The world's natural forests are of critical importance for birds and other biodiversity, natural habitats, and ecosystem services. Furthermore, over 1.6 billion people rely heavily on forests for subsistence, livelihoods, employment, and income. Yet despite global efforts, rates of natural forest loss remain alarmingly high, with over 10 billion trees being lost each year.
Where are we working?
The Mbeliling landscape is an expanse of nearly 94,000 ha located in West Manggarai District on Indonesia’s Flores Island. The core area of Mbeliling landscape consists of locally managed protection forest, located in the highlands. Approximately 36,500 ha is semi-evergreen rainforest. The other land uses are mixed agro-forests, which cover just over 34,000 ha and are owned by smallholder farmers. Approximately 34,000 people live in 27 villages across the landscape, making their livelihoods from agroforestry, rice crops, and animal husbandry. Commodities produced from the agro-forests include candlenut, coffee, cocoa, clove, and cashew nut, while rice and other food crops are produced mainly for household consumption.
Among other activities, Burung Indonesia is working with small-scale teak farmers to build their capacity in sustainable business planning, implementation of the Timber Legality Assurance System in West Manggarai, and training the community in Environmental Service Monitoring.
Central Forest Spine
The total forested area on Peninsular Malaysia is 5.7 million ha. The Central Forest Spine (CFS) comprises four major forest complexes remaining on Peninsular Malaysia. Logging and conversion continue to be threats. A CFS Master Plan was developed 15 years ago to focus on restoring and maintaining connectivity and reducing human-wildlife conflict. It is through this venue that the Malaysian Nature Society is working at two main sites within the CFS, the Belum-Temenggor Forest Complex and Ulu Muda Forest Reserve to monitor, protect, and engage local communities and the public on forest governance and conservation issues.
Belum-Temenggor Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA) is considered an IBA In Danger, which means that it’s under immediate threat from damage or destruction and in need of urgent attention.
Heart of Borneo
Covering three countries, the Heart of Borneo is a large swath of intact forest (220,000 km2) that contains approximately 5% of the world’s species. Malaysian Nature Society has been holding monitoring and training activities with NGOs and local communities to increase participation and contribution to conserving sites within the Heart of Borneo.
Papua New Guinea
The Torricelli Mountain Range is approximately 185,000 ha of pristine rainforest located in northwest Papua New Guinea. The area is highly biodiverse, containing around 50% of all bird species found in Papua New Guinea, and 40% of all mammals. Tenkile Conservation Alliance (TCA) works directly with 50 villages to protect the site and its wildlife. Based in Lumi, TCA is working to establish the site as a Protected Area and is close to making this dream a reality. Unlike many countries, 97% of the land in Papua New Guinea is privately owned; much of this is local community ownership. However, the site is still under pressure from logging, mining, and oil palm. By working directly with the villagers to manage the forest and land use, TCA has built lasting relationships and trust and all communities have been involved in preserving the site.
Mt. Hilong-Hilong has approximately 8,000 km2 of forest cover, and contains one of the few remaining old growth or primary forests in the country with endemic flora and fauna species. This site is a critical watershed and highly biodiverse. Mt. Hilong-Hilong belongs to the so-called timber and mineral corridor of Mindanao as a repository of the largest ore deposits and tree plantation areas in the Philippines. There are at least 52 mining companies that are either in application or in exploration stages around Mt. Hilong-Hilong.
The Sierra Madre forests are extremely important in providing ecosystem services on which dense human populations depend. Mt. Irid-Angelo serves as a major watershed for the Pampanga River Basin, Angat Dam, and La Mesa Dam, and a major power and water source for Metro Manila. Covering around 135,527 ha, this tract of old-growth forest is among the few remaining forest blocks in the country. These two neighbouring mountains hold environmental and cultural values, being havens for the critically-endangered Philippine Eagle in Luzon and the ancestral home of the Dumagat-Remontado indigenous peoples. Mts. Irid-Angelo also host the Kaliwa Watershed Forest Reserve, a portion of which is declared as a National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary or Game Refuge. Kaliwa Watershed has about 28,000 ha of forest, ancestral, and agricultural lands.
The forests of Mt. Siburan are considered the largest tract of lowland forest in Mindoro. Its overlap with a penal colony bestows protection to some extent, as access to the forest is limited. The site is adjacent to the patchy forests on the limestone ridge running north from Mt. Malpalon. It is generally characterized as a closed canopy forest with trees up to 25 m or more, and a relatively open forest floor. The site is home to numerous critically endangered species, but is faced with deforestation, invasive species, hunting, and timber harvesting.
What’s at stake?
There is a staggering variety of life nestled among the branches and undergrowth of tropical forests across Asia and the Western Pacific. Stunning and bizarre birds rub shoulders with intriguing reptiles and amphibians, and an astoundingly diverse array of insects.
These forests are biodiversity hotspots of global importance, home to numerous globally-recognised Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs). Conserving these forests will not only clean our air and water, retain our soil and offset climate change. It will preserve countless species vital for the world’s variety of life to continue.
All of the project sites are home to critically endangered, threatened, unique, and endemic species.
Sadly, people are the principal cause of many species’ declines – but they can also be part of the solution. By encouraging public pride in their local wildlife, species like those below can be used as a flagship for the whole community to rally round. Conserving these charming species will also save a whole host of less charismatic – but no less vital – organisms that share their habitats in our critical forest sites.
Here are just a few examples of the fascinating species that will benefit from this project’s work:
Formerly a widespread species across Indonesia’s Wallacea region, the Yellow-crested Cockatoo Cacatua sulphurea has suffered catastrophic declines in recent years due to large scale poaching for the pet bird trade. Yellow-crested Cockatoos are now virtually extinct across much of Sulawesi and adjoining islands. The last remaining populations now occur in the Lesser Sundas, particularly in Timor, Flores and a few other small islands. BirdLife International lists the species as Critically Endangered, in view of its rapid decline and small global population.
Of the 10 species of hornbills found in Malaysia, the Helmeted Hornbill Rhinoplax vigil is the largest (over 1 metre in length), and rightfully the most spectacular. This massive hornbill dwells in the tropical lowland and hill rainforests of Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand, a habitat that is declining fast across the region due to large-scale logging. These Critically Endangered birds are further threatened by uncontrolled hunting for their casques (the “helmets” mentioned in their name). It is estimated than many thousands are poached every year to supply casques for the illegal trade in hornbill ivory in other parts of Asia.
Golden-mantled Tree Kangaroo
Tree Kangaroos are perhaps the most iconic mammal species on the tropical island of New Guinea, whose fauna of large vertebrates is dominated by birds. Occurring in two widely separated populations in the Foja and Torricelli mountains, the smart-looking Golden-mantled Tree Kangaroo Dendrolagus pulcherrimus has suffered a major decline due to subsistence hunting, and is now listed as Critically Endangered. The species is particularly vulnerable to hunting pressures due to its tiny distribution and very small populations.
Regarded by many as the largest bird of prey in the world, the Philippine Eagle Pithecophaga jefferyi is also one of the world’s most threatened species. There are as few as 500 individuals left in the wild, mostly in the mountains of Mindanao and Luzon, especially the Sierra Madre mountains (where our key project landscape Mount Irid-Angelo is located). The Philippine Eagle is currently considered Critically Endangered, and remains threatened by habitat loss due to deforestation and illegal hunting.
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