Celebrating the human heart of Borneo and its indigenous peoples

In conjunction with WWF’s Heart of Borneo Festival and Forum held in Jakarta this week, the Heart of Borneo Initiative (HoB) is releasing today The Human Heart of Borneo, a new publication to celebrate the rich cultural heritage of the indigenous peoples and their role in conserving the forests of Borneo.

The HoB is the largest remaining block of tropical forest in South East Asia, and is home to almost one million indigenous peoples comprising of more than 50 ethnic groups and languages located in  the bordering areas of  Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei.

Various contributors, indigenous elders and researchers, helped shape The Human Heart of Borneo to offer a taste of the traditions, livelihoods, culture and interrelations with nature of the Dayak indigenous peoples of the Heart of Borneo. It shows how over centuries they have used their local practices, knowledge and values to sustainably manage the natural landscape. There is no Heart of Borneo without its peoples.

Anye Apui, Customary Chief of Hulu Bahau, Malinau, East Kalimantan, reminds us how deeply the identity of Dayak Peoples is tied to the forest

“Yes, timber is gold, but this is not the kind of gold that is good for us. I want to protect the forest in my area, as the forest is life for Dayak people, ” he says.

Jayl Langub, HoB indigenous leader  and WWF-Malaysia Trustee, says this publication helps us understand the key role indigenous peoples play in the Heart of Borneo and how we can all benefit from their knowledge and heritage.

“I believe that through sharing glimpses of their stories, those of us who do not live in the jungle can feel, learn and appreciate that the identity, art, handiwork, and livelihoods of the Dayak Peoples are inextricably linked to the natural world. Indigenous peoples have lived sustainably in the HoB, based on their traditions and knowledge, believing they are caretakers, not owners, of their land,” he says.

The Human Heart of Borneo sketches out the vast range of traditions, practices, and local knowledge that can also greatly benefit the world’s understanding of the rich biodiversity of this area. The report also raises the concern for the loss of language, local knowledge, and the resources of Indigenous Peoples to the development of industrial crops and plantations on the island.

WWF HoB Global Initiative team leader, Adam Tomasek says the publication is a timely resource to highlight the indigenous peoples strong connection with the forests of Borneo and conserving it for the future.

“The indigenous peoples of Borneo are partners of the Heart of Borneo Initiative. Their traditional knowledge and understanding of the forests is essential in keeping the Heart of Borneo alive for future generations. The Heart of Borneo is also their land and sustainable development of the island needs to take this into consideration,” he says.

For more information contact:

Chris Greenwood, International Communications Manager, Heart of Borneo Initaitive, WWF

Tel: +60 128281214

E-mail: cgreenwood@wwf.org.my

Notes to editors

What is the Heart of Borneo (HoB)?

The Heart of Borneo covers more than 22 million hectares (220,000 km2) of equatorial rain forest across the countries of Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia and Malaysia. One of Asia’s last great rainforests, it includes some of the most biologically diverse habitats on earth, and is one of only two places on earth where elephants, orangutans, rhinoceros and clouded leopards share the same territory. In the past 15 years, more than 500 new flora or fauna species have been discovered, at a rate of more than three per month.

Borneo’s cultural diversity is as distinct and varied as the island’s animal and plant life. In Kalimantan (Indonesia) alone, 142 different languages are believed still to be in use today. Many people depend directly on the forest for edible and medicinal plants; fish; meat; construction materials and water. As the headwaters of the island’s major rivers lie in Borneo’s central highlands, protection is critical to ensuring reliable clean water supplies to a large number of human settlements, and the thriving industries that have developed in coastal urban centres.

The Heart of Borneo Declaration

In February 2007, the governments of Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia and Malaysia signed the Heart of Borneo Declaration to protect an area of more than 220,000 square kilometres in the centre of the island and bordering all three countries. Together they emphasised the  fact that these tropical rainforests have strategic, global, national and local functions, not only for citizens of these three countries but for the global human race.

The declaration is supported under important regional and international agreements such as Association of East Asian Nations (ASEAN), Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines East Asia Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA), Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC), and the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (UNCBD).

For more information visit: www.panda.org/heart_of_borneo

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