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Three Nations Commit to Conserving the "Heart of Borneo"
Washington, DC, USA, 12 January 2007 -- /PRNewswire/ -- The leaders of the three nations on the island of Borneo -- Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia and Malaysia -- officially endorsed an 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. It 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."

Source: WWF (www.worldwildlife.org)


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