The dry season in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia has begun. Sebangau Forest, home to the world’s largest orangutan population, is under threat from fires. The water levels keep dropping in the forest and the fire risks are quickly increasing.
Many people think that the cause of the fire is palm oil plantations or land clearing by burning. There are no palm oil plantations in the Sebangau Forest and no one clears the land in the forest, but fires in 2015 burned about 5,000 ha of the Sebangau Forest area.
The main cause of the fires in the Sebangau Forest is the condition of the Peat Hydrological Unity (Kesatuan Hidrologi Gambut – KHG), which has been damaged by the man-made canals dug in the past couple of decades to be used as a logging transportation route prior to the forest becoming a protected area. Currently, Borneo Nature Foundation is working to restore peatland conditions in Sebangau by building dams on existing canals within the forest.
The local Patrol Team is also on standby patrolling the area for fires regularly and has increased patrols to be better prepared to spot the fires early on. BNF has also been assisting two new fire-fighting teams in the Sebangau area in order to prepare for potential forest fires.
At the end of July, the Patrol Team spotted the first fire of the season west of Canal Bahkan upstream on the Sebangau River. According to Idrus, one of the Patrol Team members, ‘Someone must have started the fire, but it is unclear who the perpetrators are.’ The location of the fire was on the edge of the river so the Patrol Team extinguished the fire by using the water from the river.
Fortunately, there have been no more fires spotted by the Patrol Team since the initial fire spotting within both the Sebangau Forest and near the surrounding river. Through our Outreach Programme, we hope people will be more aware of protecting the forest and the effects of fires, so there will be no more fires or haze this year.
Photo by Daniel Refly Tatopo/BNF
Thank you to Indonesia Climate Change Trust Fund (ICCTF) , The Orangutan Project, Arcus Foundation, Orangutan Conservancy, Orangutan Appeal, LA Zoo, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ocean Park Conservation Foundation Hong Kong and TRI Handkerchiefs for their support as we prepare the fire-fighters for another challenging year of tackling these devastating forest fires. (DN)