Rungan is one the forgotten landscapes of Borneo; a mosaic of dryland and swamp habitat on sandy soils, collectively known as ‘kerangas’, or heath forest. Rungan Forest is home to a globally important population of orangutans but the landscape has yet to be the focus of formal conservation efforts.
We launched our Rungan Programme in 2016 to protect habitat and wildlife, and empower communities to develop sustainable, environmentally friendly livelihoods. Rungan, probably the largest relatively-intact lowland forests in Borneo, does not contain the substantial below-ground carbon stocks of the peat-swamp forests, or the huge trees of the Heart of Borneo and thus has been a conservation afterthought. Virtually none of this habitat type is currently protected in Central Kalimantan and it is all seriously threatened. Yet here in the catchment of the Kahayan and Rungan Rivers lies a biodiversity-rich, culturally-important, huge expanse of tropical rainforest – around 150,000 hectares of critical orangutan habitat that must be preserved.
Working in partnership with the University Muhammadiyah Palangka Raya (UMP), and with the support of local government and communities, we have established a permanent research base where our scientists are discovering the wonderful secrets of Rungan. We have concluded the first orangutan population surveys across the Rungan landscape, identifying a population of 2,220 to 3,275 orangutans, significantly higher than previous estimates and potentially one of the largest unprotected populations in the world. Our camera trap surveys have confirmed the presence of all five of Borneo’s wild cats, including the little known and rarely recorded bay cat. Rungan is the only known site in Central Kalimantan to have all five cat species, further demonstrating the urgent need to protect this habitat.
We are taking a collaborative, multi-partner, multi-stakeholder approach aimed at building momentum and identifying co-management opportunities to maintain forest cover. We are working with the regional government to develop landscape-level planning that ensures the protection of a large, ecologically-significant area of rainforest to equally protect biodiversity, cultural and socio-economic values. We are presenting the case for conservation through a process of mapping, field surveys, and socio-economic surveys, community engagement and participatory rural appraisals, and identifying areas where forest can be protected for biodiversity conservation. We are working to expand the regional social forestry programme so that communities can manage their traditional lands, and engaging with industry stakeholders to protect areas of high conservation value forest within their concessions.
We are working to protect