Thanks to Rainforest Trust donors, a major logging concession in Sabah, Borneo, has been converted into a 171,625-acre permanent sanctuary for wildlife that links two of the most important reserves in Asia – the Maliau Basin and Danum Valley – saving one of the most critical stretches of lowland rainforest remaining on the island.
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On December 21, 2015, Rainforest Trust received news from its local partner in Borneo that the Sabah State Assembly formally approved the permanent protection of 171,625 acres of the Kuamut logging concession as a Class I Forest Reserve. This status confers the same level of protection as a national park. The new protected area – nearly four times the size of the District of Columbia –strategically links two of Borneo’s largest protected areas, which are vital to protecting one of the planet’s last remaining strongholds of biodiversity.
Rainforest Trust in collaboration with Bornean partners Yayasan Sabah Foundation, the Royal Society South‐East Asia Rainforest Research Program (SEARRP), and Permian Global worked with Sabah’s state government to formally establish the new Kuamut Forest Reserve. Its protection comes after intense pressure to open these forests to repeated logging and oil palm development.
“The Kuamut Forest Reserve is a crucial link in a huge protected area complex extending across more than 77 miles of lowland rainforest and encompassing a wide variety of habitats for wildlife,” said Dr. Paul Salaman, CEO of Rainforest Trust. “After a struggle against logging and oil palm companies and their desire to open up these forests to development, we have finally secured protection for this exceptional area. The declaration of the Kuamut Forest Reserve is one of the greatest refuges for biodiversity in all of Borneo.”
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The lowland forests in Danum Valley are among the world’s most important – and threatened – biodiversity hotspots. The area supports 340 species of birds, including the Critically Endangered Helmeted Hornbill and numerous endemics. Over 60 species of amphibians, 75 reptile species, and 40 fish species are found in the area.
The valley is also home to Borneo’s Pygmy Elephant. Numbering less than 1,000 total individuals, this is the smallest elephant in the world and it depends upon Kuamut for its survival. Studied for less than a decade, it remains one of the least understood elephant species in the world.
Inhabiting the canopy of these forests are Bornean Orangutans, the world’s largest tree-dwelling mammal. The orangutan population in Danum Valley likely exceeds 700, forming part of the largest continuous population in the state of Sabah. In addition to orangutans, ten other primate species are found in the valley, including Bornean Gibbons and Horsfield’s Tarsiers. Other species like Sun Bears, Bantengs, Clouded Leopards, Bearded Pigs and several species of deer have been recorded as well.
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The future protection of the new reserve is greatly assisted by the fact that no villages or permanent settlements exist within the area and that poaching and hunting is prohibited. With a well trained and equipped team of forest guards, the former logging concession will quickly regenerate and recover to luxuriant rainforests again.
Without protection, it was predicted that around 40% of the Kuamut Forest Reserve would have been converted to agricultural land within the next five years.
“It was time to act,” explained Salaman. “Protecting Borneo’s remaining lowland rainforests from logging and expanding oil palm plantations is crucial for endangered wildlife like the Bornean Orangutan, Pygmy Elephant and a host of other species.”
“We’re thrilled to join our local partners and Sabah’s state government on this momentous victory for the planet by announcing the designation of the new Kuamut Forest Reserve. We will continue to support efforts to protect an additional 113,668 acres of Kuamut’ s forests by 2018, further strengthening this important refuge and corridor for Borneo’s spectacular wildlife.”
Visit Rainforest Trust’s website to read more about the Kuamut Forest Reserve.
This project was made possible thanks to the support of Daniel Maltz, Brett Byers and Leslie Santos, Luanne Lemmer and Eric Veach, Charles Uihlein and many other Rainforest Trust supporters.