Fires in Borneo
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Fires in Borneo

September 21, 2005
Dozens of scattered red dots mark the location of active fires detected in this image. Borneo is a large (the third largest in the world) island in the South China Sea of Southeast Asia. It is administered politically by the neighboring countries of Indonesia and Malaysia, as well as the independent Sultanate of Brunei. Like rainforests across the tropics, Borneo's forests are under increasing threat from logging, much of which occurs illegally. In swampy, coastal parts of the island, the forest floor is blanketed with thick layers of peat, plant material that has not decayed. When trees are cut down, the peat begins to dry out, and fire danger soars. The peat can catch fire and smolder for weeks, creating enormous amounts of haze. The island is home to an endangered species of orangutan (which means “wild man of the forest” in Malay), clouded leopards, elephants, and rhinoceroses, as well as several endemics, or species only found in Borneo.

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