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environmental education in West Kalimantan Borneo

HCVs are they the magic bullet to save orang-utans or alibis to destroy?

environmental education conservation Kalimantan Borneo


Spent the day watching kids explore a rainforest where orangutans live — saw plenty of nests but no red apes (although 36 kids make a lot of noise even trying to be quiet.) This field trip was organized by Yayasan IR orangutan center (International Animal Rescue) as part of their ongoing education outreach to schools and communities, in partnership with PK KAL oil palm plantation education staff.

It was my first chance to wander around inside a High Conservation Value (HCV) area, and for many of these kids it was as well. HCVs come with a mixed review. They were initiated by Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and adopted by RSPO as part of the requirements for an oil palm plantation being an accredited “sustainable” plantation. At first glance it sounds like a good idea, in practice it falls short of the mark. And for orangutans, and other large mammals like tiger and elephant, HCVs are generally too little space, too late after everything else has been cleared. The other issue is they often are patches of forest that sit in isolation. So even if the HCV has orangutans, where are the orangutans to go if they over-populate or over-eat their limited forest?

PT KAL oil palm plantantion High Conservation Value (HCV) Kalimantan, Borneo Indonesia

PT KAL oil palm plantantion with 5 yr old palms ajacent to High Conservation Value (HCV) area within their concession, West Kalimantan, Borneo Indonesia

Conservationists are pushing for a grander landscape approach to utilizing HCVs on connecting plantations, and even leaving forest corridors between HCVs (or in deforested areas replanting native tree species to create corridors.) The first problem? Getting oil palm plantations to work together, especially to save orangutans, is like convincing little boys to share the baseball with little girls, not happening without a fuss.









Kids from Matan Hilir Utara 1 junior high, discovering a Nepenthes carnivorous pitcher plant in PT KAL's palm oil plantation HCV area. Instructor is with PT KAL's education staff. West Kalimantan, Borneo Indonesia Kids from Matan Hilir Utara 1 junior high, discovering a Nepenthes carnivorous pitcher plant in PT KAL’s palm oil plantation HCV area. Instructor is with PT KAL’s education staff. West Kalimantan, Borneo Indonesia

What HCVs do have is native biodiversity—plants, insects, reptiles, birds—all can survive in these reduced spaces. Given the right attitude by the oil palm company, in this case PT KAL, their HCVs can offer valuable environmental learning opportunities for neighboring schools. Opening photo shows one of the young girls from Matan Hilir Utara 1 junior high is exploring the biodiversity, a Nepenthes pitcher plant, in PT KAL’s High Conservation Value area.







Notes & Sources


2015-2016 Global research and reporting on great apes made possible in part through the generous financial support of the Philadelphia Zoo


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