The Hidden Paradise of Kerangas

Research Blog

Written by Yohanes Prahara (BNF’s Content Creator)

Nam: “Wow, this is so beautiful and such an interesting landscape for fauna and flora to co-exist.”

Namrata and Wendy during their research activity in Rungan Landscape

In January 2020, near the research camp my friend Nam exclaimed “I saw eyes in the tree, so I used a headlamp to see, and aaaaaaaaaaahhh….” “Whatttt? That’s amazing!” I shouted with joy! “I’m very grateful for the forest” she added.

That was the reaction of Namrata Anirudh (Nam), an independent researcher, conducting her research in collaboration with the Borneo Nature Foundation (BNF), the first time she saw a Slow Loris (Nycticebus) in the Kerangas forest. Nam tells us about the thrill of research experience in the Kerangas Forest.

Within 2 weeks, Nam (the Loris lover) also found Tarsiers (Tarsius), 4 Orangutans, Hornbills (Bucerotidae), several types of snakes and reptiles, and other nocturnal mammals.

“It is amazing to see a Sun Bear (Helarctos Malayanus) coming down from a tree close to me, then I saw a Gibbon (Hylobates Muelleri) swinging from tree to tree like it was gracefully dancing,” Nam exclaimed while imitating the Gibbon dance.

Nam researches Kerangas and is interested in it because it is a type of a forest that lacks scientific research, therefore has less publicity and literature available for it. There have been some publications about Kerangas forests on the Malaysian side of Borneo, but there is a lack of information for Central Kalimantan, therefore research in the Rungan Landscape is particularly important.

“My research is to identify the distribution of Kerangas in Kalimantan, which I will later map, but as it is a vast area it will require a long time, so I am currently focusing my research on one landscape and will continue to expand it with time,” she explained.

Areas that are being researched in the Kerangas habitat include; soil, vegetation, and biodiversity, and identifying the differences between Kerangas and other forest types.

Slow loris is one of primates that inhabit Rungan Landscape
Photo by Erik Frank | BNF | UPT LLG CIMTROP

Nam explained that the Kerangas forest is not a typical ‘tropical forest’ or peat-swamp forest that many people imagine. Kerangas is characteristically comprised of sandy soil which impacts the diversity and density of vegetation that it supports.

There are several types of Kerangas, such as Tall Kerangas, Medium Kerangas, and Short Kerangas relating to canopy height. They are also differentiated based on the type of soil they occur in – black and white sandy soil kerangas.

“Another research project is about calculating the Orangutan densities in Kerangas and mixed mosaic landscapes. Orangutans are threatened with extinction as the Rungan Landscape is not a protected area, even though there are many concessions nearby. It is very important to study the Orangutans in order to protect them” she said while raising a glass of coffee.

According to Nam, all Orangutans in the Rungan Landscape are wild Orangutans, and not rehabilitate orangutans released into the area, as reintroduction must occur in a protected forest.

“The Rungan area is not yet a protected forest, and it is not very useful for local communities as the soil is not fertile for agriculture.

However, these forests are rich in biodiversity and home to some of Borneo’s endemic species of both flora and fauna. Furthermore, local communities still depend on products from these forests making them important resources for the humans and wildlife who are dependent on them. Therefore, it is vital that we start working towards conserving these forests, supported by scientific research to provide evidence for the need for its protection, presented to all stakeholders involved.” she said.