Monday, 26 May 2008

Sime Darby`s investment in Indonesia reaches US$1.2 billion


Sime Darby`s investment in Indonesia reaches US$1.2 billion

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The investment of Malaysian oil palm plantation company Sime Darby Bhd in Indonesia has reached US$1.2 billion, the company`s director said.

"Our initial investment was only US$400 million but it has now tripled in line with the expansion of our plantations," Tun Musa Hitam who is also a former Malaysian deputy prime minister said here on Monday.

He was attending the Indonesian Regional Investment Forum (IRIF) 2008.Musa Hitam said his company had a commitment to making a long term investment in Indonesia. The company`s resolve to make a long-term investment in Indonesia was reflected in the expansion of its plantations which initially covered only 200,000 hectares but now had a total width of 404,600 hectares.

Musa Hitam said undertaking a new project was not a priority of Sime Darby in Indonesia but it was not impossible that at some point in the future it would produce palm-oil downstream products needed by common consumers.

But at present the company was still concentrating on producing cooking oil to meet domestic demand in Indonesia. Musa Hitam said about 70 percent of his company`s products were intended to meet domestic need in Indonesia.

The remaining 30 percent of its output was for export."Our major domestic product is still cooking oil. We do not want to produce other things if the cooking oil need of the domestic market is not yet met," he said.(*)

Australia gives $4.5m for foreign forests

Australia gives $4.5m for foreign forests

May 26, 2008 10:47am

Article from: AAP

AUSTRALIA will commit $4.5 million towards helping neighbouring countries reduce deforestation.

Climate Change Minister Penny Wong said today that up to $3 million would go to the Indonesia-based Centre for International Forestry Research.

The other $1.5 million would help non-government organisations work with developing countries on large-scale pilot projects designed to reduce deforestation.

"Globally, there is a shortage of research on how to reduce deforestation and Australia's support for the centre will help bridge this gap and support international efforts to take action," Senator Wong said in a statement.
The International Forest Carbon Initiative, under which the money is given, builds on Australia's existing commitments to reducing deforestation and has a particular focus on countries in the region including Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.

"In Bali, the international community agreed that demonstration activities were needed to show that activities to reduce deforestation could be effective, long-lasting, support local economies, and reduce greenhouse emissions," Senator Wong said.

"Australia is helping get these activities up and running."

Response from Unilever

A supporter received this letter from Unilever.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008 7:07 PM

Hello from Unilever

Dear Consumer,

Thank you for your e-mail in which you express your concerns about the
deforestation caused by the increase in the demand for palm oil. I would
like to reassure you that Unilever shares these concerns.

As you know, we do use palm oil in some of our products but we also have a long history of promoting sustainability; for example, in tea and fish.
We are widely considered to be a leading player in the search for longer-term solutions to achieving sustainable palm oil.

We hold the Presidency of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), a wide-ranging coalition of organisations including OXFAM, WWF, plantation owners, and manufacturers and retailers. We believe that the Roundtable is the most effective vehicle for jointly stimulating sustainability in the palm oil sector.

The key issue is that the demand of palm oil has exploded. This is due partly to growing demand from India and China and also due to the use of
palm oil as a feedstock for biofuels in the energy sector.

In November 2007, the RSPO officially launched its Certification Programme for Sustainable Palm Oil. It is essential that all those involved sign up to the agreed certification system to make sustainability work on the ground. This is not an easy process and is taking longer than we would all like. Nevertheless, we remain absolutely committed to finding an
effective and long term solution.

I trust that this has sufficiently reassured you that we are taking every
action we can on this important issue.

Kind Regards,

Colin Tucker
Careline Advisor

Unilever UK Limited
Registered in England & Wales; Company No 334527
Registered Office: Walton Court, Station Avenue, Walton-on-Thames, Surrey
KT12 1UP

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Major forest fires in sight as more hotspots detected

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Major forest fires in sight as more hotspots detected

Adianto P. Simamora , The Jakarta Post , Jakarta Sun, 05/25/2008 12:01 PM Headlines

Indonesia has been placed on alert for widespread forest fires, with satellite images showing a rise in the number of hotspots in the past three weeks.

The U.S. National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration satellite has detected about 555 hotspots in Riau alone in the past 32 days, Dedi Hariri, the forest fire monitoring officer at the World Wildlife Fund Indonesia, said Saturday.

A hotspot is a fire covering at least one hectare.
"The number of hotspots has grown really quickly because of the long-standing problem of massive slash-and-burn practices by farmers, timber firms and plantation companies," Dedi told The Jakarta Post.

As of Saturday, the number of hotspots in West Kalimantan had reached 339, while the numbers detected in West Sumatra and North Sumatra had risen to 200 and 67, respectively.

Riau Governor Rusli Zaenal has called for the implementation of measures to prepare for large-scale forest fires, particularly on the province's 4.04 million hectares of peatland, which is most prone to the annual disaster.
He also asked the police to arrest "anyone caught in the act of playing with fire".

The governor said forest fire monitoring and prevention officers, right down to the district level, should be ready for the fires.

