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A Glimpse at the Heartbreaking Deforestation Epidemic in Borneo

February 4, 2014 at 12:22 PM | by | ()

As we told you yesterday and as you'll see in stories to come, the island of Borneo in Southeast Asia is one of the lungs of the earth, supporting lots of beautiful wildlife and adventure travel opportunities within the world's third largest rainforest.

Our coverage is focused on the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak, which together make up 26% of the island. But before we dig deep into what there is to see and do, we think it's appropriate to take a moment and catch up on a major current and future reality: The issue of chronic deforestation that's stripping the country of its natural beauty. The logging and palm oil industries have benefited the local economy, but there certainly has been a price of doing business.

Between 1990 and 2010, Malaysian Borneo lost 8.6%, or 1,920,000 hectares, of its forest cover. Philip Shearman, who co-authored a study on the issue, told RTCC that he “found that there are very few areas of rainforest in the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak that haven’t already been logged or cleared." He estimated that "only about 22% of the land area of Malaysian Borneo is still covered by forests that have not been logged, and that’s being conservative."

22%? Yikes. The saving grace is that, in theory, logged forests can regenerate. The aforementioned study by Shearman approximated that the Malaysian forests could return to their original condition in 50-100 years if left alone.

We bring this up for two reasons: 1) We think it's important to understand the reality of the destination you're visiting and 2) Since we're not holding our breath on a turnaround, it looks like this is one trip you might not want to put off until retirement.

[Photo: WWF]

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