Thursday, December 24, 2009

Penans Establish 'Peace Park' to Push Back Loggers

by Matthew McDermott, New York, NY. Dec 2009

Penan elders at Long Ajeng proclaiming the "Penan Peace Park". Photo by BMF.

Here's one solution to holding back loggers: Bruno Manser Fonds reports seventeen Penan communities in Sarawak, Borneo, Malaysia have proclaimed a new tropical forest reserve on their lands. The newly inaugurated Penan Peace Park will preserve their last remaining undisturbed forests from development, allowing tourism and preserving their culture.

Our Heritage Must Be PreservedA former regional chief in the region, James Lalo Kesoh described the necessity of establishing the park:

"As nomadic hunter-gatherers, we Penan people have been roaming the rainforests of the Upper Baram region for centuries. Even though we have settled down and started life as farmers sicne the late 1950s, we still depend on the forests for our food supply, for raw materials such as rattan for handicrafts, for medicinal plants and for other jungle products. Our entire cultural heritage is in the forest and needs to be preserved for future generations."

The Penan Peace Park consists of about 163,000 hectares around the Gunung Murud Kecil mountain range, near the border of Indonesia.

The Penan people in the region have opposed logging in their rainforest for the past three decades, repeatedly blocking roads and taking direct action against encroachments.

"Tana' Lalun Penan" in the midst of highly contested prime logging areas. Photo: BMF.

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