The Borneo pygmy elephant, or Bornean elephant, is genetically distinct from other Asian elephants.

The area also includes the Malua BioBank, a partnership involving the Sabah Government which seeks to preserve and restore 34,000 hectares of critical orangutan habitat by bringing business investment into conservation management.

All Sabah’s forestry concessions to be certified

Sabah’s Forestry Department (SFD) has imposed a deadline of 2014 for certification of all the forestry concessions in the state of Sabah. According to SFD’s Director, Datuk Sam Mannan, the announcement of the latest certification has quadrupled the area of land under FSC certification in the state, and he hopes it will encourage other concession holders to pursue certification before the 2014 deadline.

Photo of illegal gold mine inside Tanjung Puting National Park, Borneo

Illegal gold mine inside Tanjung Puting National Park. Borneo’s forests are also under threat from logging, fire, and conversion to agriculture and oil palm plantations.

FSC certification is a crucial part of independent third party verification of sustainable forest management and its critical role in sustaining viable populations of some of the world’s most endangered wildlife here in the Heart of Borneo, one of the most bio-diverse areas on the planet,” said CEO of WWF Malaysia, Dato’ Dr Dionysius Sharma.

Leap forward for Asia’s forests

Head of WWF’s Global Forest & Trade Network (GFTN), George White, said that to date there has been very little certification of Asia’s tropical forests. He added that, “This announcement represents a significant leap forward for sustainable management of tropical forests in Asia and evidences the long lasting relationship between SFD and WWF.”

Photo of Bornean orangutan baby and adult interacting

Bornean orangutan and infant.

The announcement is good news for Borneo’s endangered orangutans and elephants, which currently face serious threats from hunting and from the large-scale loss of their forest habitat through logging and fires.

Adam Tomasek, leader of WWF’s Heart of Borneo initiative, also stressed the global importance of the announcement, saying, “This is a living example of how government, business and WWF can work together to make forests worth more standing than cut down. It is also one of the key foundations in the development of a Green Economy for the [Heart of Borneo] – a concept which is gaining increasing relevance and support internationally.”

Read the full story: WWF – Good news for orangutan and pygmy elephants in the Heart of Borneo.

View photos and videos of Bornean orangutans on ARKive.

View photos and videos of Asian elephants on ARKive.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Species Text Author

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