One thing that made me quite sad were the jungles in Borneo. I had the chance, or misfortune, to see their state first hand. Let me tell you it’s not pretty. I learned after going to the jungle river cruise that the reason we saw so many proboscis monkeys is that there is so little jungle left for them to go to. Orangutans, elephants and many other precious animals are facing the same conditions. All the beautiful Bornean forests are being cut down and replaced with palm tree forests exploited mainly by Chinese corporations.
Supposedly, in the ’60, Borneo was the richest states of Malaysia because of the exportation of dipterocarp trees for timber. Now, Borneo has turned to palm trees, which are used in foods, fuel and cosmetics, even if it means destroying one of the world richest natural habitat. It is estimated that 80% of Borneo’s rainforest is now gone which has some pretty catastrophic effects on both Bornean fauna and flora.
While Palm Tree Plantations appear to be the main culprits, logging and mining follow quickly behind. Tourism also has a part to play when it comes to areas being leveled down to put up resorts. This is one good example why ecotourism initiatives are so important.
As I talked with Siew Te Wong from the Sun Bear Conservation Center, I asked why the government was not taking more actions to protect the very important ecology of Borneo. It mainly comes down to economical reasons. Can you really convince the government that the revenues from ecotourism could compare to the revenues of the palm tree plantations? I understood there are some political reasons as well, as most of the palm trees plantations now belong to the Chinese.
As individuals, you can participate in projects like Adopt An Acre from the Nature Conservancy where you basically help buy rainforests around the world to protect them from exploitation. After seeing up close the devastating effects of deforestation, I know this will be on my list of things to do when I come back home.