The Jakarta Post
In February 2007 the governments of Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei signed the Heart of Borneo Declaration ' an agreement to protect 22 million hectares at the center of the island from environmental degradation.
According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), which initiated the declaration, the Heart of Borneo (HoB) area is 'Asia's last great rainforest', which is home to 6 percent of the world's biodiversity, contains the headwaters for 14 of Kalimantan's 20 major rivers, provides 'ecosystem services' to 11 million people and is 'one of the planet's richest treasure troves'.
The area is known for the cultural and linguistic diversity of its Dayak ethnic groups, who depend on the forest for a variety of resources, WWF says, and who have contributed over centuries to the sustainable management of these resources.
The HoB includes a mosaic of different forest types and is home to vulnerable and endangered species such as pygmy elephants, the Borneo rhinoceros, proboscis monkeys, clouded leopards, sun bears and orangutans.
A report on its environmental status released by WWF this month found the rate of deforestation there had increased since 2007, with 2 million hectares, or 10 percent of forest cover lost since the signing of the declaration.
While nearly 3 million hectares, or 13 percent, of the Heart of Borneo is protected in national parks and nature reserves, 31 percent of the Indonesian section is covered by logging concessions and 18 percent of the overall area by mining concessions, according to the report.
If deforestation continues at the same rate, its authors concluded, many of the forest ecosystems won't survive.
But, WWF argues, '[T]here is still time for governments and non-government organizations to significantly improve their impacts to prevent forest loss affecting both species survival and the provision of ecosystem services to the people of Borneo'.
Among the species struggling to survive in the conservation zone, the Borneo rhinoceros had the worst prognosis, with WWF reporting there were probably less than 25 individuals remaining there.
' JP/Jenny Denton