Thank you Theresa S. and Faye B. for your most recent donations - your ongoing support is much appreciated. In the last few weeks we have received a few reports from the team in Belantikan on various fauna and flora that have been surveyed. They are really interesting so I'll post about these soon but first I would like to give you a proper introduction to this region and our work there as I have only mentioned Belantikan briefly before.
It is only in the last few years that the true extent of the Belantikan’s incredible biodiversity has been revealed. A survey, by Togu Simorangkir, in 2003, found an estimated 6,000 orangutans and a very high level of biodiversity– this is the third largest orangutan population in the world and the largest population outside of a protected area. These facts make Belantikan a high priority site for orangutan conservation.
Upland forest of the Belantikan Hulu
The Belantikan forests spread from the foothills of the Schwaner Mountains between the Arut region and the border of West Kalimantan (see map).
(Sorry about the quality of the map!!)
It is a spectacular place with steep cliffs and waterfalls. There are many rivers flowing through the valleys, including the main Belantikan River that flows into the Lamandau River. There are a variety of habitat types that includes lowland forests, swamp and upland forests thus creating a diverse range of ecosystems with abundant species of flora and fauna. Research into the biodiversity of the region has so far found; ten primate species (includes orangutans), seven of these species are listed as protected and four are endemic to Kalimantan (found nowhere else); 31 non-primate mammals species; 207 bird species; 32 amphibian species; 38 reptile species and 59 fish species. It is thought that there are many more species in Belantikan that haven’t yet been found. Installing camera traps in this area could help to reveal more species and previously undiscovered ones.
The forests of Belantikan are a biodiversity hotspot and an estimated 6,000 orangutans are found there.
The Belantikan region belongs administratively to 13 villages, the Belantikan Raya District and the Central Kalimantan Province. The communties of Belantikan depend on the forest products, both timber and non-timber, for their livelihoods. They have a strong spiritual bond with the forest and unique traditional rituals and cultures.
Unfortunately Belantikan is under threat. It is not a protected area and currently most of the forested area of Belantikan is a logging concession. Gold mining used to occur but has now stopped, however, its impacts are still seen and felt by the local communities with some rivers having been badly polluted. Iron ore mining is now posing a real threat with licences for exploration having been awarded. If it goes ahead the consequences could be disastrous for this forest and its wildlife - this is a real worry and we are monitoring the situation very closely.
The Belantikan Conservation Programme (BCP) is a partnership between Yayorin (local NGO) and the Orangutan Foundation, and with an EC /UNEP/Great Ape Survival Project (GRASP) grant, we are actively involved in the conservation of this area and its large orangutan population. As I have mentioned Belantikan is owned by the local village communities, and ultimately, the fate of these forests are in their hands. We try to influence how the communities use and manage the forests by offering advice and demonstrating alternative income-generating solutions. Within the communities we are increasing conservation awareness and the recognition, of Belantikan, as an important resource for their future.
Rattan -being processed. Rattan is one of the main sources of income for local communities.
Balai Belajar -the training centre where the BCP team demonstrate sustainable agriculture and advise on other income generating techniques for the local communities.
This important orangutan population has just been found, and now we know it is there, we have to ensure its long-term survival and protect this invaluable ecosystem.