Pematang Gadung community forest in West Borneo is an important biodiversity hotspot, home to the critically endangered Bornean Orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus). The forest is also an important local resource for the surrounding rural villages. Within the 14,000 hectares of forests, there is a high density of these endangered wild orangutans, estimated between 500 and 800.
Pematang Gadung is a peat swamp forest, which should usually be flooded with water. However, some areas of the peat have drained due to degradation of the area through logging, opening of canals and other anthropogenic activities, leaving it extremely vulnerable to fires. In 2015, the El Niño induced dry season meant these drained areas of forest burnt, damaging an area of over 2,100ha. If these areas are left and not reforested, they are likely to burn again in following years, destroying more and more of this critical ecosystem.
This project is now engaging local communities to develop a local reforestation programme, helping to restore burnt areas of forest, building sustainable development programmes for the local community and educating local people around how to protect their forest and why it’s important.
The overall aim of this project is to establish and maintain self-sustaining orangutan populations in the wild. This will be achieved by:
IAR recognise the importance of collaborating with local people and aim to engage community members at every level of the project. In order to deliver the project aims of safeguarding the local orangutan population; reforesting the damaged forest; and providing local sustainable employment; some project activities include:
Local men and women are responsible for gathering seeds from the forest, growing and caring for the seedlings until they are ready to plant. At which point the replanting team prepare the area and plant the seedlings.
To counter this, the project has established a programme which encourages the use of organic farming techniques. IAR’s orangutan rescue centre has a training facility where local farmers can learn about organic farming resulting in empowered local farmers contributing to the protection of the very forest they depend on for their livelihood.
One of the projects most successful recent programmes in the area are conservation camps that take place in the forest of Pematang Gadung. Targeted at local teenagers, these camps help develop and foster their interest in conservation, encouraging them to become active stewards in the protection of Ketapang’s natural resources, and show them how decisions they make in their everyday lives can impact on the environment.
An ecotourism venture is also in development aiming to bring revenue and jobs to the area.
Pematang Gadung is a coastal peat forest and its habitat is some of the most biodiverse on earth containing a large population of orangutans, as well as gibbons, tarsiers, slow lorises, macaques, proboscis monkeys, crocodiles and numerous bird species.
Tropical peatlands such as Pematang Gadung, which coexist with swamp forests, store and accumulate vast amounts of carbon as soil organic matter – that natural forests contain. Their instability has important implications for climate change; they are among the largest near-surface reserves of terrestrial organic carbon.
The Indonesians living near Pematang Gadung are mainly of Malay and Dayak descent, whilst most incorporate a type of Malay accent in their Indonesian, which is similar to that used in Malaysia. Most local people are farmers and often crops are shipped to Pontianak and Semarang on the island of Java for sale.
IAR have worked with the community to create the ‘Pongo Rangers’, a group based in Pematang Gadung village. The members convey their environmental message through artistic performance in the form of poetry, Malay dance and tree theatre.
International Animal Rescue (IAR) is dedicated to rescuing and rehabilitating suffering animals around the world. IAR has a pragmatic approach to conservation in Indonesia, and understands that we must work within the current landscape and the cultural, economic and political context of the country.
All the existing habitats of the orangutan are to some extent shaped by human activities and in West Kalimantan, the land is mainly used for agriculture – mainly for local smallholdings and larger industrial plantations for growing oil palm. If wild orangutans are to survive, it is essential that there is sufficient forest in these different landscapes, and that orangutans are able to move from one piece of forest to another, to ensure breeding opportunities and genetic diversity. To facilitate this, IAR works with Indonesian local and national governments, the private sector, NGOs and other consulting firms, and international certification schemes.