Mapping rubber plantations

In August 2023, Olivia Cosby and Christ Hani visited the two longhouses to continue conversations from May 2022 and February 2023 that explored building a new community-led collaboration with Sarawak Forestry (SFC), Smithsonian Institution (SI), and Community Conservation (CC). In earlier conversations, the communities identified replanting rubber tree plantation areas with a diversity of fruit trees beneficial to orangutans, hornbills, and the communities, as well as removing invasive Bellucia pentamera trees. In addition to discussing the new approach, the communities began mapping rubber plantation sites with Olivia and Hani in order to identify potential sites for establishing wildlife monitoring by the community.

Watch Olivia’s Instagram story from the trip.

Wildlife monitoring activities

In January 2024, a larger team returned to initiate wildlife monitoring activities prior to clearing invasive trees and planting fruit trees later in the year (approx. May-July). The monitoring will help community members compare changes in wildlife presence in response to habitat modifications. The team began training community members to use audio-recorders and climate sensors to supplement camera trapping, laying the foundation for community members to lead monitoring efforts in the future.  In total, the communities established 19 wildlife-monitoring plots within degraded rubber plantations, old longhouse sites, and along the boundary of the sanctuary. Sites within old longhouse sites, locally referred to as “tembawai”, and sites located along the LEWS boundary will serve as controls, or comparison sites, for the restored rubber plantation areas.

Different community approaches

One interesting outcome of discussions with the communities is that they have chosen different initial approaches to carrying out activities. One longhouse has proposed managing plots and a shared nursery in one large community team that includes women while the other longhouse has proposed working in family teams to manage plots and family tree nurseries.

Next steps

The next stages of the project will include trips planned for March and May. In March, our partners, the Sarawak Forestry Corporation, will continue the community training on protocols for collecting data from cameras, audio recorders, and climate meters. They will also conduct phenology surveys for presence/absence of trees producing fruit along the border of the plots. In May, we will focus on developing a strategy for achieving each community’s long-term goals under the project and supporting their vision for a governance and management of the project by the communities. We will also host a cross-community gathering at the local school so that communities can learn how the other longhouse is approaching the project and sharing results from data collected in March 2024.

One thought on “Re-wilding rubber plantations in Malaysia

  1. Will they be reintroducing Orangutans into these reclaimed forests or are they already there? Will be there be studies on the wildlife as to before the reforestation vs after reforestation?

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