Conservation News: Study Shows 30% of Borneo’s Rainforests Destroyed Since 1973

map courtesy of study authors

map courtesy of study authors

Borneo’s forests are being destroyed at twice the rate of the rest of the world’s rainforests.
by Rhett A. Butler,
More than 30 percent of Borneo’s rainforests have been destroyed over the past forty years due to fires, industrial logging, and the spread of plantations, finds a new study that provides the most comprehensive analysis of the island’s forest cover to date. The research, published in the open-access journal PLOS ONE, shows that just over a quarter of Borneo’s lowland forests remain intact.The study, which involved an international team of scientists led by David Gaveau and Erik Meijaard, is based on satellite data and aerial photographs. That approach enabled the researchers to separate industrial plantations from selectively-logged natural forests, while also mapping the extent of logging roads for various elevations, distinguishing between highly endangered lowland forests and inaccessible high-elevation forests.The results are sobering for conservationists: intact lowland forests, which house the highest levels of biodiversity and store the largest amounts of carbon, declined by 73 percent during the period. 34 percent of those forests were selectively logged, while 39 percent were cleared completely, usually converted to industrial plantations to supply the world with palm oil, paper, and timber. Sabah, the eastern-most state in Malaysia, had the highest proportion of forest loss and degradation, with 52 percent of its lowland forests cleared and 29 percent logged. Only 18 percent of the state’s lowland forests remain intact, according to the study.

This excerpt from a news article appeared in and is courtesy of and can be read in its entirety here.

posted by: Tom


Conservation News: Drones Bring Fight And Flight To Battle Against Poachers

Lian Pin Koh and Serge Wich prepare their drone for flight.  photo for the OC archives.

Lian Pin Koh and Serge Wich prepare their drone for flight. photo for the OC archives.

by Michael Casey for Scientific American

Tracking endangered orangutans was no easy feat a scant three years ago. It required counting treetop nests in places like the Leuser Ecosystem on Indonesia’s Sumatra Island to gauge the health of a population that was under fire from poachers and palm oil barrens. Aerial surveillance using remote sensing satellites was often too expensive for local conservation groups and, even when affordable, the views were routinely obscured by cloud cover.

“I was thinking it would be a lot easier if we had a camera somewhere up in the sky that would take pictures of the canopy of the forest and allow us to determine where orangutans are and how many there are,” says Serge Wich, a primate biologist at Liverpool John Moores University and an expert on orangutans.

A year later he and his colleague, Lian Pin Koh, chair of the Applied Ecology and Conservation Group at the University of Adelaide in Australia, launched their first unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)—aka drone. Weighing a few kilograms with a wingspan of about two meters, the battery-powered and remote-controlled drones look more like model airplanes as they fly above treetops snapping geotagged photos or video during preprogrammed flights that last about an hour and a half. The project drew so much interest—8,000 views on their first YouTube video—that they set up an organization,, that promotes scientific use for UAVs worldwide. “I think it will revolutionize part of how we do conservation and rainforest ecology work,” Wich says. The group has provided upward of 40 drones globally to conservation groups studying everything from illegal fishing in Belize to destruction of elephant habitat in Indonesia to fires from bush meat hunters in the Congo.

This excerpt from a news article appeared in and is courtesy of Scientific American and can be read in its entirety here.

The Conservation Drone Project is one of the efforts that the Orangutan Conservancy helps to support.  Read more about them here.



posted by: Tom


Orangutan News: Depleting Forest Forces Orangutans To Nest In Palm Oil Estates

photo from the OC archives

photo from the OC archives

SANDAKAN: A new landmark study based in Sabah’s east coast has shown that orangutans in Kinabatangan have no choice but to nest in oil palm plantations as they travel from one forest patch to another.

“These findings have long term implications for the oil palm industry and those working in conservation as we have to look at a larger landscape rather than concentrate only on forested areas,” said Dr. Marc Ancrenaz, the lead author of the findings published in Oryx, the international journal of conservation.

This study was carried out by research based non-governmental organisation, HUTAN – Kinabatangan Orangutan Conservation Programme (KOCP) and the Sabah Wildlife Department.

It began in 2008 with aerial surveys, followed by years of ground surveys and interviews with oil palm workers to investigate why the population of orangutans in the forested areas in Kinabatangan was dropping.

This excerpt from a news article appeared in and is courtesy of Borneo Post online and can be read in its entirety here.

posted by: Tom


Representatives of Indonesian Presidential Candidates Discuss Environmental Agenda


Indonesia’s presidential candidates expressed aspects of their environmental agenda through their representatives during an evening gathering of news media reporters and nongovernmental organizations. Sponsored by five orangutan advocacy groups (Orang Utan Republik Foundation, The Orangutan Project, The Orangutan Conservancy, Orangutan Outreach, and Orangutan Land Trust), the discussion/debate took place at Café Resto, Complex Ismail Marzuki, Cikini, Central Jakarta, Thursday (03/07) and featured Wahyu Widodo, representing the presidential candidate team of Joko Widodo/Jusuf Kalla, and Syamsul Bahri, representing the presidential candidate team of Prabowo Subianto/Hatta Rajasa.

The theme for the evening discussion was, “Following the 2014 Presidential Election: The Future of Indonesia’s Environment.”

A variety of topics were discussed during the evening during which time Wahyu Widodo and Syamsul Bahri explained the vision and mission of their respective candidates for the nation’s highest office.

Syamsul Bahri for Prabowo-Hatta Rajasa, said the environmental problems that exist in Indonesia are due to land degradation, loss of genetic resources in the natural environment (germplasm) and diminishing public concern about the environment.

Syamsul Bahri said that if Prabowo was elected President, he would continue the environmental policy of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono as it promises to reduce carbon emissions by 26 percent or 41 percent with international assistance in 2020. “But the government Indonesia needs to strengthen the climate negotiations in international forums, “he said.

Wahyu Widodo discussed a Jokowi-Kalla approach to managing the environment.  It needs to be extraordinary, and necessary institutions for the fields of environment management and natural resources are needed provide a deterrent for environmental crime.   He said, Jokowi-Kalla will take extraordinary law enforcement actions against violations in the fields of forestry and marine resources in Indonesia.

This excerpt from a news article appeared on and is courtesy of OURF and can be read in its entirety here.





posted by: Tom