An official with the North Sumatra Meteorology and Geophysics Agency (BMG), Firman, said haze from forest fires in Riau and North Sumatra had reduced visibility, although it had not disrupted flights.

"The haze came from Riau and Jambi, where forest fires are raging. The number of hotspots fell this week, but North Sumatra remains susceptible to haze," he said.

Forest fires in West Kalimantan reduced visibility in the provincial capital of Pontianak early this week. Flights were suspended in Supadio airport for five hours for safety reasons as visibility dropped to 800 meters.

"Rain rarely falls in the dry season, so the situation could get worse," head of provincial environment control Tri Budiarto said.

BMG has predicted this year's dry season will be drier than last year's.
Dedi urged the government to respond quickly to the satellite findings and prioritize preventive measures.

"Anticipation is crucial in preventing a recurrence of the massive 2006 forest fires," he said, recalling the disaster that drew strong protests from Malaysia and Singapore.

With about 145,000 hotspots detected, the forest fires in 2006 were the country's second worst after the 1997 disaster.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono apologized to neighboring countries for the 2006 fires.

The government promised during the UN climate change conference last December to halve the number of hotspots.

Malaysia has committed to help Indonesian farmers practice safer farming methods to help curb forest fires.

The Malaysian environment minister, Douglas Unggah Embas, said the two countries would sign a memorandum of understanding by June to enable Malaysian experts to assist farmers in fire-prone Riau.

"Among the programs lined up after the MOU is signed are capacity building to help them achieve their zero-burning target, rehabilitation of burned peatland and development of an early haze warning system," the minister was quoted as saying by AFP.

Indonesia is currently striving to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, mostly from forest fires, to help tackle climate change.

The WWF said about 10 million hectares of forest were burned in the 1997 forest fires, releasing about 2.57 gigatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, making Indonesia the world's third-largest emitter after the United States and China.

Nurni Sulaiman, Apriadi Gunawan and Rizal Harahap contributed to this article from Pontianak, Medan and Pekanbaru, respectively.

Illegal logging trade forces jungle brothel in Indonesia

Illegal logging trade forces jungle brothel in Indonesia

Marianne Kearney, foreign correspondent AP Jakarta

May 24. 2008 5:39PM UAE / May 24. 2008

Sex workers in the logging camps are paid as little as Dh118 a month, living in thatch huts or tents made of plastic.

The illegal logging destroying Indonesia’s tropical forests is fuelling another illicit trade: the trafficking of girls as sex slaves.

Girls as young as 13 are being lured from their homes with promises of employment as waitresses or maids, and then pressed into servicing loggers, their bosses and forestry officials deep within the jungles of West Kalimantan, on Indonesia’s side of Borneo island.

Maria, a child’s rights activist, stumbled upon the jungle brothel during a trip to West Kalimantan to rescue teenagers in illegal gold mines.The girls, many of them between 13 and 17, had been trafficked from within West Kalimantan, or Indonesia’s main island of Java, 920km away, she said. “If they want to run, they’re in the middle of the forest, living beside a river, which is too deep and dangerous to swim,” said Maria, who asked that her real name not be used for fear of being tracked down by the traffickers.

The girls were paid as little as 300,000 rupiah per month (Dh118), and forced to live in appalling conditions, she said. “They didn’t even have simple houses; they were living in huts or just tents made of plastic, with thatch roofs. There were no facilities for them,” Maria said.

With high unemployment levels and low education, many village girls in Indonesia jump at any offers to work overseas or in other cities, particularly because salaries in foreign countries are higher. Last year about 4.3 million people, mostly women, left Indonesia for Malaysia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and the Middle East to work as maids or sometimes as nurses, collectively bringing home US$13 billion.

But a percentage are underage girls who are offered jobs as restaurant or shop workers or maids, are either forced to become prostitutes or exploited by their employers, either underpaid, or overworked. The International Organisation for Migration (IOM), which runs counter trafficking programmes across Indonesia, says it has assisted 3,000 trafficking victims since 2005.

“This really was trafficking; they were tricked into this,” Maria said. The brothel-bar was within a camp where there were hundreds of teenage boys either working in the illegal gold mines or illegal logging in the resource-rich island.

After returning from the camp, Maria said, she alerted local and national police, but that little had been done. Maria said it was too dangerous for her to return to the camp. She has received several threats against her life and has been given police protection back in the capital, Jakarta.

Ilyas Roostien, the Jakarta-based head of Peduli Anak, a non-governmental organisation for street children, accused police and government officials in the province of being entangled in the illegal businesses. “The police and military and government officials were customers there too,” Ms Roostien said.

After a local television station reported on the jungle brothel, some girls were moved to another location, while some families were able to rescue their daughters, a local journalist and Maria said. “Some of the girls have been freed, but some are still detained,” said Abdurrahman, the head of Ketapang village where the camp is located, and who like many Indonesians uses only one name.

Mr Abdurrahman said he suspected local police were taking a cut of the camp’s earnings in exchange for turning a blind eye to the mining and logging activities, as well as the brothel.

