Good news for orangutan and pygmy elephant conservation in Borneo

Posted: 3 July 2011

Orangutan and pygmy elephant survival has received a major boost with the certification of nearly 300,000 hectares of important habitat in the Malaysian state of Sabah, Borneo.

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified sites are considered to have the highest density in the world of orangutan sub-species, Pongo pygmaeus morio, and the Borneo pygmy elephant. The area also includes the 34,000 hectares Malua Biobank, an innovative public-private financial partnership started by the Sabah government and its Forestry Department that brings business investment into conservation management.

FSC certification is considered the most credible global sustainable forest management standard that harnesses social and environmental as well as economic benefits.

Orang-utan rescued from palm oil plantations, Borneo
Orang-utan rescued from palm oil plantations, Borneo. Photo credit: © Nick Lyon/Films4Conservation

Sabah’s Forestry Department (SFD) has been recognised by WWF as a leader in the pursuit of sustainable forestry in the Heart of Borneo and has imposed a deadline of 2014 for certification of all forestry concessions in the state.

SFD director, Datuk Sam Mannan, said the announcement quadrupled the area of land under FSC certification in Sabah and he hoped it would encourage other concession holders to pursue certification based on an internationally recognized standard such as the FSC, before its 2014 deadline.

WWF Malaysia CEO Dato’ Dr Dionysius Sharma, congratulated SFD on this remarkable achievement. “FSC certification is a crucial part of independent third party verification of sustainable forest management and its critical role in sustaining viable populations of some of the world’s most endangered wildlife here in the Heart of Borneo, one of the most bio-diverse areas on the planet,” he said.

The certification process was facilitated with SFD via WWF’s Global Forest and Trade Network in Malaysia (GFTN-Malaysia) with support from USAID’s Responsible Asia Forest and Trade (RAFT) program, both of which create market conditions which help conserve the world’s forests.

George White, Head of WWF’s GFTN, said there had been very little certification of Asian tropical forests to date. “This announcement represents a significant leap forward for sustainable management of tropical forests in Asia and evidences the long lasting relationship between SFD and WWF,” he added.

WWF’s Heart of Borneo Leader, Adam Tomasek stressed the importance of this announcement from a global perspective. “This is a living example of how government, business and WWF can work together to make forests worth more standing than cut down. It is also one of the key foundations in the development of a Green Economy for the HoB – a concept which is gaining increasing relevance and support internationally,” he said.