New seeds of hope: Tree planting in the home of wild orangutans


Land and forest fires were back in full force in 2019 when fires blazed across Indonesia. However, due to the incredible efforts of Community Firefighting Teams who held the flames back from the Sebangau Forest, no forest was lost in the northern Sebangau area.

Wild orangutan in Sebangau Forest
Photo by Suzanne Turnock

Although there was no forest loss this year, previous years have seen large areas of forest scorched by devastating fires. Reforestation in these areas is, therefore, crucial to restore wildlife habitat, prevent further fires and soil erosion, provide clean air and water, and contribute to the global fight to stop climate change.

This year, five Community Seedling Nurseries have been established by BNF in villages adjacent to the Sebangau Forest to engage local communities in rainforest conservation. So far, approximately 30,000 seedlings of native tree species have been grown in the nurseries and will soon be planted in burnt areas of the Sebangau Forest; critical habitat for wild Bornean orangutans.

Last month, BNF together with the Rector from the University of Palangka Raya, Head of UPT LAHG CIMTROP, BPDAS HL-Kahayan and Environmental Office of Central Kalimantan symbolically planted 50 seedlings in the forest to kick-start our 2020 Reforestation Programme.

Rector from the University of Palangka Raya, Head of UPT LAHG CIMTROP, BPDAS HL-Kahayan symbolically planted seedlings in the forest

A total of 50,000 tree seedlings will be planted over the next year. 30,000 seedlings from the Community Seedling Nurseries and an additional 24,600 seedlings of three different species supplied by BPDAS-HL Kahayan (Kahayan Landscape Management Office).

“We have planted more than 7,000 seedlings since 2009 with a high survival rate of up to 90%,” said Yunsiska Ermiasi, BNF’s Conservation Manager.

Planting trees in burnt peat-swamp forests, like Sebangau, is no easy task. BNF has studied the process of reforestation of burnt and degraded peatland over the last 10 years. Finding durable and hardy native tree species, which can cope with the extremes of the wet and dry season, is key. BNF has discovered that the following species can survive in these harsh conditions: Shorea balangeran (local name: Balangeran), Myrtaceae Syzygium (Tampohot), Pittosporum sp. (Prupuk) and Elaeocarpus acmocarpus (Patanak Galeget).

“Now that we have refined our planting methods, we are increasing our target to 50,000 seedlings in 2020. We hope it will be a significant step in restoring this important ecosystem. It will take time to see the impact of the tree planting programme so it is crucial that we start this work right away,” Yunsiska added.

BNF and the community symbolically planted seedlings in the forest

BNF’s Community Seedling Nursery and Reforestation Programmes have been kindly supported by the following organisations in 2019:
Arcus Foundation
Darwin Initiative
European Outdoor Conservation Association
Forest Smoothie
Fundacion Bioparcs
Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation
Ocean Park Conservation Foundation Hong Kong
Orangutan Outreach
The Orangutan Project
Twycross Zoo
World Association of Zoos and Aquariums

You can also help us to plant more trees in the home of wild orangutans by supporting our Community Seedling Nursery and Reforestation Programme here.