Top 10 highlights from 2019

Year Review

It’s always a pleasure to look back over our highs in the last 12 months, especially when it has been a year of many challenges. Although we can’t include every story from the last year in this shortlist of highlights, we hope this will show the scale and scope of our work during 2019. Enjoy!


1. Fires burnt, but Sebangau was saved!

During the long dry season of 2019, many fires burnt dangerously close to the edge of Sebangau Forest. A total of 154 fire-related interventions were carried out in the northern Sebangau area, with 24 major fires identified and tackled by Community Firefighting Teams. The brave firefighters tackled these fires for four months! More than 125 people, supported by BNF, left their villages every day to battle on the frontline and protect Sebangau Forest, its wildlife and people. Their work was exhausting, dangerous and relentless. Some camped out for weeks in temporary shelters on the edge of the forest; showing their dedication to keeping Sebangau safe. Due to their incredible efforts and hard work, there was ZERO forest loss in the northern Sebangau area this year. A big thank you for all the donations to BNF’s Emergency Forest Fire Fund. Thanks to your support, we were able to supply the teams with firefighting equipment, safety equipment, regular meals, transportation, daily salaries and drone technology to ensure they were well-equipped and safe during this year’s fire crisis. During this period, we also released two fire campaign videos. One of the videos was shared on social media by film star and environmentalist, Leonardo DiCaprio – a definite top highlight for 2019!!

A large fire on the edge of Sebangau Forest. Photo by Markurius Sera | BNF


2. BNF launches Rungan and Sebangau Programmes to multi-stakeholders

BNF has carried out research and conservation activities in Sebangau Forest, in partnership with the Centre for the International Cooperation in Sustainable Management of Tropical Peatland (CIMTROP) from the University of Palangka Raya, for over 20 years. We have been on the frontline of protecting and preserving this lowland forest; home to over 6,000 wild orangutans. As BNF evolves and expands, this year we socialised our two main programmes, both old and new, to key stakeholders in the region. At the beginning of the year, we held socialisation events to introduce Sebangau and Rungan Programmes to local government, NGOs, communities and the private sector. Presentations on our main areas of work (conservation, community development, research and education) were delivered. Government officials gave positive feedback to our programmes in the Sebangau and Rungan Landscapes. Central Kalimantan Governor through its Regional Secretary, Fahrizal Fitri participated in these socialisations and said, “We are here to support the preservation of the last remaining rainforests of Borneo and we should work hand in hand with stakeholders to protect the home of endemic wildlife.”

Socialisation events for BNF’s Sebangau and Rungan Programmes. Photos by Dani | BNF | BPI


3. New hope for Bornean orangutans in Sebangau Forest

The pitter-patter of tiny orangutan feet could be heard in Sebangau Forest this year! There were two new baby orangutans born from habituated females who we have studied for the past 20 years. Both Indy and Georgia welcomed new babies, which is a much-needed boost for Sebangau’s wild population of Critically Endangered orangutans.

Left: Georgia with her newborn; Right: Indy proudly showing her baby. Photos by Axel | BNF | UPT LAHG CIMTROP


4. A new collaboration with Sebangau National Park

This year BNF signed a new partnership agreement with Sebangau National Park. This agreement serves to consolidate and develop our collaboration towards our shared goal of protecting biodiversity in Sebangau National Park and strengthen joint conservation efforts. The agreement cemented the commitment of both parties to further the field of research, conservation, education, capacity building and ecotourism across the Sebangau Landscape.

Juliarta Bramansa Ottay (Chairman of BNF Indonesia) and Andi Muhammad Kadhafi, S.Hut, M.Si. (Head of Sebangau National Park) signing the collaborative agreement. Photos by Edwin Shri Bimo | BNF


5. Strengthening community development activities in the Rungan Landscape

In 2018 we established new community development projects in the Rungan Landscape to ensure a community-based approach to conservation. This year, we have enhanced this programme through new permaculture training for communities living on the edge of critical orangutan habitat. In December 2019, BNF held a multi-stakeholder workshop on the management of the Rungan Landscape through a new social forestry scheme. Officials from the Indonesian government, NGOs, the private sector and local communities participated in this collaborative workshop. It was a big step forward in supporting local communities to protect their natural heritage and one of the last remaining rainforests of Borneo.

