Borneo is one of the many islands of South East Asia, it is Indonesian, Malaysian and also the location of the independent kingdom of Brunei.Only Greenland and New Guinea are larger. It is nearly 18 times the size of the Netherlands.
For 130 million years most of Borneo’s territory has been covered by extremely diverse tropical rainforest, offering an enormous and impressive bio-diversity. Borneo is the home of tens of thousands of species of plants, animals and fungi, and every year new species are being discovered.
The tropical rainforest and its biodiversity really is impressive. Contrary, and unfortunately, the reality of the massive deforestation that has taken place during the last 50 years has meant the vanishing of ¾ of the habitat of the orangutan. In addition to this, around 44 other species of mammals are at the point of extinction. These animals are indigenous to Borneo and their extinction means the loss of their species for ever. The forests survive due to their ability to sustain life and have their life sustained, the removal of species from this environment detracts significant survival elements from the entire eco-system.
The ecological and geographical characteristics of Borneo can be divided in 7 so called ecoregions.
Mangrove: Trees and shrubs living at the coastline and along the seaside that are able to survive in sweet as well salty water, and adapt to the change of tide. Some of their roots are hanging above the waterline, providing these trees with necessary oxygen.
Peat swamp forest: Peat swamp forests are to be found in humid, swampy regions along the coastline or in lakes where only little amounts of oxygen can be detected, being necessary for bacteria to be able to quickly recycle dead plant material covering the soil. In peat swamp forests, because of this characteristic soil, there is less biodiversity compared to other parts of Borneo. Nevertheless it is home of rare animals like the proboscis monkey as well the orangutan.
Lowland tropical forest: This is the indigenous , original rainforest that has covered most of Borneo.About 10,000 different plants, 2,000 kinds of orchids and 3,000 species of trees are to be found here.This makes the Lowland Tropical Forest of Borneo the richest and most diverse in the world.Special attention has to be paid to the relatively large variety of dipterocarpaceae. On Borneo there are 267 different varieties of this tree, being 115 indigenous, meaning they grow nowhere else. These trees can grow up to 60 meters tall and make the canopy of the forest inhabitable for animals like the orangutan.
Nowadays most of the orangutans can be found in the lowland forests. However, these forests are very attractive to the palm oil industry, not the least because they are easily accessible. Since the the 1980’s a massive deforestation campaign started, replacing the forest with palm oil plantations in order to create economic expansion and provide relocation residential spaces for the transmigration of people from poorer areas of the Indonesian archipelago. The disappearance of the forest and the fragmentation of it leaves a continually decreasing habitat for the orangutans. Confrontation between non-traditional villagers and the animals results in inter species conflict and often the animals get in the hands of illegal traders and poachers.