One girl who tried to escape through the forest last year was raped by a police officer, he said.Frustrated with the response from local police, Ms Roostien reported the case to Indonesia’s national police. However, police focused on the environmental destruction, launching a massive illegal logging investigation in which several high-level police officers and forestry officials were arrested, and timber worth US$24 million (Dh88m) destined for Malaysia, China and Taiwan discovered.

“Illegal logging is more important to the police, than the rights of these children,” she said.

Police from the anti-trafficking unit in Jakarta said had opened an investigation into the case, but they had to wait for a report from the local police first. So far, no report has been produced. The government’s social welfare department in Jakarta said it wanted to help the girls but was refused permission by provincial officials.

Illegal logging is rampant in Indonesia, with environmentalists warning that the last of the some of the world’s most bio-diverse tropical forests could be destroyed within a decade. Wahli, an Indonesian environmental group, estimates that every minute, primary forest equivalent to seven football pitches is destroyed in Indonesia. The trend of trafficking girls to service loggers, the police and politicians paid to ignore the logging, is not a new phenomenon, but it appears to be growing.

A government official in Pontianak, the provincial capital in West Kalimantan, tasked with assisting trafficking victims, said there had been several cases of illegal logging, and even legal logging, fuelling trafficking.

“There’s logging mafia, and they keep moving around logging different forests, and each time they move the places for sex workers too,” said Nur Aini, head of the government child protection unit in the province’s social welfare department. Telepak, an environment group, which investigates the illegal logging business, said girls often were trafficked into illegal logging camps.“In one place we found a group of women who had been offered work as maids but they were tricked,” said Hari Gunawan. “Because the logging location is so isolated, they depend on the loggers to escape, so they can’t get away.”

Saturday, 24 May 2008

Clean hair or clean air?

Clean hair or clean air?

Palm oil is in a surprising number of household products and food -- and producing it wreaks havoc on the environment.

By Glenn Hurowitz Los Angeles Times
May 19, 2008

While showering a few weeks ago, I realized I had run out of conditioner. So I reached up and grabbed my wife's bottle -- Clairol Herbal Essences Rainforest Flowers, "with essences of nourishing palm."

The label caught me slightly by surprise. As an environmental journalist, I've been writing about the ecologically destructive effect of palm oil for some time now.

Whether it's used as an additive in soap, cosmetics or food, or processed into a biofuel, palm oil is one of the worst culprits in the climate crisis. Most of it comes from the disappearing, ultra-carbon-rich rain forests of Indonesia and Malaysia, of which a whopping 25,000 square miles have been cleared and burned to make way for palm oil plantations.

That burning releases enough carbon dioxide into the air to rank Indonesia as the No. 3 such polluter in the world. It also destroys the last remaining habitat for orangutans, Sumatran rhinos, tigers and other endangered wildlife. So what was this deadly oil doing in our otherwise ecologically friendly apartment?

I started to inspect other items on our shelves. Despite our efforts to keep our family green, we'd admitted into our home several products containing palm oil: Burt's Bees soap, chocolate truffles from Trader Joe's, Kashi breakfast bars, Whole Foods water crackers and many others.

Probably the worst offenders were Entenmann's chocolate-covered doughnuts, which actually list palm oil as the first ingredient -- and palm kernel oil as the second. Lots of other products, some of them marketed as "green," contain this rhino-killer too: Oreos, Chewy Chips Ahoy!, Orville Redenbacher's popcorn, Hershey's Kisses "Hugs," Twix and many other processed foods. Even some Girl Scout cookies have it, which is why this spring, 12-year-old Girl Scouts Madison Vorva and Rhiannon Tomtishen of Ann Arbor, Mich., refused to sell the cookies and have encouraged the organization to drop the ingredient.

The great tragedy of all this palm oil use (about 30 million tons globally every year) is that it's so easily replaced by healthier vegetable oils, like canola, that come from significantly less-ecologically sensitive areas. Indeed, every single product I examined had either a variant or a competitor that didn't contain palm oil -- with no discernible effect on price or quality.

Sitting next to those Whole Foods-brand water crackers were Haute Cuisine water crackers made with canola oil. Down the aisle from palm-oil laden Ivory soap was palm-oil-free Lever 2000.

Unfortunately, most of the food and cosmetics conglomerates are more interested in covering up the environmental destruction than replacing the problem ingredient. Kellogg's, Kraft Foods, Unilever, Nestle, Procter & Gamble and others (including the Girl Scouts) assure the public that such environmental concerns don't apply to them because they (or their suppliers) are members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, an industry group (with a handful of environmental members) that sets guidelines on growing and selling palm oil.

Unfortunately, as a recent Greenpeace report revealed, the Round- table's standards are almost meaningless because they don't include inspections of the palm oil tree plantations. The Roundtable plans to address this problem in the next few months by certifying a small amount of oil that it says has been verifiably produced according to some sustainable standards. But even Roundtable Vice President Darrel Webber admits that the process "isn't perfect," in part because liquid oils are easy to mix and nearly impossible to track.

So how can we keep dead orangutans out of our hair, out of our food and out of our gas tanks? Consumers should scan ingredient labels for palm oil and palm kernel oil (and derivatives such as palmitic acid) and choose brands that don't contain them. Wall Street should divest from this ecologically sub-prime market, not only because it's the right thing to do but because its high carbon footprint means that palm oil producers and buyers are likely to be penalized in any scheme to reduce global warming.

