The land surrounding the mine is barren of the flora and fauna that once helped with the delicate balance between the natural world and the Dayak culture’s daily necessities. Borneo's native cultures are usually referred to collectively as "Dayak," a term that covers a multitude of ethnic groups. The Dayak, once headhunters before the colonization of the Dutch in 1891, used to rule the remote parts of the island. Now in 2020, one of the tribes lives at the bald head of the mountain top carved with lines that lead into a cavernous open mouth in the land. The mine has created new broders, new lines, new rules--for people and animals. And not just mining alone, and not just this mine. The once-borderless jungle is now faced with the interruption of clear-cut swathes to make way for a multitude of extraction industries. Mining, land conversion, illegal logging, poor forest management, and forest fires have threatened the existence of the jungle.
On three sides of this village, the borders are natural and intentional. The river, the jungle, and one main road encase the village. These boundaries separate the jungle from the village in delicate balance with the lives that have been dependent on it for thousands of years. But on the fourth side, what used to be jungle is now a mine.
Paths of the wild orangutan, rhinos, elephants, and sun bears and other additional species have been interrupted from poaching, starvation from lack of wild food resources, and being stolen and trafficked into the illegal pet trade. This is not solely an orangutan issue, according to Orangutan.org. Because the animals end up on dead-end, clear cut land, or in the few remaining areas where there is water and shade akin to their original habitat, their living space is shrinking, making capturing and selling them as pets or bushmeat easier. In the case of sun bears, they are sold to bear bile farms that harvest bile for chinese medicine. Blocked borders are only one of the issues that contribute to the loss of wildlife.
With the ever-constant threat of poaching, wildlife trafficking, bushmeat sales, habitat loss and climate change, Borneo may soon face the very real possibility of losing some of its most iconic wildlife. Furthermore, according to HowtoConserve.org, the industries that promise to eradicate poverty, educate inhabitants and increase income only exacerbate the human-wildlife conflict.
However, there are forces at work to combat this extractive destruction and offer possible solutions. Conservation groups such as The Orangutan Project, and Orangutan Foundation International work to save wildlife of all kinds and increase awareness about the necessity of all wildlife for the Dayak tribes. These groups also work to reduce conflicts with wild animals by guiding their movements in developed areas through creating wildlife corridors which can be defined as areas of preserved native habitat in human-dominated regions that provide wildlife with a safe pathway as they travel between larger areas of intact habitat.The conservation organizations also build community around the work of saving and caring for these animals by educating and employing the people who live there to help them understand the value of the wildlife for an intact jungle, and a symbiotic ecosystem.
Ecotourism is another possible solution. Companies like Orangutan Odysseys help by funding projects that aim to combat the forces that create these borders and destroy the habitat. They foster and encourage a respect for the wildlife by offering educational jungle-trekking, foster relationships with the Dayak village life through home-stays and traditional cultural celebrations, facilitate relationships between the tribes and the businesses, and offer educational and employment opportunities for the people in the region. Ecotourism outfits owned and operated by local communities, rather than corporations, can uplift entire impoverished regions by providing additional job opportunities to boost the local economy.
The truth still remains that Borneo's rainforests face extinction. Today the forests of Borneo are but a shadow of the original landscape once home to the Dayak and villages like Merasa Village. While education, wildlife corridors, awareness and opportunity will help, more needs to be done. If Borneo's jungle is to be saved, it will require universal recognition of the value of forests as healthy and productive ecosystems. We need to find a way to stop the divisive nature big companies use to thrive. We need to find unifying solutions for businesses, native landowners, animals, and outsiders who want to make a difference.
We could all agree that the interests that work to destroy forests need to be held accountable for the true costs of environmental degradation. Financial incentives for local people to shift behavior also need to be enhanced. Support for wildlife conservation, exposure for the animals caught in the crossfire, alternatives like corridors and malleable fences could all help in the progress of this region. Mongabay talks about the ideas that a knowledge-based service economy over an extractive one could be the key for the survival of the complex intricacy of the rainforest jungle.