We at World Land Trust (WLT) continue to pinch ourselves. Our ‘Saving Borneo’s Orangutan Corridors’ appeal has raised more than double the funds we had targeted, and done so in the space of six weeks. Rainforest purchases that might have needed years to materialise can go ahead now – an expansion of corridors critical to Borneo’s orangutans, achieved much sooner than we’d thought would be possible. And all of it thanks to you: the WLT supporters who continue to amaze, time and time again.
The tide of support for our appeal was dizzying as the weeks went on from its launch on World Rainforest Day (22 June 2021). We at WLT had barely recovered from the realisation that the campaign had only taken two weeks to raise its initial £150,000 target when events took another stunning turn: within weeks, the doubled £300,000 target had been reached – and surpassed – too. Once long-term commitments are factored in, the total of funds raised for the three-year project reaches £420,000.
For the life of Borneo, the raising of more than twice as much funding as we had aimed for holds major implications. Back in late June, the plan with our initial £150,000 target had been to fund HUTAN’s purchase of two plots of rainforest: a 10-acre (4-hectare) expansion of the protected corridor of Pangi along the southern banks of the Kinabatangan River. But because of the boundless generosity of WLT supporters, the impact will go much further than that.
Now that the target has been more than doubled, HUTAN will be able to purchase and protect up to three extra plots of rainforest across the river, to the north in Keruak. While negotiations remain underway, this total of five planned purchases by our partner – two in Pangi, three in Keruak – could see a maximum of 65 acres (26 hectares) of rainforest saved by WLT supporters through this appeal: a crucial network of corridors, expanded in an area where 80% of primary forest has already been lost.
“We’ll work hard to safeguard this rainforest”: HUTAN’s promise to WLT supporters
Speaking after the appeal’s completion, HUTAN Co-Founder and Co-Director Isabelle Lackman wanted to thank WLT supporters for making this conservation breakthrough possible.
“The wonderful response from WLT supporters was an absolute surprise to all of us,” she said. “We certainly did not expect that the initial £150,000 target would be reached within 15 days, and then doubled to more than £300,000 within the following month. On behalf of all HUTAN staff and friends in Sabah, I would like to express our immense gratitude to WLT and to all of you who so generously contributed to the great success of the ‘Saving Borneo’s Orangutan Corridors’ appeal.”
Isabelle also took the time to thank some of HUTAN’s partners on the ground, the people and organisations who helped showcase the life of the Kinabatangan by contributing their wildlife expertise, data, pictures and footage. “Dr Felicity Oram of Pongo Alliance Kinabatangan, Dr Nurzhafarina Othman of Seratu Aatai, Dr Ravinder Kaur and Sanjitpaal Singh of Explore Gaia Enterprise, Elisa Panjang from Danau Girang Field Centre and Scubazoo – they all helped bring this landscape and its biodiversity to life,” Isabelle said.
“To WLT supporters I say this: HUTAN will work hard to safeguard the rainforest protected through your donations. We have already negotiated with Malaysia’s authorities so that the new properties are incorporated as extensions to existing reserves, to ensure the maximum level of protection,“ the HUTAN Co-Director went on to say, adding: “The Kinabatangan’s orangutan populations have crashed from 20,000 to 785 in little more than a century but now, thanks to you, a future is possible where these great apes can start to recover in a landscape reconnected through corridors.”
WLT Patron Steve Backshall leads global push for landscape at breaking point
Every WLT campaign triggers a generous response from supporters but the movement around our Borneo appeal was unlike anything we could have expected.
Today we think of every individual who made it possible to offer a better future to orangutans through our appeal and we find the names are too many to be included here. The deluge of WLT supporters who acted to donate after hearing about the plight of the Kinabatangan, with hundreds of people responding to just a single call for donations in our July eBulletin. The artists, creatives, composers, journalists, businesses, schools and others who threw their weight behind our appeal.
This global alliance to save the life of Borneo from habitat loss could not have succeeded without people like WLT Patron Steve Backshall. While on the Snow Leopard trail in Kyrgyzstan in July, the naturalist and presenter found the time to call on WLT supporters – not once, but twice – to save rainforests he had already played a major part in protecting back in 2017, when he helped triple the target of a separate appeal for the Kinabatangan alongside Olympic rower and wife Helen Glover.
The success of the appeal owes much to Steve, and he was not alone. In adding his voice to our 2021 appeal, Steve was joined by fellow WLT Patron Chris Packham, author and long-time WLT supporter Bill Oddie and journalist, WLT ambassador and WLT Council member Simon Barnes, who all helped spread the word on social media and through newspaper articles. He was also joined by author Nicola Davies, who auctioned a special copy of her new novel The Song that Sings Us to raise funds for the appeal.
“Floods, wildfires, droughts – you’ll have read the recent headlines about the damage that climate change is wreaking on our planet but remember there’s another story: how WLT supporters keep making a difference, time and time again, by saving the land that matters for climate and biodiversity,” says WLT CEO Dr Jonathan Barnard. ”Because of your donations, the network of protected corridors HUTAN has been creating in the Kinabatangan can be extended much sooner than we believed possible – a major breakthrough for the life of Borneo, and you’ve helped make it a reality.”
Orangutans, elephants, pangolins, hornbills, swiftlets, clouded leopards, leopard cats, sun bears, gibbons, macaques, langurs, turtles – we want WLT supporters to read this list and forever remember: Borneo’s extraordinary life is today safer, and all it’s all thanks to you.
What we have accomplished together in the Kinabatangan this year goes beyond anything we could have imagined when we launched our appeal. We thought we might save two plots of rainforest and yet we’re now about to save up to five – some of the most biodiverse land on the planet safe in our partner HUTAN’s hands, joined together in a network of protected corridors.
This is a landscape where 80% of primary forest is already gone and yet this year we called time on deforestation; all of us together. From HUTAN and us: thank you once more to WLT supporters. This is your victory, this is what you achieve when you save nature through us!