PETALING JAYA - The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has expressed concern over the deforestation in the Heart of Borneo (HoB), a 17.4 million-ha forest the governments of Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei have agreed to conserve.
It claimed an area the size equivalent to 82 Kuala Lumpurs was deforestated between 2007 and 2012.
Up to two million ha of forest within HoB disappeared during that period despite a declaration signed in February 2007 to conserve the tropical forests.
According to the Environmental Status Report of the HoB 2014, the region, which covered about 30 per cent of the whole island, saw an annual deforestation rate of 2.19 per cent.
It said high deforestation rates were detected in HoB upland forests in Sarawak and Sabah, along with high rates in HoB lowland rainforests in Sabah.
The distribution of orang utan within the HoB was found to have decreased by 14 per cent in those six years as well, occurring mainly in West Kalimantan and Sabah.
There is about 17.4 million ha of forest cover in the HoB, with Sabah and Sarawak taking up 3.64 million ha.
Borneo elephants, found only in Sabah's south-east and east Kalimantan's upper north regions, saw their habitat areas decreased by 125,000ha to 157,000ha in 2012.
In Sabah, habitats that were capable of supporting clouded leopards and some orang utan areas were found to have been reduced from 2007 to 2012.
"In 2013, only a few areas of lowland forest remain. Many of these are fragmented," the report said.
A "surprisingly high" number of forest fire hotspots were also detected in Sabah's eastern section.
"Deforestation of one area continued until no more lowland forest remained in the location," the report added.
The WWF further warned that these environmental changes could have an impact on millions of people relying on watersheds and rivers within the HoB.