‘Business as Usual’ No Longer An Option: Saving Borneo’s Forests

In conjunction with World Environment Day, WWF-Malaysia and WWF-Indonesia released an Executive Summary of their upcoming publication titled “The Environmental Status of Borneo 2016”

PETALING JAYA/JAKARTA: Borneo’s status as one of the world’s last remaining expanses of forest and the fact that it is in peril means that ‘business as usual’ is no longer an option for island, shared by three nations.

The goals for conservation in the Heart of Borneo (HoB) cannot be truly achieved without taking the whole of Borneo into consideration. Hence, concerted and large scale efforts in restoration, reforestation and protection would be needed to save Borneo’s forests.

A landscape containing a complex of lowland forest, heath forest and upland rainforest at Tumbang Jojang, Murung Raya, Central Kalimantan. – Photo credit / © WWF-Indonesia/Arief Destika

In conjunction with World Environment Day, the respective chiefs of WWF-Malaysia and WWF-Indonesia, issued a statement, stressing that Borneo is in danger of losing its major ecosystems and the valuable eco-services they provide.

These are critical to the long-term survival of local communities and the economies – both national and regional – of Brunei Darussalam, the Indonesian provinces in Kalimantan, and the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak, they said.

Forest in Kubaan-Puak, Sarawak, Malaysia. – Photo credit / © WWF-Malaysia/Zora Chan

Dr Dionysius Sharma, Executive Director/CEO of WWF-Malaysia and Benja V Mambai, acting CEO at WWF-Indonesia said their respective organisations are committed to continue supporting the three Governments in implementing the HoB Initiative.

They urged everyone to take part in this endeavour to make a better future for the HoB and the island of Borneo as a whole, and help maintain the sustainability of its natural capital, for the welfare of present and future generations.

Based on the report, the original 74 million ha of overall forest cover had declined to 55% in 2015 and within the forested areas, fragmentation is widespread with deforestation on the rise. Under a business-as-usual (BAU) scenario, by 2020, Borneo could lose 75% of its forest.


The summary provides an overview of the status and emerging environmental issues in Borneo and is widely shared to raise awareness and gain collective support in the ongoing efforts to save Borneo’s forests.

“This World Environment Day is a good opportunity to draw attention to the state of the environment that we are passing onto to the generations to come,” pointed out Dr Sharma.

“We need to act now and act fast to save Borneo’s forests. Together, we can help make one of the world’s last remaining expanses of forest in Borneo a better place to live in, both for us human as well as the biodiversity that thrives in this unique tropical rainforest island.”

His counterpart in Jakarta, Benja V, agrees that having been ongoing for 10 years now, the HoB Initiative has gained increasing support from all of its major stakeholders.


“It is important to have a clear and comprehensive overview of the current and previous environmental status of Borneo including HoB, to see where major changes of the ecological conditions are occurring,” said Benja V.

“This would help monitor and help us in better planning of our future endeavours in the island. As this report presents as such, we hope that the result of this regular environmental analysis would guide the authorities and our stakeholders to take effective steps to address the declining state of the environment,” he added.

The WWF’s Environmental Status of Borneo 2016 is due to be released by end of the month.

It is the third edition of the report which details the environmental health of critical ecosystems and biological plant and animal indicators.

The purpose of this status report is to use these indicators in assessing the changing landscape and decline of forest cover by making reference to historical extent, and then in three, five-year intervals, from 2005 to 2015.

Conservation landscapes in West Kalimantan. – Photo credit / © WWF-Indonesia/Victor Fidelis Santosa

Using the latest 2015 data, this year for the first time, the report was extended from the area designated as the HoB to the whole of the island – a reflection of the cross boundary landscape approach needed to adequately address the loss of natural capital in globally significant environmental hotspots.

Borneo is home to a great diversity of plant and animal species, with rich resources for the livelihood of 11 million people including one million Indigenous Peoples who inhabit the area called the (HoB) and have sustainably managed its natural capital for centuries. However, not all is well!

Orangutan near Punggualas, Sebangau National Park. – Photo credit / © WWF-Indonesia/Pradino/Ajim Ariadi/Restu

According to projections in the report, if the 2005-2015 deforestation rates continue, under a BAU scenario, a further 6 million ha of forest may be deforested over the next five-year period from 2015 and 2020.

Despite some challenges presented, the report provides good news on some ecosystem fronts. The area known as the Heart of Borneo in the centre of the island has indeed fared far better than the lowlands and coastal areas.

Highlighting perhaps the wisdom, forethought and relative success of the three Borneo Member Countries’ 2007 historic declaration to conserve HoB, considerable work has been carried out under the HoB banner by the three Member Countries and its local and international supporters, not the least being WWF.

This report is an inventory of the changing status of the major ecosystems and key species of Borneo, the land use developments that affect that status, and the current conservation management issues – all of which would serve as the baseline for the Borneo-wide conservation strategy of WWF.

NB: Caption for Featured image – Bornean elephants in Sabah, Malaysia. – Photo credit / © WWF-Malaysia/Dr Cheryl Cheah