Indonesia’s new forest capital in Borneo heightens fears for orangutans’ future


(CNN) — The steamy, jungle-covered tropical island of Borneo was as soon as thought-about one of many remotest, wildest locations on earth. A spot the place orangutans and headhunters lurked undisturbed.

Along with neighboring Sumatra, it is one in all simply two locations on the earth the place the orangutan lives within the wild.

For many years, forestry and agriculture have whittled away orangutans’ forest house, putting them in nice peril, in response to the WWF.

As deforestation accelerates and extra species are misplaced and threatened, now extra hassle lurks.

Nearly three years after saying it, the Indonesian authorities is transferring forward with its plans to relocate the nation’s capital to the dense however dwindling jungles of East Kalimantan province.

That’s, 730 miles (about 1,175 kilometers) away from sinking, overcrowded Jakarta to a brand new “forest capital,” as President Joko Widodo calls it, in Borneo’s hilly hinterland.

With the transfer now enshrined in regulation, work on Nusantara might start this 12 months, whereas relocation will begin in 2024.
About an hour’s drive north of seaport Balikpapan, the location picked for the new capital straddles the North Penajam Paser and Kutai Kartanegara Regencies — or administrative districts.
An orangutan eats a pineapple at the Samboja Lodge eco-tourism resort, operated by the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation.

An orangutan eats a pineapple on the Samboja Lodge eco-tourism resort, operated by the Borneo Orangutan Survival Basis.

Dimas Ardian/Bloomberg/Getty Photographs

Orangutans’ habitat continues to shrink

The federal government envisages the “good metropolis within the forest” as an innovation hub.

However alongside the joy, there’s additionally deep concern for the shrinking lowland tropical rainforest and its wildlife. The UN says people are driving the orangutan to extinction.

This has led to fears that whereas securing a future for the sinking megalopolis, Indonesian officers are sinking the way forward for one of many planet’s most exceptional creatures.

“The transfer will deliver a big inhabitants but additionally large calls for for modifications to land-use to accommodate new housing and workplace complexes, even meals manufacturing facilities,” says Anton Nurcahyo, deputy CEO of the Indonesian non-profit Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOS).
A juvenile orangutan plays at the Samboja Lodge eco-tourism resort.

A juvenile orangutan performs on the Samboja Lodge eco-tourism resort.

Dimas Ardian/Bloomberg/Getty Photographs

“This inevitably will create large modifications to the encompassing habitats.”

The inspiration’s orangutan rehabilitation work started in East Kalimantan in 1991.

Since 2006, its orangutan sanctuary, Samboja Lestari, has been caring for injured and orphaned orangutans, rescued from jungle destroyed by logging and palm oil crops.

It lies exactly within the space of the brand new capital.

At this time, workers right here deal with over 120 rescued orangutans in a conservation space of regenerating forest. The concept is to launch them again into “areas of protected, safe pure habitat” in the event that they regain their well being. However what if the fruit-rich forests undergo additional losses?

“The neighboring Sepaku and Samboja districts (earmarked for Nusantara) should not have wild orangutan populations,” Nurcahyo says.

“However the orangutan rehabilitation heart is positioned right here, on 1,850 hectares of forest, which must be preserved in its present situation.”

NGOs and locals fear {that a} new metropolis of some 1.5 million residents could also be disastrous for the surroundings.

The inflow, principally of civil servants and their households from Jakarta, may drive the dispossession of individuals and animals.

This aerial picture taken on August 28, 2019 shows the area around Sepaku, where Indonesia's new capital is set to be built.

This aerial image taken on August 28, 2019 reveals the realm round Sepaku, the place Indonesia’s new capital is about to be constructed.

STR/AFP/AFP/Getty Photographs

The extent of the menace to uncommon wildlife will depend upon the continued planning and surveys, says BOS.

“With the distinctive ecosystems in East Kalimantan, it is important to have a mitigation plan in place tailor-made to those particular environmental wants,” Nurcahyo insists.

“That plan continues to be being developed. Step one might be to judge and map the influence of the transfer.”

Native authorities guarantees surroundings might be protected

Kalimantan has already seen huge habitat loss and the killing of two,000-3,000 orangutans a 12 months because the Nineteen Seventies, in response to the Worldwide Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The orangutan is on its red list of critically endangered species.
In a century, complete populations have nearly halved, says the WWF — from 230,000 to about 112,000.

Nurcahyo says about 57,350 orangutans survive in Borneo, “unfold into 42 pockets of untamed inhabitants.”

