Govt urged to enforce Bali plan to protect orangutan
Adianto P. Simamora, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
Orangutan activists have urged the government to implement the Bali action on wild orangutans amid the species' rapid decline due to massive forest conversion across the country.
The Orangutan Conservation Service Program (OCSP), a crisis program aimed at protecting orangutan populations in the wild, made the statement to respond to recent research showing a 14 percent decline in the number of great ape species in Sumatra.
"The implementation of Bali action plan is the way to protect orangutan from being extinct because about 80 percent of orangutan population lives outside conservation areas," Darmawan from the OCSP toldThe Jakarta Post on Saturday.
A survey conducted by Serge Wich, a scientist from the Great Ape Trust in the U.S. state of Iowa, showed that the number of orangutans in Indonesia and Malaysia had declined since 2004, mostly because of illegal logging and expansion of palm oil plantations.
Wich and his 15 colleagues found the orangutan population in Sumatra had dropped by nearly 14 percent since 2004 to 6,600 apes.
"It's disappointing that there are still a lot of declines even though there have been quite a lot of conservation efforts over the past 30 years," Wich said, as quoted by AP.
According to the study, the population on Malaysia's Borneo Island fell by 10 percent to 49,600 apes.
"Unless extraordinary efforts are made soon, it could become the first ape species to go extinct," it said.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono launched the action plan on orangutan protection during the United Nations' climate change conference in Bali last December.
The much-hailed plan of action stipulates a need to change forest management policies and to promote best forest concession (HPH) management practices aimed at protecting the orangutan.
Darmawan said that under the existing regulation it is legal for the HPH holders to shift unprotected forests even if many endangered species are believed to live in the area.
"Forest concessions that damage the orangutan's habitat are not criminal either. It will trigger the extinction of orangutan from our forest," he said.
The orangutan is listed as vulnerable in wildlife categories as established by the World Conservation Union.
Indonesia and Malaysia, however, are the two biggest producers of palm oil. And the two countries are now implementing massive programs to expand the business.
Research by the Center for Orangutan Protection (COP) earlier indicated that thousands of wild orangutans were killed in Central Kalimantan forest due to the expansion of palm oil plantation. The COP predicted that there were currently only 22,000 orangutans in the province.
However, Forestry Ministry data shows that there should be about 31,300 wild orangutans in forest of Central Kalimantan.
The Greenpeace Indonesia estimated that 1,600 orangutans were killed across the country because of palm oil expansion in 2006 alone.
Wich recommended that law enforcement be boosted to help reduce the hunting of orangutans for food and trade, and to boost local people awareness on environmental issues.
"It is essential that funding for environmental services reaches the local level and that there is strong law enforcement," the study said.
6 JULY 2008