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Borneo is an island in the Southeast Asian Pacific Ocean and is the third biggest island in the world. It is home to thousands of diverse animals; 222 species of mammals have been discovered there. There are proboscis monkeys with their bulbously adorable noses, the Sumatran rhinoceros, the clouded leopard, Sumatran tigers, palm civets, hornbills and countless insects (scientists have found up to 1,000 different species on a single tree). There are several turtle-hatching beaches along the Bornean coastline, including those of Selingan (Turtle) Island.
The beautiful tropical rainforests of Borneo, which are 140 million years old (one of the oldest jungles on the planet), make it home to at least 15,000 plant species that we know of.
As well as animals, there are over 200 separate indigenous groups using more than 50 distinct languages.
Half of its forests were logged or burned to the ground for oil palm plantations in the 80s’ and 90s’, and the island is still the world’s largest producer of timber. As in many tropical areas around the world, Borneo’s rainforests are being cut and degraded for timber, palm oil, pulp, rubber and minerals.
The main problems affecting the idyllic island include:
Due to massive loss of trees in Borneo, the wildlife is being adversely affected because of the diminishing habitats.
Borneo is a huge producer of palm oil (the cheapest vegetable oil), however not all of its terrain is suitable for palm oil plantations, so some of its natural landscapes have been flattened to plant trees, creating disturbances to the local people and animals.
Climate change is the biggest emergency of our time. Deforestation and forest degradation account for up to 20 per cent of global man-made CO2 emissions. Carbon dioxide, being a greenhouse gas, increases climate change, meaning that it is harder for us to fix it.
Wildlife hunting and trade
The value of rare animal pelts has increased considerably over the last decades meaning that more poachers are out to get them. Illegal hunting in Borneo has almost doubled from the 20th to the 21st century meaning that the animals will soon be endangered if they are not already.
Due to the industrialisation of Borneo, chemicals are being leaked into the waters and harming and even killing aquatic species. Also, the level of plastic pollution in the water is also increasing which compounds the problem.
Influential figures hadn’t realised that Borneo is an immense source of coal, one of the three fossil fuels; so rich that it is being rapidly and often recklessly plundered. Due to mass mining, sometimes done with little order, there have been excessive losses in terms of Borneo’s natural flora and fauna.
If these activities continue, the island’s natural habitats will be further destroyed leading to the additional loss of animal and plant species, loss of water quality, an increase of greenhouse gases and the destruction of one of the planets most diverse islands.
According to the World Wildlife Fund, Bornean orangutan populations have declined by more than 50% over the past 60 years, and the species' habitat has been reduced by at least 55% over the past 20 years. Due to the habitat loss described above, the endemic Bornean orangutan is now on the critically endangered list. There are only around 104,000 of these orangutans left living in the wilds of Borneo.
So, where do I fit in?
My name is Jackson, I am a 13-year-old Scottish student living in Portugal and I am planning to go to Borneo on an expedition to help the local environment in the summer of 2020. Doing this will raise awareness to the above issues and hopefully incite some environmental actions in to this pacific paradise.
What am I going to be doing in Borneo?
I am going to be travelling to the tropical wilderness for 21 days. Working with the others in my group, we will be working on projects that will help to protect the incredibly special environments of Borneo and support some of the poorest communities there. The project will be in Sabah, in the northern tip of Borneo, a place that has not yet been spoiled by tourism or commercial agriculture. The beaches are vital breeding habitats for sea turtles. We will be helping with a number of development projects in the area, helping the local communities. We will also be assisting at the orangutan sanctuary and it is going to be a great adventure.
How can you help me?
This is a fantastic opportunity and I am very fortunate that I have this chance to make a difference, however the cost of the expedition is around 4,500 Euro.
In the next months, I will be doing a range of activities like doing the IronKids Cascais (https://eu.ironman.com/triathlon/events/emea/ironman-70.3/cascais/side-events/ironkids.aspx#axzz5yBWVsCjl
) to help fund this once in a lifetime event. If you can spare some money to sponsor me, I would be really happy because I want to make a small contribution to help the people, environment and wildlife of Borneo.
I will be posting updates on how I am getting on.
I hope you can help me do this!