Saving The Orang-utan: Combining Forest Conservation and Sustainable Development in Mawas, Indonesia

Denice Engel

Student thesis: Master thesis


To prevent further ecological devastation throughout the world it is important to understand the necessity for a change in the way we approach development. A need for moving away from a growth driven development, which has been the mainstream development scheme most of the 20th century, towards a more holistic approach to development is imperative for navigating in a globalised world where the recognition of the fact that unlimited use of resources cannot continue in a finite ecological world. Therefore, this thesis examines the possibility of combining forest conservation and sustainable development in the Mawas area in Central Kalimantan on Indonesian Borneo, despite this area’s high poverty rate. The high poverty rate is a prerequisite to the hypothesis of the implementation of sustainable development and conservation, which the thesis processes. As point of departure the Mawas area is used for a case-study discussion to shed light upon a deforestation tendency seen throughout Indonesia. The Mawas area inhabits 3,000 wild endangered orang-utans, which constitute further reasoning for preservation of the area. The empirical framework consists of a presentation of the orang-utan, a review of the Mawas area, reasons for deforestation in Mawas and a description of two concrete protective incentives done in Mawas by Borneo Orangutan Survival Founddation and Save The Orangutan. To that end the theoretical frame works refers to the three pillars of mainstream sustainable development and the theoretical counterpoints to mainstream sustainable development and then tries to elucidate the empirical findings. The findings in the thesis explore that in order to get closer to a sustainable development in the Mawas area, and thereby also in Indonesia in general, both mainstream sustainable development and its counterpoints must be taken into consideration. It is impossible to for Indonesia to abide to the ground rules of global economy, if both growth strategy and holistic environmental considerations are not being regarded. Moreover, the possibility of creating sustainable development in a nation with comprehensive structural struggles, such as corruption, is highly unlikely. The future brings some ray of comfort with the preservation status granted the Mawas area in 2013, however the fact still remains that the local population is poor and may seek illegal employment opportunities, such as logging and mining, in the hope of enhancing their living conditions.

EducationsInternational Development Studies, (Bachelor/Graduate Programme) Graduate
Publication date18 Jul 2013
SupervisorsMogens Buch-Hansen


  • Conservation
  • Sustainable development
  • Indonesia