But governments must act too. The European Union, for instance, is considering a ban on palm oil and other tropical biofuels. But as my hair conditioner shows, targeting biofuels alone isn't enough: Any ban must extend to food and cosmetics as well.

That may slightly inconvenience the food and cosmetics companies, but at least we'll know that no orangutans died to make our Thin Mints.

Glenn Hurowitz writes about the environment for Grist Magazine and is the author of the book "Fear and Courage in the Democratic Party."


The following is a letter and Press Release received by a supporter from Unilever. It is encouraging, but make no mistake, it would not be happening if it was not for 'consumer power' - your voice, emails, etc can and do make a difference. So, a big THANK YOU to all who have written, sent postcards, etc

14 May, 2008


You have contacted Unilever in the past in relation to your concerns over the destruction of high conservation value rainforests in South East Asia, and in particular, the impact palm oil plantation expansion has had on the fragile ecosystem.

At that time, either I or one of my colleagues would have explained to you the role of Unilever in establishing the RSPO (Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil) and the role of the RSPO in driving towards certifiable sustainable Palm Oil. After 3 years of establishing and then testing principles and criteria to certify sustainable palm oil, the RSPO announced in November last year that principles and criteria had been agreed.

Consequently, we expect that certified sustainable palm oil will begin to become available later this year. I am writing to you at this time to not only inform you of the developments in relation to sustainable palm oil, but also to alert you to the announcement recently by Unilever whereby we have committed to purchasing certifiable sustainable palm oil from 2008 onwards. As supplies are limited of certifiable sustainable palm oil, we intend that by 2015 100% of our palm oil requirements will be from sustainable sources. We have also committed to working with appropriate bodies to support the immediate moratorium on further deforestation in Indonesia for palm oil.

I have attached a copy of the Unilever Press Release which further details this initiative.

The issues surrounding preservation of high conservation rainforests in S.E. Asia are many and complex, and unfortunately, there is no easy, quick acting solution. However, we believe that as Unilever is a significant user of the world’s palm oil, we have the opportunity to influence the behaviour of not only palm oil suppliers, but also of palm oil users, encouraging them to follow our lead of shifting palm oil requirements to certifiable sustainable sources, and in doing so, protecting the natural ecosystems in and around the high conservation value tropical rain forests of S.E. Asia.

Yours faithfully

Nick Goddard
Corporate Relations and Communications Director



Rotterdam, 1 May 2008.- Unilever today announced its intention to have all of its palm oil certified sustainable by 2015. It will start by using certified palm oil as it becomes available in the second half of 2008 and will look to have all the palm oil it uses in Europe fully traceable by 2012.

This initiative builds on Unilever’s strong track-record in developing sustainability over more than a decade – from helping to establish the Marine Stewardship Council to develop sustainable fish practices and
(establishing a sustainable agriculture policy to in 1995 launching certifiably sustainable tea earlier this year.

In setting this ambitious goal Unilever recognises that it will have to continue to work in partnership with governments, suppliers, NGOs and other users of palm oil.

Announcing the initiative at the Prince of Wales May Day Climate Change Summit in London, Unilever CEO Patrick Cescau said: “Palm oil is an important raw material for us and the whole consumer goods

We use a substantial amount of palm oil and we want to be an agent for positive change, as we have been in fish, tea and other areas.
“We started work on sustainable palm oil ten years ago by developing and sharing our own guidelines and good practices with growers and suppliers, leading to the setting up of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil in 2004.

Through the RSPO, we have continued to work hard to build an industry consensus on criteria for sustainable palm cultivation.” “Now we need to take the next step. Suppliers need to move to meet the criteria, by getting certified both the palm oil from their own plantations and the palm oil they buy from elsewhere. We also intend to support the call for an immediate moratorium on any further deforestation in Indonesia for palm oil. We are
committed to doing this because we believe it is the right thing to do for the people who use our products, for the environment and communities in and around which palm oil is grown and for our business and our brands.”

Unilever will continue to play a leadership role on the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and drive it as a vehicle for change, ensuring that it applies effective sanctions on suppliers who persist in
unlawful deforestation practices.

Rod Taylor, Director at WWF International added: "WWF applauds Unilever's pledge of support for efforts to halt deforestation in Indonesia and to create a palm oil supply drawn entirely from certified sustainable
sources. WWF wishes Unilever every success in turning its commitment into reality, and hopes that Unilever's actions will inspire others to follow".
Unilever will also regularly report its progress against these commitments and continue to liaise with all stakeholders.

Speaking on behalf of Unilever’s Sustainable Development Panel, Jonathon Porritt said: "We are delighted to see these new commitments on palm oil from Unilever. We've been advising the company on these issues over the last two years and have been particularly impressed at the way in which Unilever alerted the world to the consequences of today's unsustainable rush into biofuels.”

