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Saving Kinabatangan: Race for Borneo

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Target: £250,000

Raised: £237,886

 

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An opportunity to purchase and protect critically endangered rainforest habitat on the edge of a virgin jungle reserve has arisen, and the race is on for WLT to raise enough funds to have the land set aside for wildlife conservation.

A rare opportunity

Three years ago, World Land Trust worked with partner Hutan to raise £1 million for vital land purchases in one of the most biodiverse and threatened habitats in the world: Bornean Rainforest on the banks of the Kinabatangan River.

With the help of WLT supporters, a crucial piece of land (the Keruak corridor) was secured, and now there is another rare opportunity to protect a piece of land, across the river from the Keruak corridor.

The fight for forest

Almost all the areas surrounding official reserves/protected areas have been cleared; when properties go on the market there is a race between conservationists and plantations, which is usually won by the highest bidder. The development value of the land has cost the wildlife of Kinabatangan dearly, shrinking their ranges into small reserves, which become isolated islands of jungle, cutting off populations from each other.

“The fascinating wildlife of this region has been pushed into smaller and smaller pockets of natural habitat and whilst these species have proven their resilience and adaptability to these changes, we can’t afford to lose any more forest. Every single acre that we can save for conservation is critically important and WLT’s funding, both past and present, has made a considerable difference to habitat connectivity in this area.”

Dr Isabelle Lackman, Co-director of Hutan

Defending the virgin jungle

Most of Borneo’s remaining rainforest habitat is ‘secondary forest’, which means it was targeted by the extensive deforestation which has been taking over the island since the 1950s, but has now largely recovered to become functional wild habitat once more. Very few fragments of forest have remained untouched, barring those inaccessible to loggers due to steep slopes.

In an effort to protect these fragments of pristine forest, a collection of Virgin Jungle Reserves (VJRs) were placed under state protection in the 1940s. One of these was the Pangi Virgin Jungle Reserve, across the Kinabatangan River from the Keruak corridor. The location of the available land, on the edge of the Pangi Virgin Jungle Reserve, means that (if protected) it will continue to act as a buffer to the ‘virgin jungle’.

Also, like the Keruak Corridor, the properties now up for purchase are pieces of secondary forest important for connectivity between Pangi Virgin Jungle Reserve and the river, with potential to extend once this area is protected. 

Wildlife of Kinabatangan

The Kinabatangan River is known worldwide as one of the best locations to view Borneo’s unique and extremely rich wildlife. Tourists flock to the local lodges for the privilege of unobtrusive boat safaris down the river where they can try to spot Kinabatangan’s ten species of primate (including Bornean Orang-utan), or Borneo’s Endangered Pygmy Elephants, which can be spotted bathing in the river.

The area boasts several carnivores such as the Malay Sun Bear (Helarctos malayanus, the world’s smallest bear), Clouded Leopard (Neofelis diardi), Leopard Cat (Felis bengalensis), Marbled Cat (Felis marmorata) and Flat-headed Cat (Felis planiceps). Among the many other mammals are threatened species like Otter-civet (Cynogale bennettii), Banteng (Bos javanicus), the Malayan Porcupine (Hsytrix brachyura) and the Critically Endangered Sunda Pangolin (Manis javanica).

The area also harbours remarkable bat diversity, and the Pangi Virgin Jungle Reserve protects limestone caves which are home to Cave Swiftlets (Collocalia linchi), Endangered due to humans harvesting their nests for ‘Birds Nest Soup’.

The birdlife of the Kinabatangan includes all eight of Borneo’s hornbills, 22 raptors and six owl species, with 314 species representing avifauna from shorebirds and waders to pheasants and forest specialists. The Kinabatangan reptile list comprises 101 species, including flying snakes, flying geckos, flying lizards, monitor lizards, vipers and cobras.

Fundraising for Borneo: Steve & Helen Backshall

WLT Patron Steve Backshall and his wife, Olympic rowing champion Helen Glover, have pledged to help WLT raise £100,000 of the £250,000 target for the Saving Kinabatangan appeal by racing for Borneo in the Devizes to Westminster International Canoe Race, nicknamed ‘Canoeist’s Everest’.

"We're putting ourselves through hell training for it but it's all for a very good cause. Our friends at World Land Trust are aiming to protect a section of Bornean rainforest, saving it for the Proboscis Monkeys, the Orang-utans, the Pygmy Elephants and all the other astounding animals that live there. From the cicadas that deafen you at dusk, to the fireflies that light up the riverside like a thousand Christmas trees, this place is paradise, let’s work together to protect it, forever."

- Steve Backshall

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