Help stop Borneo burning

Forest fires are breaking out in the Sabangau forests in Central Kalimantan jeopardising the lives of the estimated 8,000 wild orangutans living there.

The burning season has started with a vengeance and as you read this appeal vast swathes of pristine orangutan habitat are under threat. The land is firmly in the grip of an extreme drought, caused by El Nino. The fires have started as a result of human actions; newcomers to the area attempting to follow traditional Dayak farming methods for land clearance. But the land is dry in the current season and when peat dries out it burns very easily. The newcomers do not possess the experience to control the fires and as soon as one is brought under control, another erupts.

Once these fires take hold, they burn and burn and can be almost impossible to put out until the rains come again. In that time huge areas of forest and irreplaceable peat deposits may be lost.

Local residents report the fires devoured the area incredibly quickly, raging through the tinder-dry vegetation, decimating all in its path and burning down into the peat. The team reports orangutan sleeping nests that can be seen in trees shrouded in smoke and rhinoceros hornbills flying through the haze overhead. On the ground, the fire-fighting teams create fire breaks and pump water from nearby canals and bore-holes onto the fires - bore-holes that need to be twenty meters or more deep to access sufficient water to tackle the fire. It can take up to six hours and teams of three or four trained workers to dig. Extinguishing just one square metre of burning peat takes two to three hundred litres of water.

These dedicated fire-fighting teams are working round-the-clock and they will continue to do so until the next rains arrive - probably at the end of October. But the odds are stacked against them. And they don’t have the resources needed to tackle all the fires that are starting. They need your support now to enable them to continue to work effectively to minimise damage to the areas under threat.

The fires are taking hold in the areas where key BOS operations are situated. They have seriously impeded our efforts in recent weeks to get the wild orangutans airlifted out of the region to the release sites. It is imperative that we do all we can to support the efforts of the fire-fighting teams, risking their lives on the ground, to fight the fires so BOS can continue its operations. As has happened during the burning season in the past, we need to be prepared for a potential influx of injured orangutans as a result of these fires. It is vital we have the space to accommodate them.

In 2006 the team battled successfully for five months to save an area of pristine forest. But there were many orangutan casualties. Some survived the devastation. Many did not.

More equipment and personnel are essential if the battle against these fires are to be at all successful. Funding is difficult to secure because major fires occur maybe once every three or four years. Guaranteed income and operational costs for the team are crucial for immediate use when fire hits.

Disasters do not wait; they hit hard and fast, with little warning. The team relies on donations, and are very grateful for any and all support.  To donate, click here and mention "Help Stop Borneo Burning" in the comments box.

                   Please give what you can.
               And help us stop Borneo burning.
                                    Thank you.