Saturday, 13 September 2008

Press Release

The deforestation photos below all relate to this
Press Release issued by the Centre for Orangutan Protection.



Jakarta, September 4th, 2008

GAPKI rejection of a proposed moratorium on forest and peatland conversion is a serious threat to the existence of orangutans (Pongo Pygmaeus) in Kalimantan. GAPKI’s argument that the criteria and principles for sustainable palm oil production have been sufficiently set forth by Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) does not guarantee that palm oil companies will not harm orangutans and their habitats.

“The fact is that there is no proven link between RSPO guidelines and forest clearing for oil palm plantations. While the criteria and principles for environmentally friendly oil palm plantations are regularly discussed and revised in every RSPO annual meeting, forest is continually cleared and orangutans are killed in every single year by members of RSPO. This is ironic”, said Novi Hardianto, Habitat Program Manager from Centre for Orangutan Protection (COP)

Recent investigation by COP in concession area of Agro Group and IOI Group, both are members of RSPO, in Kotawaringin Timur District in Central Kalimantan Province found that both companies had cleared the forest and caused harm to orangutans.

Between 2006-2007, at least 50 orangutans had to be evacuated from the concession area of PT. Agro Bukit by a joint rescue team from Department of Forestry and Borneo Orangutan Survival (BOS) Foundation. Agro Bukit Ltd., a subsidiary of Agro Group is a member of RSPO since August 18th, 2006.

Rather than letting the orangutans to be killed as they frighten the plantation workers and are often seen as pest, evacuation is the best option so far. In May 4th, 2007, investigators had got evidences of an orangutan mother who was captured by Agro Bukit workers and confined inside a wooden box.

This orangutan mother was severely injured on her head and was likely attacked using hoe. Regrettably, Department of Forestry hardly could do anything to enforce the law towards the persons or management responsible for this cruelty.

Ironically, Department of Forestry had received 60 millions rupiah from Agro Group to fund its Workshop on Orangutan Action Plan held in Palangka Raya on August 12th – 13th, 2008. This workshop was an initiative of USAID funded-Orangutan Conservation Service Program (OCSP).

Coincidentally, Agro Wana Lestari Ltd, another subsidiary of Agro Group, had cleared the forest in Kuala Kuayan, Central Kalimantan. Its concession area bought from the Indonesian Government encompasses 20000 hectares of forest. Between August 2nd-7th, 2008 COP volunteers together with 14 local people have documented the biodiversity in the area around Bukit Sentuai - Kuala Kuayan.

The team found nests, footprints, food remains and sounds indicating the presence of rare and protected wild animals such as orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus), sun bear (Helarctos malayanus), Tarsier (Tarsius bancanus) , Borneo gibbon (Hylobates muelleri) and Bornean Slow Loris or coucang (Nycticebus menagensis).

It is therefore questionable that there was no report from the company indicating the presence of orangutans and other wild animals to BOS Foundation and Department of Forestry as the company had cleared the forest in the area around Bukit Sentuai ie. Kaminting, Tilap, Tanahluan, Penyahuan, Sapia, Tewamara dan Tumbang Panyang villages. Bukit Sentuai has been regarded as a sacred area according to local Dayak culture.

Still in the Kotawaringin Timur District, IOI Group is also continually cleared the forest for its expanding oil palm plantation. During the fifth RSPO annual meeting in Kuala Lumpur on November 18th, 2007, a rescue team of BOS Foundation and Department of Forestry were untiringly evacuated the remaining orangutans in the concession area of Karya Makmur Bahagia Ltd., a subsidiary of IOI Group in Antang Kalang, Central Kalimantan.

The rescued orangutans were then transferred to another forest area which had not been yet cleared and designated as the company protected area. But the facts spoke differently, as in July 2008 BOS Foundation and Department of Forestry had to re-evacuate the orangutans because their newly habitat was also cleared off for new oil palm plantations area.

In conclusion, COP observes that RSPO has become a tool to deceive the public and legitimize the environmental crimes committed by oil palm companies towards orangutans and their habitats. Allowing this would make COP prediction, that orangutans outside conservation area in Central Kalimantan would be extinct in the next 3 years, to become a reality.

Notes for Editors:

Based on Population and Habitat Viability (PHVA) 2004, the total population of orangutans in Kalimantan is 54567. With the extinction rate of 9% a year or 5325 orangutans a year, the total number of orangutans in 2008 would be 37 275. Particularly in Central Kalimantan, there were 31300 orangutans in 2004. With the extinction rate of 9% a year or 2817 orangutans a year, the total number of orangutans in 2008 would be 20032. From this number, there are 8631 orangutans live outside conservation areas which are often under threat and their habitats could be destroyed for oil palm plantation at anytime. With the extinction rate of 2,817 orangutans a year, orangutans living outside conservation area will be extinct from the wildlife within the next 3 years.

GAPKI Executive Derom Bangun, in a meeting initiated by Greenpeace South East Asia in Jakarta, Selasa (26/8) stated ”We do not need to join the moratorium, the more important is to protect the environment according to RSPO principles”.

and orangutan