Borneo – An Uncertain Future

Borneo – An Uncertain Future

  • April 9, 2017
  • Jack Wheelahan (BSc '15, DVM '18)

Imagine trekking through the lush green jungles of Borneo, ancient trees reaching endlessly upwards with tangled vines tumbling back down to earth.

The thrills of monkeys calling to each other as they play, the endless chirps of birds and the honks of a hornbill fill the humid air.

Rainforest views at Semenggoh Wildlife Centre – Jack Wheelahan​ ​​
A Rhinoceros Hornbill at Matang Wildlife Centre – Jenny Ferris

Any brief moments of silence are drowned out by the deafening sound of insects buzzing and beating their wings, scurrying across the rainforest floor to escape the curious fingers of a macaque or the claw of a lazy sun bear. In the distance you hear some pygmy elephants trumpeting as they splash through a bubbling creek. ​​

A river running through Kubah National Park, Sarawak – Jack Wheelahan

Sitting above them all, looking wistfully down upon the happenings of the rainforest like a guardian, is a distinct long orange coat, nestled comfortably in the soaring canopies above.

The orangutan, the ape of solitude, watches over the rainforests of
South-East Asia. ​​

The orangutan gracefully moves between trees above Semenggoh Wildlife Centre – Jack Wheelahan ​

Now picture yourself exploring through this same forest with only the sound of insects, no distant shadows of creatures unknown, no strange calls echoing through the land.

If it weren’t for the sound of the insects, the silence would be roaring in your ears. This is a place too beautiful to be devoid of animal life.

Semenggoh National Park – Jenny Ferris

Or worse still, imagine walking amongst endless rows of palm trees that are only separated by drained riverbeds and dusty roads. Smoke fills the air in a thick haze, and only the ashes and burnt stubble are left to remind you of what once lay here, in all its splendorous beauty. ​​

Decimated forests on land allocated for palm oil plantations – Victor Barro/Friends of the Earth

In reality, if we project the current impact of humanity on the natural world; the corporate greed and environmental destruction, the latter image is likely what will be left in our lifetime. What a legacy to leave.


This series of blogs will discuss the challenges facing the wildlife of Borneo, what conservation efforts are being made, and what more we can do individually to have a positive impact.

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