The massive fear is that almost all orangutans in Kalimantan exist outdoors of protected areas. Or, because the WWF places it, “in forests which can be exploited for timber manufacturing or are within the means of being transformed to agriculture.”

Kato -- a large male orangutan -- is carried in a cage from a small boat from the River Bemban to his release site in Bukit Baka Bukit Raya National Park in Central Kalimantan, Borneo, Indonesia in 2017.

Kato — a big male orangutan — is carried in a cage from a small boat from the River Bemban to his launch web site in Bukit Baka Bukit Raya Nationwide Park in Central Kalimantan, Borneo, Indonesia in 2017.

Jonathan Perugia/In Footage/Getty Photographs

Officers have moved to allay fears in regards to the influence of the brand new capital on the surroundings.

The Indonesian authorities has pledged no protected forests might be touched within the $32 billion megaproject.

It is going to be “a wise metropolis, with inexperienced expertise and pleasant to the surroundings,” promised the president whereas discussing the transfer with journalists.

East Kalimantan Governor Isran Noor advised media he admits some bushes will fall to make method for the 256,000-hectare (2,560 sq. kilometers) web site, which is sort of 4 occasions the dimensions of Jakarta.

“In fact, there might be a number of sacrifices, however finally, we intention to attain forest revitalization,” he advised native papers. “When completed it can boast a minimum of 70% open inexperienced area.”

Poor infrastructure together with persevering with logging exercise even in nature reserves has up to now saved mainstream orangutan tourism at bay right here.

Now the federal government is keen for the brand new capital to lure overseas vacationers and investments. Nevertheless it’s additionally conscious of the significance of ecotourism, and that almost all guests will come to see the wildlife.

Vehicles crowd a main road leading out Jakarta during the early evening rush hour on November 30, 2021.

Autos crowd a predominant highway main out Jakarta in the course of the early night rush hour on November 30, 2021.

Bay Ismoyo/AFP/Getty Photographs

Forest reserves surrounding Nusantara will play a pivotal position in guaranteeing conservation efforts and sustainability, Governor Noor advised media.

So too will the orangutan sanctuaries.

“Nature and urbanization will coexist right here,” Aswin, chief of East Kalimantan’s Regional Growth Planning Company, Bappeda Kaltim, advised local media.

He famous strategic environmental research are underway to make sure the forests are taken care of.

“The necessary factor is that our space can change into an financial, vacationer and different vacation spot.”

However he is additionally boasted of the large income to come back. Funding in East Kalimantan is about to soar by 34.5% in comparison with a nationwide rise of 4.7%, he mentioned. And financial progress will double with the relocation.

Even the buffer zone round Nusantara — from Samrinda to Balikpapan — should profit from the transfer, he mentioned.

“We want East Kalimantan to be brilliant and glowing.”

The Kalimantan Rainforest in Borneo, Indonesia is without doubt one of the most biodiverse spots on Earth. Bustling with life, the dense greenery is house to orangutans, every kind of birds, frogs, you identify it. However the rainforest will not keep that method if mining and logging continues unchecked. Which is why The Nature Conservancy’s Dr. Eddie Sport is listening to the sounds of the rainforest to measure the influence of human exercise on the realm’s wildlife.

Amid issues that each one that may come at a value, the regional arm of the Nationwide Growth Planning Company, Bappenas, is reportedly busy consulting native communities about ecological conservation of the jungle tract.

Glimmers of hope

Past the rhetoric of Borneo’s jungles being the “Paru-Paru Dunia” — “lungs of the earth” — forest burning continues. Many fires are intentionally lit to clear land for agriculture.

Some fear that logging, land-clearing and fires will solely worsen as development takes off.

“These ecosystems are already hit by large-scale coal mining, logging and monoculture oil palm plantations,” mentioned Sophie Chao on the College of Sydney, an skilled in ecology and indigeneity in Southeast Asia.

She believes the transfer spells extra strife for indigenous populations and hundreds of species of wildlife.

“The area of East Kalimantan is immensely wealthy in biodiversity, with over 133 mammals, 11 primates species and three,000 varieties of bushes. These are discovered throughout a various mosaic of karst landscapes, peat marsh, mangrove, flatland dipterocarp forest and humid forest.”

Set towards that specter, there are glimmers of hope.

Nurcahyo doesn’t rule out the prospect that shifting Indonesia’s capital to Borneo may deliver extra consideration to the orangutan’s plight and bolster conservation efforts.

“All that relies on the mitigation plan and potential ecological ramifications of the transfer. We, meantime, will dedicate ourselves tirelessly to the conservation of the Bornean orangutans and their habitat.”

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