Conservation and life in Borneo

Can we win this?

I was 60 feet off the ground when I took this photo and it’s barely half-way up the tree. This tree is a mengaris (Koompassia excelsa), also known as a tualang or honey-bee tree. As this name implies, it is also one of the more interesting trees for sun bears, despite it growing to 250ft in height. This legume is the preferred habitat of the inch-long giant bee, with one tree potentially yielding up to 100 nests, with almost 500kg of honey. No wonder the bears love it. This tree can be found throughout Borneo, as well as in the Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand.

I was standing admiring the mengaris in the photo early this morning and as I cast my eye around across the canopy and into the distance, listening for gibbons. Suddenly I was washed over by a painful wave of emotion as I considered the beauty of the forest here and how it contrasted with the seemingly never-ending expanses of oil palm estates which now all-but cover this once so beautiful island; my fists clenched and it felt as if I were leaning my head against an electric fence. The frustration of not being able to do enough sometimes feels unbearable to me.

So is it all too late? Will conservation efforts lose out to the greed and corruption behind this country’s economy? I wish I knew. My head is spinning now as I think of the challenges faced here. for now I can only continue to hope that there is still a chance to conserve what precious little we have left.


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