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. Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei Agree To Save "Heart Of Borneo"

File photo of the jungles of Borneo
by Staff Writers
Jakarta (AFP) Feb 12, 2007
Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei on Monday agreed to conserve a large swathe of mountainous rainforest covering a third of Borneo which is home to endangered orangutans, elephants and rhinos. "This will put the 'Heart of Borneo' on the world stage as one of the last great blocks of forest in the world," Indonesian Forestry Minister Malem Sambet Kaban said after he and his counterparts from Malaysia and Brunei signed the "Rainforest Declaration" on the resort island of Bali.

Under the declaration, the three countries agreed to work together to conserve about 220,000 square kilometres (88,000 square miles) of equatorial rainforest covering about a third of the island, environmental group WWF said in a statement.

"This event is more than symbolic, as it represents a commitment between our three countries to conserve and sustainably manage the 'Heart of Borneo'," said Malaysian Environment Minister Azmi bin Khalid.

WWF said the agreement also ended plans to create the world's largest palm oil plantation in Kalimantan, along Indonesia's border with Malaysia.

"The scheme -- supported by Chinese investments -- was expected to cover an area of 1.8 million hectares and would have had long-lasting, damaging consequences to the 'Heart of Borneo'," it said.

Borneo's rainforests have been under threat from unsustainable logging, forest fires and conversion to plantations.

Since 1996, deforestation across Indonesia has increased to an average of two million hectares (five million acres) a year and now only half of Borneo's original forest cover remains.

Borneo's forests are home to 13 primate species -- including endangered orangutans -- more than 350 bird species, 150 reptiles and amphibians and about 15,000 species of plants.

Scientists continue to make many new discoveries in the forests -- more than 50 new species were discovered last year alone.

Brunei's Industry Minister Ahmad bin Haji Jumat said "the world outside our countries is excited by what we are doing and is prepared to lend us support."

The three governments first announced their joint intention to conserve the "Heart of Borneo" during the Convention on Biodiversity in Brazil in March 2006.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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Save the Forests at Wood Pile

Illegal Logging Threatens Endangered Orangutans
Nairobi (AFP) Feb 6, 2007
Illegal logging by international companies could lead to a 98 percent loss of South East Asia's tropical rainforests by 2022, threatening the habitat of tens of thousands of endangered orangutans, the United Nations warned Tuesday. To supply a growing global demand for timber and biofuels like palm oil, illegal loggers have begun to raid Indonesia's national parks, resulting in a devastating loss of biodiversity for both local and animal populations, a report by the Nairobi-based UN Environment Programme (UNEP) found.

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