The Orangutan Conservancy has awarded funding to The Borneo Nature Foundation (BNF) for their proposal to enhance the infrastructure of the Sebangau Forest, a peat swamp over 500,000 hectares in size, in Borneo. This project is aimed at rebuilding a critically aged boardwalk that allows forest access and travel to researchers, students, conservationists, and even wildlife!
Sebangau Peat-Swamp Forest
Sebangau peat-swamp forest is one of the most biodiverse regions on the island of Borneo and it supports the largest protected population of Critically Endangered Bornean Orangutans, about 6,000 individuals (BNF). Despite being granted a protection status by the Indonesian Government, the forest is still under massive threat from fires, illegal logging, peatland drainage, and hunting. These threats not only put the forest itself at risk but the wildlife that calls it home.
A peat-swamp forest occurs when constant flooding and soil saturation prevent organic material from decomposing completely. These giant sponge-like entities retain water, sometimes up to 13 times their own weight. These types of forests can take thousands of years to form.
Traversing this type of forest can be extremely difficult without the proper infrastructure. It becomes especially laborious when flooding occurs during the wet seasons. To ensure the safety of their research teams BNF has built three different boardwalks since 2009 totaling 2.8 km in length.
Not only do the researchers from BNF use these boardwalks to traverse the deep peat-swamp environment but students, field teams, community patrol teams, volunteers, school groups, visitors, and even wildlife use the walkways as well! Wildlife use of these boardwalks has become an invaluable resource with the use of camera traps. Some wild male orangutans have even been utilizing the boardwalks! Other wildlife that has been observed using these “forest highways” include sun bears, pig-tailed macaques, short-tailed mongoose, and clouded leopards.
Unfortunately, the existing boardwalk in the southwest area of BNF’s campus is past repair. The proposal by BNF has detailed a plan to build a newer, stronger boardwalk that will allow staff and visitors to safely traverse the forested area.
Boardwalks in good condition help support research, conservation, and educational activities in the forest. The new boardwalk should increase the amount of work each division of work will be able to accomplish. It will also allow the research teams to travel farther into the forest. In addition to conservation and research efforts, the new boardwalk will allow community patrol teams and firefighting teams to prevent fires, illegal hunting, and illegal logging activities. Finally, this boardwalk will improve the safety of all individuals who are traveling through this area of the forest.