The Southeast Asian Archipelago holds the third largest expanse of tropical forests, contains three of the world's mega-diverse countries (Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines), and the majority of the Coral Triangle, the global center of marine biodiversity. For many taxonomic groups, more than half of the species found in the region are endemic. The region encompasses the second, third, and sixth largest islands in the world (New Guinea, Borneo, and Sumatra, respectively).
The Southeast Asian Archipelago is experiencing deforestation rates higher than almost anywhere else on Earth. The region's forests are endangered by conversion to agriculture or other land uses (such as oil palm plantations), logging (both legal and illegal), and the impacts of climate change. Wildlife is highly threatened by habitat loss, poaching, and the illegal wildlife trade. Marine ecosystems are being degraded through illegal and unsustainable fishing techniques, climate change, which contributes to coral bleaching, and tropical deforestation, which causes soil erosion and impacts water quality. Annual fires across the region, linked to the clearance of forests for agriculture and exacerbated by climatic events such as the El Niño Southern Oscillation, cause significant regional air pollution that has serious negative impacts on human health and results in billions of dollars of economic damage to Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore.
Maintain representative ecosystems of this globally irreplaceable biodiversity, focusing on both marine and terrestrial systems, while safeguarding some of the last remaining populations of Southeast Asia's most iconic biodiversity—rhinos, tigers, elephants, orangutans, Wallacea's unique endemic species (anoas, babirusas, and maleos) and manta rays.
How Will We Get There?
To do this, we employ a handful of core strategies:
Conservation of critically endangered charismatic megafauna (Sumatran rhinos, tigers, orangutans, elephants): WCS is working on Sumatra and Borneo to help improve protected area management and law enforcement, to mitigate human-wildlife conflict, and to conduct rigorous monitoring and research.
Combatting illegal wildlife trade through the Wildlife Crimes Unit, an innovative partnership between Indonesia and civil society, which is responsible for the majority of arrests and convictions of illegal traders in Indonesia.
Safeguarding the marine resources across the Coral Triangle through the establishment of networks of protected areas that have the support of local communities.
Addressing drivers of deforestation and overexploitation of fisheries resources, by advising governments on improved policies and working with the private sector on ways to mitigate their impact on both terrestrial and marine ecosystems.
Building the next generation of conservation leaders by supporting civil society, engaging the media, and providing training and support through research programs.
WCS has been working in Indonesia and Malaysia since the 1960s, and has projects on Peninsular Malaysia and four of the major islands (Borneo, Sumatra, Sulawesi, and New Guinea).
Over 350 test cases have been prosecuted by government law enforcement agencies based upon information provided by the Wildlife Crimes Unit, with a successful prosecution rate of over 90% and including the ten largest wildlife crime cases ever prosecuted in Indonesia. This is unparalleled in the Southeast Asian context, and the Wildlife Crimes Unit is the most successful example of an approach to combat illegal wildlife crime in the region.
What's At Stake?
The Leuser Ecosystem, on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is the last place on earth where rhinos, tigers, elephants, and orangutans coexist. Offshore, the Coral Triangle is the global center of marine biodiversity, supporting 75% of the world's coral species, 40% of all reef fish species, and six of seven turtle species. These marine resources support the livelihoods of over 120 million people from an incredible array of local cultures. Over 2,000 languages are spoken across the region.