"These are ambitious targets, and Unilever's readiness to take a leadership role in establishing secure, certified supply chains for palm oil is particularly significant. Some of the basics have been developed through the RSPO but things now need to move much faster if further damage to the world's rainforests and other ecosystems is to be avoided."
- - - - -
May 1, 2008
About Unilever:
Unilever’s mission is to add vitality to life. We meet everyday needs for nutrition, hygiene and personal care with brands that help people feel good, look good and get more out of life.

Unilever is also one of the world’s leading suppliers of fast moving consumer goods with strong local roots in more

than 100 countries across the globe. Its portfolio includes some of the world’s best known and most loved brands including twelve €1 billion brands and global leadership in many categories in which the company operates. The portfolio features brand icons such as Flora/Becel, Dove, Ben & Jerry’s and the ‘Dirt is Good’ laundry brands (Persil /OMO / Ala / Skip / All).

Unilever has around 174,000 employees in approaching 100 countries and generated annual sales of €40 billion in 2007. For more information about Unilever and its brands, visit

- 3 -
About Unilever’s Sustainable Development Panel:
We have a group of internationally respected external advisors who meet regularly as a group and individually with senior management and scientists. They form a panel of independent – and independently minded – experts who advise us on the challenges of sustainable development.
They are:
· Daniel EstyHillhouse Professor of Environmental Law and Policy, School of Forestry and Environmental Studies at Yale University
· Ma Jun – Journalist and environmental advocate with the Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs in Beijing

· Malini Mehra – Founder & CEO of the Centre for Social Markets

· Jonathon Porritt – Co-founder & Programme Director of Forum for the Future and Chairman of the UK Sustainable Development Commission
· Tiahoga Ruge – Director of the Center of Education and Training for Sustainable Development (Cecadesu) for the Government of Mexico’s Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources

For more information, please visit:

Indonesia's Astra Agro Plans to Boost Palm Oil Output

Indonesia's Astra Agro Plans to Boost Palm Oil Output

Posted by Palm Oil HQ Source: View profile
May 17 (Bloomberg) --

PT Astra Agro Lestari, Indonesia's biggest publicly traded agriculture company, may raise palm oil production 7.5 percent this year and double capital expenditure to fund expansion and takeovers.

The unit of PT Astra International expects to boost output to 990,000 metric tons in 2008 from 920,600 tons last year, according company statement released to the stock exchange.

A total of 1.52 trillion rupiah ($164 million) has been set aside for investments, up from 736 billion rupiah last year, the statement said. Higher palm oil prices, which climbed 43 percent in the past year, have boosted earnings at growers and prompted others to expand into the industry.

Charoen Pokphand Group, Asia's biggest animal-feed producer, plans to start producing palm oil from 2010. Palm oil, about 90 percent of which is produced in Indonesia and Malaysia, is used in foods and cooking, as well as a fossil- fuel additive.

About two-thirds of Astra Agro's 2008 budget will be spent on buying land and planting estates, the statement said. Shares of Astra Agro have climbed 76 percent on the Indonesia Stock Exchange in the past a year, more than three times the benchmark Jakarta Composite's 20 percent gain.

The stock closed at 25,800 rupiah yesterday after gaining 2.2 percent. Astra Agro said April 30 that first-quarter profit more than tripled to 827.1 billion rupiah from 268.9 billion rupiah a year earlier as it sold more palm oil at higher prices. Palm oil output in the three months gained 24 percent to 248,511 tons.

Palm oil futures on the Malaysia Derivatives Exchange touched a record 4,486 ringgit ($1,388) a ton on March 4, buoyed by higher demand and rising crude oil prices. The contract for delivery in August rose 2.2 percent to 3,570 ringgit a metric ton in the five days to May 16, its second weekly gain.

The price may rise to 4,000 ringgit a ton within two months driven by record crude oil prices, according to a May 15 forecast from Chris de Lavigne, global vice president at consulting firm Frost & Sullivan Inc. Crude oil for June delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange touched a record $127.82 a barrel yesterday.

Chainsaw threat to great apes

Chainsaw threat to great apes

By science and environment reporter, Narelle Towie
May 18, 2008 Perth Now

GET an up-close look at nature in two of its most pristine forms deep in an Indonesia jungle.Not even an hour into our trek through dense rainforest, we spotted one.

But as quick as he appeared, he was gone, lost in the vast wet canopy once more.Eager to catch another glimpse of one of the world's most endangered great apes, we took off in pursuit.

Dripping with sweat, we scrambled along the peat moss jungle floor of Gunung Palung National Park in West Kalimantan, Borneo, in a frantic search for a wild orang-utan.

But the old man of the forest was wise to us and he gracefully moved on, swinging from tree to tree before stopping 200m up to bombard us with wooden missiles.

As we flopped down, exhausted, the noises of the forest were overpowered by the roar of chainsaws in neighbouring forests.Illegal logging, driven by global demand, destroys vast areas of Indonesian forest each year and Bornean orang-utan numbers have dwindled from hundreds of thousands to about 45,000 in the wild, according to the UN Environment Project.

In addition to illegal logging, open-pit mining and palm-oil agriculture, coupled with poaching, have led to dire predictions that orang-utans will be extinct in the wild within 20 years.

