June 8, 2009

Indonesia Presents Environmental Award to Wehea Rainforest Project

A rainforest protection project managed by DAI’s Orangutan Conservation Services Program (OCSP) has received the Kalpatura Award, Indonesia’s highest environmental honor. A June 5 ceremony presenting the award was held at the presidential palace in Jakarta.

The honored project—The Nature Conservancy’s Wehea site in Kalimantan—is part of a portfolio of sites under OCSP, which is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

OCSP implements policy reform, law enforcement, public outreach, and site-based conservation measures. Together, these activities reduce the widespread habitat destruction that threatens the remaining populations of wild orangutans at key sites in Borneo and Sumatra.

The indigenous Dayak people of Wehea and the local government of East Kutai District in Indonesian Borneo have made great strides in protecting and managing 38,000 hectares of rainforest from lowland to mountain. The forest is home to threatened species such as the Bornean orangutan, clouded leopard, and storm’s stork. It is also an important water and medicinal plant source for the Wehea people and their agricultural livelihoods.

In addition, the Dayak tribe leader, Ledjie Tag, won the Kalpatura Environment Savior Award. “My responsibility for protecting the environment will not stop after receiving the award,” said Ledjie, as reported in the Jakarta Post.

Under the Wehea project:

  • In cooperation with local people, the local government declared the area a protected forest in 2004.
  • Local and provincial governments contributed more than US$400,000 to its management. Such financial commitment from Indonesian governments to conservation is rare.
  • Community patrols succeeded in stopping virtually all illegal logging and hunting. Forest loss, which averaged 230 hectares per year in 2002 and 2003, has ceased.
  • The head of customary law, Let Djitaq, linked forest protection to the cultural revival of the Wehea people in that the community took ownership of the project and saw greater opportunities for development in general.
  • Village incomes have doubled due to improved agricultural practices. New agricultural systems for rubber, cocoa, betutu fish, fruits and vegetables, ironwood, gaharu (expensive aromatic wood), and greatly expanded nurseries have benefited local people.
  • Private firms provided $200,000 for infrastructure to support the program in 2008.
  • The area hosts 500 to 750 orangutans, or 1 to 2 percent of the remaining population in the world.