BORNEO: Lowland Forests Face Extinction

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

The world's third-largest island has lost forests equivalent to an area
one third 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, whose long-term survival is already in doubt.

"The consequences of this scale of deforestation will not only result
in a major loss of species but also disrupt water supplies and reduce
future economic opportunities such as tourism and subsistence for local
communities," Chris Elliott, 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
be genetically viable due to fragmentation of their habitat, the WWF
report said.

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

Indonesia shares jurisdiction of Borneo, which lies at the centre of Indonesia's archipelago, with Malaysia and Brunei.

The WWF wants to help the three nations to convert more than 22 million
hectares of rainforest in an area known as "Heart of Borneo" into a
reserve taking up a quarter of the island.

"In the Heart of Borneo we can still achieve conservation on a big
scale and win before we are left with small, fragmented forest
patches," said Stuart Chapman, international coordinator of the Heart
of Borneo Initiative.

AMP Section Name:Natural Resources
  • 183 Environment