Gunung Palung National Park is haven to about 2000 of the world's biggest arboreal mammals -- orang-utans that eat, sleep and travel through the trees. It is also home to endangered species such as sun bears, proboscis monkeys and gibbons, plus hornbills among an estimated 178 types of birds.

"In terms of biodiversity, Gunung Palung is one of the top places in the world. Kalimantan's rainforests have the tallest rainforest trees in the world,'' field director for Gunung Palung Orang-utan Conservation program, Jamie Kemsey, said. "Look out for gibbons, red-leaf monkeys, macaques, sun bears, hornbills, cobras, crocodiles, giant squirrels and many, many other species. ''Sadly, poorly organised tourist routes and a lack of information are hindering the orang-utans' biggest chance of survival -- ecotourism.

Over the past couple of years illegal logging has been greatly reduced, thanks to the commitment of park authorities and various organisations such as Gunung Palung's orang-utan project.Tourists are being granted access to the park, but only into the less-developed part called Lubak Baji.

While some people argue that wild orang-utans should be left alone, others warn the threat of logging will be diminished only when the forest makes money in other ways.

Getting to Gunung Palung National Park is no easy feat and definitely suited to the adventure traveller. "In terms of simple logistics, you must visit the park service office and get a permit and a guide from that office,'' Dr Kemsey said. "While I am sure they will welcome you, just make sure you get the proper permits and let them know your itinerary . . . or better yet, have them help with your itinerary.

''Permits cost about $1 from the office in the main street of Sukadana. However, getting to Sukadana can involve flights, speedboats and motorcycles.

While the park is spectacular, the closest town is Pontianak, which is good for little else than a place to rest your head before setting off on your eco-adventure.

Garuda has flights to Pontianak for about $150 return from Jakarta.We stayed at Hotel Kini, which is about 15 minutes from the airport and offers bed and breakfast for two for about $35.

From Pontianak you will need to get to the small and dusty fishing village of Ketapang. The cheapest option is a six-hour speedboat ride costing $6 each.

The boat leaves daily at 6am and can be booked from any hotel. Or you can take a 30-minute flight with Trigana Air or Indonesia Air Transport for about $50.

The last part of the trip, from Ketapang to Sukadana, involves a three-hour motorbike journey or a two-hour taxi ride. While the local bus is also an option and costs next to nothing, a taxi costs only about $10 and is far more comfortable.But if you have plenty of time on your hands and would prefer to travel like the locals, take the local boat.

First, catch a taxi from Pontianak to the neighbouring village of Rasau, then head for the jetty.Depending on when you arrive, there is an overnight, 15-hour boat ride that leaves for Teluk Melano.

The uncomfortable and very noisy passage costs about $2. When you arrive in Teluk Melano, the only form of transport available is a motorbike for a three-hour ride to Sukadana. Once in Sukadana, rainforest is on your doorstep.

Aside from picking up your park visa from the park service office here, you will also need to hire a guide.Our guide was a delightful but non-English speaking man called Idris. He carried most of our stuff and cooked all our meals. It is also possible to hire English-speaking guides.Guides cost $10 a day and you supply food for him and yourselves.

We also had to pay to use our cameras in the park. The camp area is a good 90-minute uphill hike through humid, slippery, spectacular primary rainforest.

Lubak Baji has a wooden house hidden deep in the rainforest. There are no mattresses, or sheets and pillows, so pack accordingly. Once there the solitude and scenery cannot be compared. First thing in the morning, gibbons honk loudly on their way to breakfast, across the roof of the hut. And at night we went to sleep to the eerie tunes of the forest birds.

Orangutans' foster mother ecourages her brood to go wild

Orangutans' foster mother encourages her brood to go wild

By Paul Eccleston Daily Telegraph

Last Updated: 12:01am BST 19/05/2008

Lone Dröscher-Nielsen gave up her career with Scandinavian Airlines and set up the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation in 1999 when she became aware of how serious a threat the great apes were facing.

Since then it has become the largest primate rescue project in the world, caring for almost 600 animals.

The youngsters of Orangutan Island live in a community where they have to learn to deal with social issues. Now she has established an island sanctuary where orphaned baby orangutans driven from their rainforest homelands of Borneo and Sumatra by illegal logging are being taught the skills they will need to survive in the wild as adults.

The progress of the 35 young apes on the 100-acre protected island at the Nyaru Menteng Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre features in a television series Orangutan Island which begins next week.

Unlike wild orangutans, who live mostly solitary lives, the youngsters of Orangutan Island live in a community where they have to learn to deal with social issues such as friendship, bullying and power struggles.

The series chronicles their attempts to learn to live independently without the human support systems they have come to rely on. The hope is that they will learn survival techniques so they can be returned to their natural habitat.

Miss Dröscher-Nielsen said of the experiment: "As a whole the orangutans have done very well, fending for themselves on the island. There have been a few who have not exactly done great but they have survived and will continue to improve."

• Orangutan Island begins on Animal Planet on Monday, May 26, at 9pm.

