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Tiga Bundu Village


Conservation benefitProtection of 5,548 acres of forest for 15 years

Community benefitEcotourism initiative, including trails, signage, and chalet

Date Approved: 06.2019


This project supports a local conservation-based tourism initiative.


This project protects forest, preventing the release of greenhouse gases and reducing erosion that damages coastal and ocean ecosystems.

Two key facts underpin all conservation efforts in Borneo: First, the island is a marvel of biodiversity. Biologists have identified tens of thousands of species of plants and animals, and discover more all the time. Second, this wondrous environment is under constant, serious threat from development, especially oil palm plantations.

This project will protect thousands of acres of rare virgin tropical rainforest in the northeast part of the island. The area includes some of the last remaining orangutan habitat, the world’s largest flower (Rafflesia), and pristine waterfalls.

The people of Tiga Bundu Village are from the indigenous Dusun ethnic group. Most of the villagers’ income comes from farming rice and ginger; they are also known for traditional medicines from the forest. When a logging company proposed to clear nearby forest, the village challenged it in court. After five years, they won–an incredible victory over a powerful adversary. Since then, the community has fought other threats, including a West Malaysian timber company that wanted to clear more than 1,000 acres of virgin forest.

The community has concluded that the best way to protect its forest is to foster ecotourism. Villagers plan to develop their traditional rattan-harvesting paths into a series of hiking trails, the longest close to 20 miles. The trails will attract local school groups and take advantage of the growing local camping culture. The community will set up a small chalet for tourist groups. They will also install interpretive signs and small huts along the trails, where hikers can spend the night.

The community has worked with several international organizations on mapping and wildlife monitoring initiatives and with PACOS Trust, a successful Seacology partner in Malaysia.

Project Updates

August 2023

A Seacology expedition visited the village, getting a look at all the work villagers have done to develop eco-tourism and protect the wildlife-filled forest near Tiga Bundu. Community members gave them a very warm welcome, with a delicious lunch of local food, great discussion of the project, and plenty of dancing!

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February 2021

Despite the challenges of the strict COVID-19 shutdown in Malaysia, our community partners have completed this project. With every household contributing labor, they mapped out and developed a 17-mile jungle trail; built a camping site with multipurpose hall, toilets, and three huts; and built a traditional bamboo house for tourists.

Although the pandemic has put ecotourism activities on hold, community members are happy. In their words: “Overall, this project is successfully strengthening our community effort to continue to protect, manage and use sustainably our resources within our Ancestral Land.”

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June 2020

Our field representative Chris Wright reports that people are excited to now commonly see fish more than a foot long in the river. They are developing a community protocol for protection of the forested area.

Community members have mapped out the first, longest trail. They had started building a traditional bamboo house for tourists, but work stopped when hardware stores and major roads closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Work began again in late May. Chris had been discussing the ecotourism business with village leaders, who plan to focus on local school groups. With tourism temporarily shut down, that will have to wait until the end of June.

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January 2020

Community members have developed a tagal system, the traditional way of conserving fish in Sabah. The river is divided into zones: red (no fishing ever), yellow (fishing allowed one day a year), and green (fishing is always okay). This both conserves the fishery and promotes tourism. In the red areas, people put their feet in for “fish massages.” When the yellow zone is opened, people come from all over to fish, and school groups can come and study the fish.

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November 2019

The communities working on this project have really pulled together; more than 100 people have joined the organization developing the ecotourism trails, campsite, and building. They hold monthly meetings to plan and assess progress. The project kicked off with a launch ceremony, headed by Seacology field rep Chris Wright and staff from our nonprofit partner PACOS Trust, and a workshop on community mapping.

In October, eight people used their new mapping skills to survey potential trails and map out the first and longest trail. They will finalize the trail routes (based on existing rattan-harvesting trails) in February and then publish brochures to distribute at local fairs. The group has also developed a base campsite and has begun construction of the traditional bamboo house for tourists.

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