Conservation that works for governments, communities, and orangutans

The three nations that share the island of Borneo— Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei—could retain half the land as forest, provide adequate habitat for the orangutan and Bornean elephant, and achieve an opportunity cost saving of over $50 billion.

The findings, by a research team led by The University of Queensland with members in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Europe, were published in Nature Communications in 2015.

Borneo’s forests are denser than the Amazonian jungle, and home to more than 14,000 plant species and 1,640 vertebrate animals. The researchers showed that by integrating economic and conservation targets across political borders, the governments could make substantial savings while meeting conservation and economic targets.

The team is also working with Erik Meijaard and the Borneo Futures Initiative, which works with communities and over 70 agencies including the Center for International Forestry Research, the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), and Flora and Fauna International.

Their ultimate goal is to demonstrate that the people of Borneo have a choice about whether or not to clear land indiscriminately, and that they can live at peace with the forest while still benefiting economically. Lead author Rebecca Runting was awarded the best student paper prize at the 2016 Society for Conservation Biology Oceania conference. Senior author Associate Professor Kerrie Wilson received one of Australia’s Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science in 2016 for her work.