Malaysian palm oil conference focuses on sustainability

From the June 2008 Issue Biodiesel Magazine

Malaysian palm oil conference focuses on sustainability
By Susanne Retka Schill

The word “sustainability” is no longer a catchphrase but a global market requirement for the palm oil industry. “The world now demands palm oil that is certified and produced sustainably,” said Peter Chin Fah Kui, the Malaysian minister of plantation commodities and industries, in his opening address at the International Palm Oil Sustainability Conference on April 14 in Sabah, Malaysia.

“The challenges created by globalization and the increased demand for natural resources call for additional and different types of intervention. Collaboration between the different actors and stakeholders targeting a balance between sustainable production, trade and consumption is a key element in innovative approaches, and how this will impact the environment.”

The Malaysian Palm Oil Council hosted the inaugural conference, which brought together more than 500 industry players from Southeast Asia, Australia, Europe and the United States to discuss the emerging issues surrounding sustainability.

Speakers addressed corporate social responsibility, new certification requirements, wildlife conservation, life cycle analysis and carbon balance, among other topics. At the opening ceremonies, Chin officially announced the formation of the Malaysian Palm Oil Wildlife Conservation Fund, a collaborative effort of the Malaysian government, the Malaysian Palm Oil Council, Bursa Malaysia (representing the country’s financial market) and the Borneo Conservation Trust.

One of the first efforts for the $6.25 million research and conservation fund will be to survey the orangutan population in the Malaysian state of Sabah on the island of Borneo. Sabah is the No. 1 palm-producing state in Malaysia and also home to significant populations of orangutans in remnants of virgin tropical rain forests.

Chin said the Malaysian palm oil industry has been under a shadow for too long. “The cultivation of palm oil generally gives the world an impression that large tracts of virgin rain forests are bulldozed and cleared to make way for our plantations,” he said.

“Palm oil cultivation in Malaysia is strictly regulated, can only be developed on legally designated agricultural land and does not encroach on protected virgin rain forests.” He called for conference attendees to dispel the myths and misinformation surrounding the palm oil industry, “and highlight the sustainability of the palm oil industry, compared to other oilseed crops and agricultural practices around the globe.”

MPOC Chairman Lee Oi Hian echoed Chin’s emphasis on sustainability. “The demand and expectation of customers for sustainable palm oil are all familiar to us,” he said in his opening remarks at the conference. “This is our single most important current challenge or threat.” Malaysia is the world’s largest exporter of palm oil and follows Indonesia as the world's second-largest producer of palm oil.

BKSDA officials named suspect in Riau forest funds graft case

Saturday, May 24, 2008 6:46 PM

Mayor stands trial for corruption

The Jakarta Post , Jakarta Sat, 05/24/2008

The graft trial of Medan Mayor Abdillah, charged with stealing more than Rp 54 billion (US$5.7 million) of state money, began in the Corruption Court on Friday.

State prosecutors told the court the defendant had embezzled Rp 50.5 billion from the regional budget and Rp 3.6 billion in a fire engine purchase.

The prosecutors said Abdillah had violated Articles 2 and 3 of the Corruption Eradication Law. Each breach carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

Abdillah has chosen not to challenge his indictment.
"I just want to go (directly) to the substance of the case," the defendant said after the session.

Under the court system, a defendant has the right to file an objection to an indictment based on the court's authority to hear the case and the clarity of the charges.

Abdillah, who has been mayor since 2000, is accused of misappropriating the regional secretary's annual budget from 2002 to 2006, assisted by former regional secretary and current deputy mayor, Ramli, and 12 officials at the secretary office.

The team of prosecutors, consisting of Suharto, Muhibuddin, Chatarina and Afni Carolina, said the mayor conspired with the officials to rig financial assistance proposals from nongovernmental, social and professional organizations, as well as institutions, as cover-ups for the disbursements.

The 52-year-old mayor allegedly gave some of the money in cash to at least seven members of the City Council, the head of the Medan prosecutor's office, an official of the State Audit Agency and the city police chief.
Prosecutors also accused Abdillah of using the money for various personal purposes including buying cars and luxury items for his relatives, paying for his wife's trip to Japan, paying for his assistant's wedding and giving condolence money when Ramli's mother died.

Abdillah, who has been detained since January, is also accused of marking up prices for the purchase of a fire engine in January 2006.

The prosecutors have accused him of conspiring to make a false letter of price verification, which was used to sanction a Rp 12 billion payment for a fire engine worth only Rp 9 billion.

Abdillah allegedly gave Rp 1 billion of the additional money to deputy mayor Ramli and a total of Rp 200 million to six officials from the Medan administration.

Ramli's trial was originally scheduled to begin last Thursday, but the hearing was adjourned for a week because the defendant was sick.

Businessman Hengky Samuel Daud, who was implicated in the purchase of the fire engine, is currently at large. He was also involved in similar cases in at least three other cities, Makassar (South Sulawesi), Pekanbaru (Riau) and Samarinda (East Kalimantan).

Presiding judge Edward Pattinasarani adjourned Abdillah's trial until next Wednesday, when the prosecutors are scheduled to call their witnesses.
Abdillah is the second regional chief brought to the Corruption Court this year.

