Monday, 31 December 2007

Indonesia plant trees to save orangutans

Only time will tell if the Indonesian government will
keep its promise. In 1990 the then President signed
the Kinshasa Declaration, promising to protect orangutans
and their habitat: instead they sold of the habitat and
caused the deaths of many thousands of orangutans.
In fact, they are still doing so to this day.

Indonesia plant trees to save orangutans

By Ian Wood

At the Bali climate summit, Indonesia announced a new scheme aimed at protecting its orangutan population.

The plight of the orangutan, driven out because of deforestation and degradation of its rainforest home, has become a potent symbol of the battle to save the forests.
Fleeing from fires, dehydrated and denied access to clean water, they have in the past been driven to snatch cans of Coca-Cola from tourists.

The most recent survey of wild orangutans estimates that there are about 7000 remaining in Sumatra, and about 55,000 in Borneo. However the combined pressures of palm oil, logging and forest fires are having a catastrophic effect on many areas.

Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said at the launch of the project: "In the last 35 years about 50,000 orangutans are estimated to have been lost as their habitats shrank. If this continues, this majestic creature will likely face extinction by 2050. The fate of the orangutan is a subject that goes to the heart of sustainable forests... to save the orangutan we have to save the forest."

For anyone with an interest in protecting Indonesian rainforests these have to be welcome words.

The action plan has taken nearly three years to develop and has included various NGO's and the Indonesian forestry ministry. The American group The Nature Conservancy has represented the coalition of NGO's and has also pledged $1 million to support the plan. The bold target of the project is to save huge areas of forest scheduled for conversion to palm oil.
"One million hectares of planned forest conversion projects are in orangutan habitat," said Rili Djohani, director of The Nature Conservancy's Indonesia program.

"Setting aside these forests is an important step for Indonesia to sustainably manage and protect its natural resources. It benefits both local people and wildlife while making a major contribution towards reducing global carbon emissions."

Indonesia has made some progress in enforcing forest laws over the last few years and if this plan can be implemented it would be a landmark in Indonesian forest protection.

Dr. Erik Meijaard, a senior scientist with The Nature Conservancy, said:"It could lead to 9,800 orangutan being saved and prevent 700 million tons of carbon from being released."
Although Indonesia has already destroyed huge swathes of rainforest, it still has over 100 million acres left. Both scientists and Indonesian officials hope that the emerging carbon market could provide funds to protect important areas.

"Forest conservation can provide economic benefits for a very long time," said Dr. Meijaard. "If payments for avoided deforestation become an official mechanism in global climate agreements, then carbon buyers will likely compensate Indonesia for its forest protection. Protecting the orangutan will then lead to increased economic development in the country. Such a triple-win situation is not a dream. With some political will, it can soon be reality."

The other target of the project is to return orangutan housed in rehabilitation centres to the forest by 2015. There are currently over 1000 orangutan housed in care centres with more arriving on a regular basis. The majority are ready to be returned to the wild now but there are simply not enough suitable release sites. If carbon trading could achieve the aims of this plan, then these great apes could return to the forests where they belong.