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Please kickstart Borneo agro-ecological research
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Central Kalimantan on the island of Borneo contains the island's largest intact peat swamp forest, home to endangered animals such as orang utans. Surrounded by villages and plantations, human-wildlife conflicts are common - how best can these be avoided?

I'm Dr. Lenard Milich, and I'm the advisor for the Central Kalimantan Agro-Ecology Research Center at Bogor Agricultural University. I want to introduce you to an amazing and threatened forest in Central Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo) that harbors the highest density of orang utans found in all of Borneo. I first entered the peat forests of Central Kalimantan as the team leader of the socio-economic impact assessment of a large sustainable development- forest conservation pilot project in Indonesia. One of the local people in the communities we visited told me that a bunch of orang utans lived across the river from his village. Later that year, during school vacation, I returned to that village with my 8-year old daughter, to see if we could see wild orang utans - which we did, as you can see from the photo on this fundraiser.

It turns out that this little scrap of disturbed tropical peat swamp forest  - just 200 ha (500 acres) in size - contains the highest density of orang utans in all Borneo (the Curator of Primates at the Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington, DC studied this patch for her doctoral dissertation research – I can provide the reference to anyone interested). This high density is most assuredly due to the fact that the forest is a remnant of a once larger tract and has become a refuge for these animals from the devastation of their habitat by oil palm plantations. And although we know a lot about the behavior of wild orang utans, we don't know how to get them (and other endangered or threatened Bornean animals, such as proboscis monkeys, sun bears, clouded leopards, and pangolins) to move from one forest patch to another. What kind of corridors do we need to create to help them move between forest islands? How do we stop them from eating the fruit off the trees local people planted? How do we prevent them from stripping the bark off the rubber trees (thus killing them) on which the local Dayak people depend for income when, during the dry season when fruit are scarce, the rubber trees' inner bark (the cambium) offers one of only a few sources of food? Human-wildlife conflicts are all too common here, as elsewhere in the world, and it is always the wildlife that pay the price.

This challenge of finding ways to both accommodate human socioeconomic needs while protecting wild nature and ecosystem processes that support human societies has been called the "conservation divide." If we want to make sure that nature continues providing for people's livelihoods and well-being, we must keep ecosystem processes intact. At the same time, many of us wish to preserve nature for nature's sake - that is, keep animals in a benevolent Eden. Unfortunately, too often these are incompatible goals. Bridging this divide is the new frontier in conservation, and it's the central focus of this proposed research center.

We at Bogor Agricultural University are eager to undertake the research (broadly outlined in this Concept Note), and serve as the host institution to foreign faculty researchers and graduate students. We anticipate mobilizing corporate CSR funds to build and equip the center, and have commenced preliminary discussions with several likely candidates. But as an indication of global interest in this landscape ecology approach, and as a stimulus to create government and corporate support, we are crowd-funding the very first step : architectural drawings for the center, and an engineering feasibility study.

The concept we have for the building is bold. To be located on a previously burned, now grassy area across a small peatwater stream from the forest, the center will be both state-of-the-art and off-grid. It will be constructed in part from fallen logs that are in the peatwater stream, which because of the tannins are now rock-hard and insect-resistant. It will be circular in shape, with a donut hole in its center to act as a heat convector to draw in cooling breezes from around its periphery. It is to be roofed with solar cells. And among the research activities will be an investigation into local non-oil-palm options for biofuel to run the shuttle boats' outboard motors, so that we can be wholly carbon-neutral.

There is an innovative, highly creative architectural firm in Vietnam with stellar and award-winning "green" concepts that has agreed to draw up the design. Have a look at their projects - I particularly like their 'Farming Kindergarten'!

The output will include:

- 3D images - 3 exteriors (main view x 2, 1 night view), 2 interior (1 hall and a room)
- Single line facility basic plans - scale:1/300, 4 stories
- 1 Section - reasonable scale
- 1 Section Diagram to show the sustainable idea of the building
- Architectural English description
- A powerpoint presentation data for architectural concept

Help us get started! We will respond to all donors who wish to be kept informed not only with our thanks, but with progress updates. And maybe one day you can come to visit the center, for a section of it will be used for ecotourism – a model for how forest communities can directly benefit from biodiversity.

IPB

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