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Three Nations Commit to Conserving the 'Heart of Borneo'

WASHINGTON - WWF today applauded the leaders of the three nations on the island of Borneo - Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia and Malaysia - for officially endorsing an historic agreement to conserve the "Heart of Borneo," a mountainous region of rainforests about the size of Kansas that is home to pygmy elephants, rhinos and orangutans. The endorsement came in the "Leaders Statement" at the 3rd Summit of the Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines - East ASEAN Growth Area.

Last year, the three nations voiced their desire to conserve the Heart of Borneo at the Convention on Biodiversity in Brazil. It is expected that the ministers of the three countries will sign the declaration at a ceremony during the first quarter of 2007.

"This declaration is the key to real and lasting changes in the form of new parks, better governance and sustainable development that protects natural resources and reduces poverty," said Carter Roberts, president and CEO of World Wildlife Fund-U.S. "This declaration couldn't have come too soon. The concentration of wildlife on Borneo is just astonishing but it is desperately in need of protection."

The Heart of Borneo is one of only two places on the planet where rhinos, elephants and orangutans coexist. Since 1996, Borneo has lost, on average, the equivalent of a New Jersey sized chunk of forest every year from logging, forest fires and forest conversion for plantations. Today only half of Borneo's original forest cover remains.

"More than 400 new species have found on Borneo in the past decade," said Adam Tomasek, director for WWF's Borneo and Sumatra program. "This area is also the source of 14 of the island's 20 major rivers so conserving it is essential for safeguarding the water and food security for the people of Borneo."

The island is home to 13 primate species, more than 350 bird species, 150 reptiles and amphibians and around 15,000 species of plants, and continues to be the source of many new discoveries - three species have been found every month over the past 10 years alone.

"WWF considers the Heart of Borneo to be one of the planet's top global conservation priorities," said James Leape, WWF International's Director General. "It is hugely important to maintain a large enough area of Borneo's forests for the survival of the natural ecosystems and the people that depend on them. This is critical for sustainable development, and WWF stands ready to assist Borneo's three governments in realizing the commitment they have made today."

For further information:
Adam Tomasek, director, Borneo and Sumatra program, WWF-US, 202/778-9617, adam.tomasek@wwfus.org
Stuart Chapman, international coordinator, Heart of Borneo Program, t + 62 21 576 1070, m +62 813 155 003 14, schapman@wwf.or.id
Hana S. Harun, WWF-Malaysia, t + 60 37803 3772 E-mail: hsharun@wwf.org.my
Iwan Wibisono, WWF-Indonesia, t + 62 81317566300 E-mail: iwibisono@wwf.or.id
Olivier van Bogaert, Senior Press Officer, WWF International, t +41 22 364 9554, ovanbogaert@wwfint.org


Editors notes:

The text of the Joint Leaders Statement for Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and Philippines - East ASEAN Growth AREA Summit (BIMP-EAGA) was as follows:

We welcomed and endorsed the Heart of Borneo (HoB) initiative to establish a network of protected areas, productive forests and other land-uses, that transcends across the borders of Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia and Malaysia, and which aims to maximize transboundary linkages, promotes the expansion of the Protected Areas, maintains forest connectivity and ensures sustainable land use practices. We will ensure an effective management, development and conservation of the areas, which they will designate as the HoB, within their own existing respective legal and institutional frameworks, with full respect to each country sovereignty and territorial boundaries and without prejudice to the ongoing negotiations on land boundary demarcation. The declaration on the Heart of Borneo Initiative is attached as in Appendix 1

  • The "Heart of Borneo" is a tri-country conservation initiative that aims to preserve one of the most important centres of biological diversity in the world, approximately 220,000 km2 of equatorial forests and numerous wildlife species. The three Bornean governments - Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia and Malaysia - officially launched the initiative and declared their commitment to support it on 27 March 2006, during the Eighth Conference of Parties Convention of Biological Diversity, held in Curitiba (Brazil).
  • At the 11th ASEAN Summit in Kuala Lumpur in December 2005, the Heart of Borneo was highlighted in the Chairman's Statement endorsing the establishment of a transboundary network of protected areas in the Heart of Borneo. This meeting is the highest decision-making organ of ASEAN and the Chairman's Statement is the official record of the meeting and is endorsed by all ASEAN Heads of Government.
  • The Heart of Borneo is also a flagship program of the 5-year action plan of BIMP-EAGA (Brunei Indonesia Malaysia Philippines - East ASEAN Growth Area). This plan is endorsed by the Heads of Government of all four countries.

For more information: http://www.panda.org/heart_of_borneo