May 7th 2008,
PALM OIL DRIVES ORANG-UTAN TO EXTINCTION
The Centre for Orang-utan Protection (COP) estimates that orang-utan (Pongo pygmaeus wumbii) living outside the conservation area in Central Kalimantan will be extinct in 2-3 years. Forest destruction for palm oil and weak law enforcement are the main threats.
The province of Central Kalimantan is home to the biggest remaining orang-utan population in the world with 31,300 orang-utans in 2004 (“PHVA and revised PHVA” 2004, Wich, et al).
With a shrinking rate of 9% or 5,325 orang-utans per year, that number has now fallen to around 20,000. The clearing of High Conservation Value Forests (HCVF) is the result of the ambitions by the Indonesian government to become the world’s top palm oil producer and the endemic ignorance among palm oil producers. The Central Kalimantan provincial government in a revised draft of its land use planning proposed a conversion of 455,000 hectares of forest land with a majority to be dedicated for the expansion of palm oil plantations.
A field research carried out by The Centre for Orang-utan Protection showed that palm oil companies which are members of the Roundtable of Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) such as Wilmar, IOI and Agro Group continue to clear forests in which orang-utans become victims in the process, despite the fact that criteria 7.3 within RSPO prescribes that since November 2005, members are not to clear primary forests or areas with one or more than one high conservation value.
During 2006 The Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation Orang-utan Reintroduction Centre received 256 orang-utans freshly rescued from several palm oil plantations. The number fell to 93 in 2007 and so far until March 2008 15 orang-utans have been rescued. The reason for the fall in numbers is because the Orang-utan Reintroduction Centre in Nyaru Menteng has become much more selective in accepting rescued orang-utans. Only infant or severely injured orang-utans are taken in; the healthier and stronger ones are instantly placed in the nearest forest because of increasingly lack of space and capacity of the Centre.
Moving displaced orang-utans without rehabilitation and reintroduction is a bad choice and could lead to death. All orang-utans rescued from the PT. Agro Bukit concession in Sampit met their death after PT. Globalindo Alam Perkasa decided to clear the patch of forest land they were relocated to. The same thing took place in PT. Bumitama Gunakarya Agro’s concession area, subsidiary of Malaysian IOI group that operates in Antang Kalang sub-district in the East Kotawaringin Timur district.
One orang-utan rescued represents 2-10 killed others (Meijaard, E., Rijksen, H.D., and Kartikasari, S.N. 2001.” Di Ambang Kepunahan: Kondisi Orangutan Liar di Awal Abad ke-21”. Tropenbos, Gibbon Foundation). This means Central Kalimantan has lost 1,600-1,800 orang-utans, based on 600 orang-utans at the Nyaru Menteng Orang-utan Reintroduction Center and 200 orang-utans at the Orang-utan Care Centre in Pangkalan Bun.
The ironic part is although on paper orang-utans are one of the wild species protected by the National Law (UU No 5 /1990), the Forestry Ministry is helpless at protectiong orang-utans that live ouside the conservation areas. There is not a single case of orang-utan hunting, capture or killing on palm oil plantation concessions that have been brought to justice. As a result, the criminal and cruel practices against orang-utans outside conservation areas are not seen as a violations to the law and are condoned along with the continuing forest clearing – destruction of critical orang-utan habitat - done by palm oil companies.
The Centre for Orang-utan Protection urges the Indonesian government to stop forest destruction for palm oil in Central Kalimantan. The Forestry Ministry has to step up to be more proactive in protecting orang-utans and to include those living outside conservation areas.
Forest4 Program Manager. The Centre for Orangutan Protection
mobile 0819 817 911
Note to editors :
Borneo orang-utans are divided into 3 sub-soecies: Pongo pygmaeus pygmaeus, Pongo pygmaeus wumbii, Pongo pygmaeus morio.
The estimated number of wild orang-utans are as follows: Pongo pygmaeus pygmaeus around 7500, Pongo pygmaeus wumbii around 46.250, Pongo pygmaeus morio around 4825. There are 58.575 in total in 2004, including the entire island of Borneo (Indonesia and Malaysia). Data on orang-utan population is taken from the Population and Habitat Viability Assessment workshop in 2004 (PHVA 2004) revised by Wich et al.