Safeguarding the Central Forest Spine: Trees for the Future

Safeguarding the Central Forest Spine: Trees for the Future is a multimedia project pitched during an Open Call for stories on forest restoration by the Rainforest Journalism Fund in partnership with the Pulitzer Center.

About the Project

Peninsular Malaysia was once swathed in lush forests, but between 1954 and 2000, 3.5 million hectares were lost to agriculture, infrastructure development, commercial logging, and mining. The Federal Government’s Central Forest Spine (CFS) Masterplan to connect four large forest complexes with a series of ecological linkages may be the last hope for the Malayan tiger, Asian elephant, and most hornbill species.

But while work on the CFS is underway, parts of the major forest complexes and some of the ecological linkages are slowly shrinking or in some cases disappearing outright.

The Trees for the Future project interviews individuals who are quietly restoring rainforests with the help of hornbills and seed collectors. The efforts of the Indigenous people, or Orang Asli, living in rainforests over 130 million years old and who have been helping the Malaysian Nature Society with the tedious work of stealthily staking out certain trees, along with the efforts of land owners, hunting for rare and endangered rainforest tree seeds to add to their living collection growing right in their backyards, promise a glimmer of hope.

Grantee Leong Hon Yuen will work on feature articles for StarLifestyle and short films on the following questions: “How will finding hornbill nests and studying bird poop better assist in human-induced forest restoration efforts?” “Where do people go to find 100 million seeds?” and “Can afforestation support biodiversity?”

Meanwhile, her Orang Asli collaborators Roslan Carang, Azam Carang, Marisan Pandak, Dedi Roslan, Noordin Asu and Mustapa Ramlee will explore in photo essays why they fiercely protect the hornbills’ rite of passage through their rainforests.

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