Wehea Dayak: Guardians of the Forest

Photo by Andreas Saputro

Getting wild in Wehea. I just returned from a reconnaissance trip into the interior of East Kalimantan to meet the Wehea Dayak and Brent and Sheryl, the NGO team from Ethical Expeditions. I was gathering information about their plans to build an conservation long house and discover the feasibility to arrange for students to come visit the tribe and the forest for a Week Without Walls.

Ethical Expedition’s mission is to support the Wehea Dayak tribe and one of the last remaining lowland forests. They first created and shared this mission with our school in 2009 when Ethical Expeditions, along with a group of 18 collage students, came to visit our school twice. Since that time many of us have followed their work and tried to promote their cause.

Track to Wehea Village and Forest

Brent and Sheryl have worked diligently to create a sustainable program for the Wehea people and the 38,000 hectares they’re striving to protect. This forest is home to the Clouded Leopard (our school mascot), Sun Bear, Orangutan, Miller’s Grizzled Langur, and a number of other endemic flora and fauna. Recently, the Miller’s Grizzled Langur, which was thought to be extinct, was rediscovered in the Wehea forest. Click here to learn about the discovery.

From Ethical Expeditions:

“The forests of Indonesia are home to estimated 12% percent of the world’s mammal species, 16% of reptile and amphibian species, and 17% of bird species. The number of species endemic to Borneo make it a biodiversity hotspot, yet 60% of Borneo’s forests have been cut and what remains is in danger of being lost within decades. One community, the Wehea Dayak, is fighting back to protect their forest. In 2004, the Wehea Dayak declared 38,000 hectares of forest, ‘protected land’ under their traditional law. Since this declaration, forest guardians have reduced illegal logging and hunting, and this project was awarded Indonesia’s highest environmental honor. Ethical Expeditions is working with the Wehea Dayak to protect the Wehea Forest in East Kalimantan, Borneo.”

Join the Friends of Wehea

My hope is that our students learn to understand that we can make a difference (despite our school size or the critics out there). We’ve done it before.

Years ago our school community helped a scientist who had too many orangutan and horn bills hanging around his yard, and he needed a place to care for these creatures. Rules were bent with empathy and understanding. Our school became a safe haven. The calls and sounds of animals could be heard from classes, thematic lessons were created, and hands-on activities meant going out to feed the animals. BOS was born. Eventually, deforested land was purchased nearby Balikpapan and Samboja Lestari (forever) began regrowing a rainforest. Click to watch Dr. Willie Smits present at TedTalks.

Hear the Voices From Wehea:

The next step?

Let’s help the Wehea Dayak people and their forest, so our children and their children won’t have to regrow another rain forest or miss a Wehea Sunrise ever again.

To learn more about the project, visit Ethical Expeditions and spread the word.

Avatar of Brent Fullerton

About Brent Fullerton

International educator who enjoys learning about ways to enhance learning.
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