Permaculture training in Mungku Baru village and Social Forestry Workshop hosted by BNF


6. Sebangau Rangers – new nature youth club

Our Education Programme continues to go from strength to strength as we work to create a Conservation Generation. Following the success of Anak Sebangau (‘Children of Sebangau Forest’), we established a new nature youth club tailored for local teenagers. Our goal is to encourage young people to be environmentally aware and take positive action to protect native wildlife and tropical rainforests near their homes. The youth club members are encouraged to design, develop and implement projects and activities around their villages and in local schools – becoming the Conservation Ambassadors of today and of the future.

Sebangau Rangers, BNF’s newest nature youth club


7. Utilising thermal drone technology to assist firefighting teams

In recent years, Professor Serge Wich of Liverpool John Moores University (UK) has identified methods to use drones to support conservation efforts. And now, working with Steve Longmohe and Temitope Sam-Odusina, Professor Wich has developed new drone technology to support on-the-ground firefighting teams. In September 2019, BNF hosted a workshop, in collaboration with Serge Wich, his team and CIMTROP at the University of Palangka Raya, on the use of new thermal monitoring drone technology to detect fire hotspots, making it easier to fight fires safely and quickly. Using the thermal drone, not only helps to identify the hotspots, which pose the greatest threats to the forest, but also tracks the direction in which the fires are moving and prevents the firefighters from being trapped by the flames.

Thermal drone visual and Yuyus (BNF Drone Operator) flying the drone. Photos by Adit and Suzanne Turnock | BNF | UPT LAHG CIMTROP


8. Bringing a damaged rainforest back to life

Although there was no forest loss in the northern Sebangau area during the fire crisis 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. In 2019, BNF established five Community Seedling Nurseries in villages next to the Sebangau Forest and so far 30,000 seedlings of native species have been grown by the community members. An additional 24,600 seedlings will be supplied by BPDAS-HL Kahayan (Kahayan Landscape Management Office). A total of 50,000 seedlings are targeted for planting in burnt areas of the Sebangau Forest and will be completed by 2020.

Tree planting ceremony in December 2019 to kick-start next year’s Reforestation Programme. Photo by Ferdinandus Eko | BNF | UPT LAHG CIMTROP


9. Gibbon Youth Campaign: raising awareness about wildlife and forest fires

Many people are familiar with orangutans, one of the most iconic apes of Indonesia, but fewer people know about gibbons. Led by BNF Scientists and Education Team, we created a new campaign to share knowledge of gibbons and the threats to the species with students living near the Sebangau Forest. The team visited 10 local schools to raise awareness about wildlife in Sebangau, especially gibbons, and forest fires to encourage positive action to protect the rainforest. The final event was held on International Gibbon Day in October 2019. All the students competed to show their newly-gained knowledge about gibbons and environmental issues. The winners were invited to visit Sebangau Forest with BNF and experience “Being a Gibbon Scientist for a Day”.

Gibbon Youth Campaign activity led by the BNF Education Team and Scientists. Photo by Duncan Murrell | BNF


10. We’re preparing for a big expedition in the Heart of Borneo!

In the past two years, BNF has worked to develop new collaborations with stakeholders in Central Kalimantan and was involved in facilitating ‘The Assessment and Discussion for Forest Management Unit (FMU) in Murung Raya’. This event strengthened local partnerships and collaborations to protect the Barito Ulu Forest, which is situated in the Murung Raya district. Being located in the Heart of Borneo, Barito Ulu is truly a natural treasure of Borneo. However, research and conservation activities in the area have stalled in recent years. BNF has been working to reignite the research in the area and rebuild the research station by collaborating with community groups, NGOs, government, industry and academic bodies to promote habitat and wildlife protection, and sustainable development across the wider Barito Ulu region. This year we carried out surveys in three forests in Murung Raya to assess which area would be suitable to carry out an expedition. We are now getting ready for our first scientific expedition in the Heart of Borneo in 2020!

Murung Raya district, Heart of Borneo. Photo by Ahmad Fauzi | BNF


As we now move into a new year please support our vital work to protect Borneo’s biodiversity by making a donation online. Many thanks and wishing you all the best for 2020!