The Lamandau River Wildlife Reserve, (in Bahasa Indonesia: Suaka Margasatwa Sungai Lamandau, or SMS Lamandau) is a river that flows through 76,000 hectares of tropical rainforest, and is a sanctuary for many endangered species, including the Borneo Orangutan. The reserve is funded by the Orangutan Foundation International (OFI) and provides preservation of lowland forest ecosystems and orangutan habitats. It is also a source of livelihood for 12 rural communities in two districts of the surrounding forests.
The Lamandau River flows through Pangkalan Bun in southern Central Kalimantan, and emerges into the Java Sea at the Kotawaringin Bay. The peat swamp forests of the reserve provide an ideal habitat for nine of Kalimantan’s thirteen species of primates, and are also some of the last surviving primary forests in Kalimantan.
A tour up the Lamandau river takes you through Kalimantan’s rainforests where you may catch a glimpse of gibbons, proboscis monkeys, long-tailed macaque, sun bears, wild boars, porcupines, and sambar deer. The colourful kingfisher birds and hornbills dominate the skies, with the occasional giant Bornean Butterfly fluttering past, while the false gavial fresh water crocodile may be seen lurking in the waters beneath you.
Sadly, this ecological treasure has been critically threatened by human exploitation, which may irreversibly destroy the forests and their abundant biodiversity. Gold and zircon mining have caused pollution in the river and the displacement of many unique species. Illegal logging and large-scale deforestation to make way for palm oil plantations have also played a major part in biodiversity loss, drought and flooding.
Fortunately, the local government officials have joined forces with international NGOs to create awareness and take action against these practices, and hopefully salvage what is left of this rare and essential environment before it’s too late.
Campaigns have been initiated to prevent illegal activities, generate agreements with palm oil plantation companies, improve the education and awareness of Lamandau communities on the importance of conserving forests, introduce agricultural practices that will support forest protection, and establish income-generating mechanisms that are compatible with forest conservation.
Considerable progress has been made with local communities learning farming practices that do not require land to be cleared. Farmers are also learning to cultivate the land, make compost, and deal with disease control. This is helping to improve the sustainable management of the Lamandau River Wildlife Reserve as well as improve the livelihoods of local communities in the surrounding area.
Another main focus has been to increase the reforestation of degraded lands and enhance the natural regeneration of the area, thereby improving its capacity as a conservation area. This is extremely crucial in order to ensure the current population of orangutans and other wildlife will continue to have a steady supply of natural food. Two plant nurseries have been established, nurturing over 20 species of indigenous plants.