Orangutan Guardians

Orangutan Guardians

28 August, 2015
Heroes of Borneo
Local communities empowered to protect endangered rainforests – and its inhabitants

The rainforest sustains life. Not just wildlife, but also human life.
“Since the very beginning, Wehea People have had close relationships with our forest. The forest gives us materials for traditional ceremonies. If we can’t keep our forest, in time we will lose our tradition,” explains Ledjie Taq, Wehea Dayak Tribe Leader Nehas Liah Bing, in Borneo, Indonesia.
Sadly, in this area, deforestation to make way for palm tree plantations is rampant, and has brought with it a host of other damaging practices – such as illegal logging, wildlife trade and ecological devastation. This has not gone unnoticed by locals.
“The forest used to be very close to the village. But deforestation has changed our landscape. In the past, we went to the woods to get fruit, and would find it easy to hunt for boars. Now with most of the fruit trees cleared and changed into plantations, it is hard for us to hunt. There is no fruit for birds or other animals,” Ledjie Taq continues.
“We have almost run out of forest.”
With no means or method to end the clearing of land for plantations, and faced with the will of mass international corporations – communities such as the Wehea are often marginalised. Unable to do anything but watch their history, culture, and livelihood be cut down before their very eyes.
Enter The Nature Conservancy (TNC). For over 20 years TNC has worked with the Indonesian government, companies, and communities such as the Wehea people to  ensure that the forest continues to provide habitat, culture and sustainable forest products.
Currently, over 16,000 sq km of forest in Indonesia is protected in this way. And the aim is to increase this tenfold by 2020, and stabilise orang-utan populations to at least 40,000 individuals. And protect the future of 300 villages.
This will, and is, being done through increased legal protection, sustainbale management and the facilitation of dedicated forest patrol groups known as the ‘Forest Guardians’. These guardians are recruited from the local villages, since they have the best experience, and a vested interest, in protecting them.
“I love working in the forest because I can protect it, and be with my friends. There are usually 10 of us at a time in the Wehea Protected Forest,” explains Forest Guardian Robi Sugara.
And he’s not alone in his positive sentiments.
“We can’t imagine how our lives would be now without TNC. We are very grateful for the knowledge they have transferred to us. We are very optimistic, that’s why we hope our younger generation can follow our example in protecting our forest,” Ledjie Taq adds.

If you want to support the efforts of TNC in Indonesia, you yourself can become a forest guardian! Contributions of any amount starting from US $25 are more than welcome at the Forest Guardian donation page. You can also join the team and become a forest guardian by signing up your email here.

By: Ecozine Staff


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