Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Orangutans set for release to the wild

This article should probably be read with a GREAT deal of cynicism.
If the past is anything to go by, such promises from the Indonesian government are worthless. One example is the Indonesian government's signature in 2005 to the Kinshasa Declaration on Great Apes. By signing this they promised to protect the habitat of great apes: instead, they sold it off to palm oil companies.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007 Jakarta Post

Orangutans set for release to the wild

NUSA DUA, Bali (JP): President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono launched Monday an action plan to conserve the country’s endangered orangutans and release those currently in sanctuaries back into the wild.

The president said that conserving the primate would also help protect the forest from deforestation and store greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to climate change.

Under the program, which lasts until 2017, the carbon dioxide (CO2) stored through avoided forest deforestation could be traded on the carbon market and the money could then be used to conserve orangutans and boost the country’s economy, the president said.

“The core target of this plan of action is to stabilize orangutans and their habitat from now until 2017,” Yudhoyono said on the sidelines of the international climate change conference in Bali.
“By saving, regenerating and sustainably managing the forests, we are also doing our part in reducing global greenhouse gas emissions, while contributing to the economic development of Indonesia,”

Over the last 35 years, the country has lost about 50,000 orangutans due to their shrinking habitat as well as illegal trafficking. Experts say the species will vanish by 2050 if greater action is not taken to protect the primate.

“I can think of no reason to ignore such compelling evidence of the importance of saving our forests…forests lost will not only kill the rich biodiversity, but also become the source of 20 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions,” the president said.

The national action plan for conserving orangutans consists four strategies namely orangutan conservation management, policies, partnership development as well as funding strategy.
The Nature Conservancy, as the world’s leading conservation organization, has pledged US$1 millions in aid to support the action plan.

“As much as one million hectares of the orangutan habitat, scheduled for conversion to palm oil plantations, will be saved through implementation of the action plan,” said Erik Meijaard, senior scientist with the Conservancy.

“This could lead to 9,800 orangutans being saved and prevent 700 million tons of carbon from being released.”

Meijaard, who is also a science advisor for orangutan conservation science program (OCSP), said the world’s emerging carbon market would make conservation financially viable.

“If payments for avoided deforestation become an official mechanism in the global climate agreements, then buyers will likely compensate Indonesia for its forest protection. Protecting orangutans 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 United States has said that it will commit to $2.8 million in new funds to support biodiversity and climate change activities in Indonesia, including the orangutan habitat conservation.

The Forestry Ministry data reveals there are currently over 6,650 Sumatran orangutans and 55,000 Borneo orangutans in the wild.

The Indonesian government has long come under pressure from the international community to protect orangutan species and prevent rampant trafficking of the primates.

To make it worse, forest fires and land clearing have been an added threat to the orangutan population.

The ministry says deforestation has directly and indirectly led to the death of 3,000 orangutans per year since the 1970s. (Adianto P. Simamora)