The Penan way of life, unchanged for centuries, is on the verge of disappearing


Borneo is one of the last jungle wildernesses on Earth, where indigenous tribes lead a way of life unchanged for centuries. 

 

But the destruction of native forests by logging companies is threatening their existence.


 
According to the WWF, in the 1980s, logging had already made a dent in Borneo's rainforests leaving just 75 per cent of them intact.

 

By last year only 50 per cent of the forests remained and in some areas of the island, forests are being felled at a rate of 1.3 million hectares a year.

 

If it continues at that pace, it is estimated some lowland rainforests will have disappeared by 2010.

 

Al Jazeera travelled to the Malaysian province of Sarawak on the north of Borneo island, to the remote River Puak and Long Nen regions, home to the nomadic Penan tribe. 

 

Here two members of the Penan describe their struggles with the affects of logging:

First person

 

My name is Senoot. 

 

I don't know how old I am - probably in my 30s. 

 

There are about 30 people in my family most of them are hunters.

 

When the forest was still intact, we could hunt for a few hours and catch many animals.

 

Now, you can spend 3 or 4 days searching and not even find a monkey.

 

We are nomadic for the sake of food.

 

When we move, we look for an area with enough sago and animals. Now we are hungry, we are suffering, we are running out of sago.

 

Not only has food supply gone down after the logging began, we are getting sick more often because of water pollution.

 

In the past, we used a type of leaf to make the roof. Now we can hardly find that type of leaf anymore.

 

The logging companies bulldozed those trees.

 

We hear another company is coming, if that happens they might as well kill us.

 

Even if the government build houses for us and makes us settle in them, we still need the forest.

 

It is everything to us, it is our life.

 

Without the forest, we have no life."

 

 

 

 

"My name is Win Pet I am 57 years old, I am a Penan.

 

This land is full of herbs and medicines.

 

I don't want people to destroy this land like is happening now.

 

I don't like to live in a land without trees and plants.

 

I live in this world because of those medicines and herbs I get from the forest.

 

Because of the loggers these medicines are getting scarcer."

 

It was much easier to survive and get food before the loggers destroyed the forest.

Nowadays life is too dangerous.

 

 
Our life in Malaysia now has a lot of development. 

 

When the companies come to our place they destroy our land and our farms where we grow our rice vegetables.

 

They destroyed our houses. 

 

The companies fight with us, the tribes, to steal the land.

 

Our life now is very difficult, it's a life and death situation, it's so hard to live and survive like this.

 

What we people want is for our land to be left alone."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: Al Jazeera