Involving Women and Communities in Wildlife Conservation

Community Conservation has joined some exciting work with villages bordering a wildlife sanctuary in Borneo.

Borneo, Malaysia is a biodiversity hotspot, treasured by people all around the world for its abundance of wildlife, including orangutans.

For four years, the Smithsonian Institution and Sarawak Forestry Corporation have been working on wildlife surveys in Lanjak Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary in Borneo. The sanctuary area is home to one of the largest populations of orangutans, as well as Sunda pangolins, bearded pigs, and Bornean banded langurs.

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Camera trap photo of orangutan

The sanctuary is bordered by indigenous Iban people who live in traditional community longhouses. Many forests in the Iban territories around the sanctuary are maintained by villagers as community fruit gardens. Recent research by Olivia Cosby, SI student fellow working under research ecologist Bill McShea, has shown these forests also serve as “hot spots” for wildlife.

Teri Allendorf follows local Iban farmer Lajang anak Karangang and son through hill rice field

There is a big opportunity to work with these Iban communities to manage these forests to better support orangutans and other wildlife.

Community Conservation is partnering with Olivia and the Smithsonian on this work, overseeing community conservation activities and facilitating workshops for Iban farmers and protected area staff.

First, we will work to involve more women in the ongoing wildlife surveys.

Local men from the longhouses have been participating in Olivia’s research as hired wildlife monitors, doing much of the camera trapping.

During a small impromptu camera trap training with some of the local women, we discovered that the women were enthusiastic about learning too – they said they want to do the same work the men have been doing.

Informal camera trap training

We hope to conduct camera trap training sessions geared towards the women so that the camera trapping will be an economic opportunity for the women as well as the men. 

We are proud to partner with Olivia, the Smithsonian Institution, and Sarawak Forestry Corporation on this project and help train these women, so they can help protect the biodiversity that they value just as much as the men do.

Second, we will work to further involve communities in the conservation work there.

We will be working with Olivia to develop more community-based conservation initiatives over the next couple years. 

Olivia will also be working on developing educational programs for the local schools, meeting regularly with different community groups, and establishing new wildlife-friendly sources of income for locals.

Boat ride to the community. Photo by Bill McShea

Olivia says, “We want to empower local communities so that they can be a part of the decision-making and management of neighboring protected areas. As residents and users of the forest they want to understand the impact of activities in the forests, both their own and that of outsiders, and participate in the discussions of how to reduce any negative impacts.”

We will also be on the lookout for opportunities for the longhouse communities to take more ownership of conservation work.

Lastly, we hope to expand this to neighboring communities (other nearby longhouses).

The team will initially focus on the two longhouses closest to the sanctuary’s boundary, and eventually expand. Next year, we hope to invite neighboring communities downriver to observe activities and share observations.

The ultimate goal of this work is to build a network of village teams to support wildlife conservation around the sanctuary.

To help support this project, donate online or participate in Pedal, Paddle, or Plod!

One thought on “New Project in Borneo

  1. A former PEACE CORPS Volunteer in Sabah 1971-73
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    Thank you for your work, let me know how I can help


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