The vast island of Borneo in Southeast Asia is known for its rainforest, jungles and other natural treasures. Scientists, researchers and students regularly come to the island to study its unique ecosystem. One of the most notable areas in Borneo is a piece of land in Brunei Darussalam; this piece of land hosts the Kuala Belalong Field Study Center, a research center especially dedicated to understanding and preserving the rainforests of Borneo.
The small Muslim sultanate, Brunei Darussalam, is the only independent state located in the island of Borneo. Partly sharing the island are provinces of Malaysia and Indonesia. Brunei may have the tiniest representation in Borneo but it is an extremely wealthy country, which is why it can afford to put up a center such as the Kuala Belalong.
This study center was put up by the University of Brunei Darussalam (UBD) in 1991 in Brunei’s Temburong District inside the Ulu Temburong National Park. It is within a heavily forested valley along the west bank of the Belalong River. The center serves as a training, research and teaching ground for the students and teachers of the university. It is also frequented by government researchers and personnel from other universities and higher-learning institutions in Brunei and elsewhere in the world.
Not everyone is allowed access into the center. The most common visitors are research scientists, research assistants, students under the center’s own educational program, students on an approved study proposal, and government officers who are visiting on an official assignment.
Inside the center are five wooden structures that are joined together by several walkways along the river. Within the five buildings are accommodation centers for visitors, a lab, dining hall, kitchen, and meeting hall. The center is a self-contained, self-maintaining facility with its own supply of filtered water, electricity and sewerage system. It is also equipped with GPS, climbing gears and special programs that monitor the environment.
One of the first sets of visitors was a group of 50 scientists from eight countries. They were on a 15-month expedition for the UBD-Royal Geographical Society expedition, which includes 33 short-term and nine long-term programs. The team gathered data and studied the lives of ants, termites, birds, beetles, frogs, bats, ferns, woodlice, and several types of forest plants. They produced important data that were incorporated into a mapping software and a computerized information system.
Any research to be conducted within the center should cover rainforest biodiversity, dynamics and physical characteristics. They should talk about the different animal and plant species and understand how and why they thrive in relation to themselves and their natural habitat.
Thriving around and within the area are macaques, civets, langurs, Borneoan gibbons and sun bears. There are also rare plant species everywhere. The goal of Kuala Belalong Field Study Center is to provide direct experience with nature, promote knowledge on Brunei’s natural history and provide a better understanding and conservation of rainforest ecology. The center also hopes to collect baseline data and deeper understanding of the environment, which include the rainforest’s biological, social, chemical, cultural, and physical characteristics.