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Destruction of the Borneo and Sumatran Rainforests

Why do we need these forests?

Borneo is the third largest island in the world, and Sumatra is the sixth largest island in the world. Both are located in southeast Asia and both are are home to some of the world's most diverse forest ecosystems. These forest ecosystems are under serious threat of extinction.

They create a habitat for over 600 bird species and 15,000 plant species, as well as the world's last Sumatran tigers, orangutans, Sumatran rhinos, and pygmy elephants. These beautiful creatures face imminent extinction with the rate of deforestation occurring in these regions. They are also home to many indigenous people who have been living off of the land for generations.

The forest is important for carbon extraction from the atmosphere, as well as habitat to thousands of unique plant and animals species. It is also important for regulating the water cycle. However, its products are important for commercial use, which has lured many logging and palm oil companies to enact its deforestation.

Ongoing Problem

Saving Sumatra

Environmental Devastation


The people of Indonesia are lackadaisically razing, clearing, and destroying forests to make room for palm oil plantations. The trees are also being illegally cut down for a booming logging industry, that makes products such as, paper, pulp, and hardwood flooring (WWF). The reasons for deforestation are purely economical, and local governments have more power than national governments; therefore, these local governments have the power to legislate the logging even if the national governments do not allow it.

The elimination of these forests has made Indonesia the world's third-largest greenhouse gas emitting nation. This is because when the trees are clear cut or burned, the masses of carbon stored are released into the atmosphere. These greenhouse gases are therefore trapping heat and contributing to the problem of global warming.

Furthermore, the clearing of rich peat land, which is a critical store for approximately 35 billion tonnes of carbon, is contributing to the country's huge emission problems (Greenpeace). In place of these valuable lands are rows and rows of palm oil and acacia plants. The loss of both forest and peat carbon sinks is tremendous, which is the reason Indonesia is the world's third-largest emitter of carbon.

There is an issue of damage to natural water systems that trees help regulate. The lack of forests also takes away a drain for this water, and floods will occur because the run off from rain will increase. Also, rivers and streams are either paved over, or completely altered. Animals that rely on these sources of water have to search for a necessity that is becoming scarcer and scarcer.

If there weren't enough issues already, of course there are more. Soil erosion is another major concern for these forest ecosystems. Wildlife thrives because plants are allowed to grow and provide shelter; trees are especially important in this because their roots grow deep and hold the soil together. Deforestation deteriorates the quality of soil because it is not being fed nutrients, and therefore inhibits successful growth.

From Beginning to End...

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Rapid vanishing of the forests since 1950 and what is projected in 2020


The deforestation of the Borneo and Sumatran forests is taking a devastating toll on the rare animal species populations. The Sumatran tiger, Sumatran orangutan, and Sumatran elephant, are all species on the critically endangered list (WWF). Animals are put on this list when they are deemed to have an extremely high risk of extinction.

The rapid deforestation is quickly removing these animals' habitats, while not allowing them to adjust or move. This poses a major issue because there is problem of crowding and space. As land continues to disappear, animals do not have anywhere else to go, and are forced to compete against each other to survive. As a result, they are even more vulnerable to poachers as they have less land to hunt for the animals.

The statistics I researched about dwindling animal populations were alarming. There are less than 400 Sumatran tigers, approximately 7,300 Sumatran orangutans, and approximately 1,300 pygmy elephants (WWF).


The deforestation has disrupted the lives of local people who depend on the forest for their livelihood. They can no longer live off of the rubber, hunting, gathering that the forest can offer, and are often forced to relocate (WWF). The governments are often lax, which allows for the poor treatment and exploitation of these people, often under inhumane conditions.

This turns into a vicious cycle because people are lured to the plantations for job opportunities. However, they are treated poorly, and cannot escape poverty, and therefore, they cannot move or leave.

Sumatran orangutans' rainforest home faces new threat

Remedies to the Situation

The World Wildlife Fund, Greenpeace, and other environmental organizations have come together the grave danger posed to the Bornean and Sumatran forests.

The World Wildlife Fund has developed many solutions to this problem:

  • collaboration with governments to improve law enforcement
  • provide other economic activities for people and help restore communities
  • instill responsible forestry by educating workers
  • control growth on palm oil industry
  • government assistance in reforestation
  • create programs that educate about sustainable resource management and the importance of the protected areas
  • create national parks or other heavily regulated areas for protection
  • turn reliance from wood towards bioenergies such as sugar, starch, and fats

As a consumer, you can check labels and ask retailers where the ingredients of the products originate. If they originate from palm oil plantations in Indonesia, you can boycott the product and spread word about what is happening to make these products. A bad reputation to these companies will be economically damaging, and when there is international pressure, they will be forced to address the issue.

If there is enough recognition from the international community, it will be able to put pressure on the government to stop the deforestation from happening. If it continues to be an issue, nations around the world can impose trade barriers with Indonesia until it creates legislation to protect its rainforests. These trade barriers will make their products useless, and the goal is to force to government to take legislative action against clearing land.

Furthermore, by spreading word via social media, family, and friends about these issues, attention can be gathered to take action. Monetary support can be given to the environmental organizations, who from there, can effectively put forth its solutions. Through these donations, you can adopt animals and help care for them to ensure that they have a future (WWF). Creating awareness and support about the issues is the best way to remedy this situation. International support can spur governments to collaborate with each other to find a solution to this ongoing problem.

A tax on carbon emissions is another way the global community can deter deforestation. If a country exceeds its allowable carbon emissions, a tax should be imposed so that it pays for the damages it contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. This may be an effective way to innovate and find better ways to use biofuels.

Heating Up

Anthropologist Unravels the Effects of Deforestation by Heating Up

Works Cited

*Please note that the smore does not allow for the proper hanging indent that is used in Works Cited

"Borneo and Sumatra | Places | WWF." WWF - Endangered Species Conservation | World Wildlife Fund. World Wildlife Fund, n.d. Web. 10 June 2013. <>.

"Deforestation | Threats | WWF." WWF - Endangered Species Conservation | World Wildlife Fund. World Wildlife Fund, n.d. Web. 11 June 2013. <>.

"Indonesia | Greenpeace International." Greenpeace. Greenpeace, n.d. Web. 11 June 2013. <>.

Liem, Mita Valina. "Indonesian rainforests are disappearing fast - The New York Times." The New York Times - Breaking News, World News & Multimedia. The New York Times, 4 June 2007. Web. 14 June 2013. <>.

Revkin, Andrew. "Environmental Activism at its Best: Greenpeace's Push to Stop the Pulping of Rain Forests -" Natural Resources and the Environment - Dot Earth Blog - The New York Times: Opinion Pages, 8 Feb. 2013. Web. 12 June 2013. <>.

"Save the Planet : Deforestation in Borneo and Sumatra." Save the Planet . N.p., 1 Apr. 2013. Web. 11 June 2013. <>.

Vidal, John. " 'The Sumatran rainforest will mostly disappear within 20 years' | Global development | The Observer ." Latest US news, world news, sport and comment from the Guardian | | The Guardian . The Guardian, 26 May 2013. Web. 11 June 2013. <>.