Ethical Expeditions is Working to Protect the Wehea Rainforest in Borneo

Organization: Ethical Expeditions
Author: Sheryl Gruber

Project Summary

Ethical Expeditions is working with the Wehea Dayak to protect the Wehea Forest located in East Kutai Regency, East Kalimantan, Borneo. In 2004, the Wehea Dayak people declared 38,000 hectares of forest ‘protected land’ under their traditional law. Since this declaration, illegal logging has been reduced, incomes have increased and this project was awarded Indonesia’s highest environmental honor. Despite these successes, the long-term viability of this forest is not guaranteed. The land’s legal status is still designated as productive forest, and the Wehea effort is not legally recognized. Ethical Expeditions is leading a detailed scientific study of the biodiversity of the Wehea Forest to provide critical information necessary to achieving permanent legal protection for Wehea. This study will consist of four scientists, four Wehea rangers and five students and will be the first phase of a long term conservation strategy in Wehea.


Ethical Expeditions - Rain ForestIn the past 50 years, approximately 55% of Borneo’s forests have been cut and what remains is in danger of being lost within a few decades. The number of species endemic to Borneo make this area a biodiversity hotspot, yet many areas remain unexplored. Studies of Wehea’s biodiversity are limited to unpublished surveys conducted by The Nature Conservancy and seventy percent of Wehea remains unexplored. This study also addresses the need for the Wehea rangers to gain a deeper understanding of the biodiversity of their forest. Logging and palm oil plantations have dislocated the Wehea community from their forest, resulting in loss of traditional forest knowledge. During this study, Wehea rangers will work closely with participating scientists, collecting data and learning monitoring techniques for sustainable management of their forest.


  1. To survey and visually document fauna in the Wehea Forest in Borneo, resulting in critical biodiversity data needed by local community leaders to achieve legal protection status for Wehea Forest.
  2. To train the rangers of Wehea in scientific methodology for continued biodiversity monitoring in Wehea.
  3. To spread awareness through digital media about the efforts of the Wehea Dayak to protect their forest.

Expected Results:

Ethical Expeditions - OrantuganAvoided Deforestation – To ensure the long-term viability of Wehea Forest, permanent legal protection status must be achieved. This study will provide information about the rich and varied biodiversity of Wehea Forest, which is needed to lobby the central government for granting legal protection status. We hope that within 12 months of completion of this study, Wehea will have been granted legal protection status.

Increased Information – Almost nothing is known of the biodiversity of Wehea. In the past few years, scientists have identified hundreds of new species in Borneo. Wehea is expected to contain particularly rich biodiversity and new species discovery is highly likely. Through media outlets such as Four Years.Go, National Geographic, Global Action Atlas, Ethical Expeditions’ website, and in-country newspapers, knowledge of Wehea and the biodiversity of Borneo will be shared with thousands of individuals around the world.

Increased Forest Knowledge – By working closely with the scientific team, we expect the Wehea rangers will rediscover their forest and feel empowered to continue protecting it. This empowerment will be shared with the Wehea community through presentations and the environmental education center. By the end of August 2011, Wehea rangers will be trained in biodiversity data collection and management techniques and will begin collecting and storing biodiversity data from Wehea.

Progress To-Date

  1. The scientific team leading this expedition is organized and getting ready for next year.
  2. A Memorandum of Understanding between Ethical Expeditions and the Wehea Management Body should be signed by the end of June.
  3. Ethical Expeditions visited Wehea in May and discussed long-term conservation strategies with the community and details of the upcoming expedition.

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