In 2016 International Animal Rescue began a reforestation project in Borneo to protect critically endangered animals and their environment.
Fires and deforestation to make way for palm oil production mean that orangutans are now on the brink of extinction and in 2015 two community forests – 2,000 hectares – close to the charity’s orangutan rescue centre were wiped out by fire as a result of the El Niño weather pattern. Because these are important biodiversity hotspots it was important for the charity to take action and avoid further damage.
The charity created a detailed reforestation plan to replant 650,000 trees, creating an environment where the critically endangered Bornean orangutans and other animals could thrive.
Community involvement was crucial to the success of the project. This meant working with people who had local knowledge of species in the area and finding alternative livelihoods for those employed in logging industries. Local men harvested seeds from the burnt land and local women grew them into seedlings over three to four months. These were then purchased by the charity, providing income for local families.
The charity also found that planting activity was an effective way of involving more local people in forest conservation. After word spread it was welcoming community groups, youth clubs, volunteers, teachers and students from nearby schools to help with the replanting process.
The replanting started with a test area to find out which species would thrive before expanding. The charity tested the use of drones to identify the best areas for planting, and then to drop the seedlings into the ground. Since the project began 25 hectares have been replanted, and funding is now being sought to expand the activity. Crucially, the project has also inspired a passion for conservation among local people.
Awards judge Lynne Berry said IAR was a really interesting development project which combined enterprise and community sustainability with positive environmental impact. She also praised the use of drone technology.
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