The court is currently hearing the trial of Tengku Azmun Jaafar, regent of Pelalawan in Riau, who is accused of illegally issuing forest resource utilization permits to 15 companies and embezzling Rp 1.2 trillion of state money.(dre)

BKSDA officials named suspect in Riau forest funds graft case

BKSDA officials named suspect in Riau forest funds graft case

Rizal Harahap , The Jakarta Post , Pekanbaru Sat, 05/24/2008

The Riau prosecutor's office in Pekanbaru has detained two officials from the Natural Resources Conservation Center (BKSDA) in connection with a graft case in a land and forest rehabilitation project in the province.

The two suspects, project manager Maulana Harahap, 54, and project treasurer Toto Hevantyo, 44, allegedly misappropriated Rp 2.2 billion left over from the Rp 8.6 billion Forest Rehabilitation National Movement (Gerhan) funds, office spokesman Darbin Pasaribu said recently.

The funds originally came from the 2003-2004 state budget.
"The project was self-managed, meaning all its tasks, from planning and implementation through to submitting reports, were carried out by the BKSDA," Darbin told The Jakarta Post.

"The report submitted suggests they are responsible."
The Riau prosecutor's office has been investigating the case since Feb. 20 last year.

The project, carried out in 2004, involved a construction project and a forest, water and land destruction prevention program in the Bukit Rimbang and Bukit Baling wildlife preserve on the border between Kuantan Singingi and Kampar regencies.

Thirty-four witnesses familiar with the project have been questioned.
An expert witness who was familiar with the relevant technical and project procedures has also given investigators his legal opinion.

Prosecutors named the two as suspects on May 7.
According to Darbin, they were named as suspects because they could not account for the unspent project funds.

"They should not have spent the remaining funds, but the report stated all the funds had been spent. That's what they failed to explain," Darbin said.
Darbin said the suspects had said the funds had been used to finance six project items, including fertilization, plant spacing measurement and farming equipment procurement.

"However, their statement contradicted that of the field project manager, who testified there had been no fertilization or purchase of farming tools," said Darbin.

When investigators inspected the project's bank account, all the allocated funds had apparently been withdrawn by the suspects.

Darbin said Toto had admitted to having transferred more than Rp 1 billion to his personal bank account.

"We had actually already ascertained the basic evidence. After obtaining the account number, we were more convinced we had to detain them to prevent them from escaping and concealing evidence," he said.

After almost seven hours of questioning, at 4:30 p.m. local time, police took them both to the Pekanbaru penitentiary to await further legal process.
According to Darbin, they could each face a maximum of 20 years in prison if found guilty.

Commission A member of the Riau legislature, Hasyim Aliwa, who commended the strict action from the prosecutor's office, said he believed not only had the two suspects misused the funds, but also former BKSDA officials were likely involved in the scam.

"Everyone, regardless of who they are, must be investigated. Investigators must get to the very root of this case because it involves environmental preservation, which affects the lives of many people," Hasyim said.

Hasyim urged the Riau chief prosecutor to regard the case as an early step in uncovering numerous embezzlements of state budget funds in remote areas.

"Funds allocated by the central government are easier to misuse in remote areas. Prosecutors should bear this in mind," he said.

Friday, 23 May 2008

EC-RI FLEGT project takes journalists to Danau Sentarum National Park

05/23/08 14:03

EC-RI FLEGT project takes journalists to Danau Sentarum National Park Pontianak, West Kalimantan,

May 23 (ANTARA) - The EC-Indonesia FLEGT (Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade) Support Project is organizing a field trip for journalists to Danau Sentarum National Park from May 23 to 27, 2008.

The trip is aimed at finding facts in the field on the threat posed by the expansion of oil-palm plantation areas to the survival of the national park, according to Lorens, a spokesman of the EC-Indonesia FLEGT Support Project in West Kalimantan, here on Friday.

"More than 10 local and national media have confirmed their intention to participate in the tour," Lorens said.Previously, Budi Suriansyah of the Danau Sentarum National Park in Kapuas Hulu District, had said the local administration and investors were clearing forest areas for oil-palm plantations at an increasing rate.

Illegal logging and forest area clearing for plantations were threatening the park`s biological diversity, he said.He said Betung Kerihun National Park which was an important water source for Danau Sentarum National Park had been completely deforested by illegal loggers, including those from Malaysia, during 2000-2004, he said.Around 11 oil-palm plantation companies and nine subsidiaries of PT Sinar Mas were currently clearing about 160,000 hectares of forest area near the border of the Betung Kerihun National Park, he said.

According to forestry ministry data , the Danau Sentarum National Park is a 132,000-ha area of open lakes and seasonally flooded swamp forests.Surrounded by hills and highland, Lake Sentarum constitutes an important water catchment area, and at the same time regulates the water flows through the Kapuas watershed.

Danau Sentarum National Park is home to a wide variety of fish species estimated to number 120. Among them are the Asian bony tongue (Scleropages formosus), belida (Notopterus chitala), toman (Channa micropeltes), betutu (Oxyeleotris marmorata), jelawat (Leptobarbus hoeveni), ketutung (Balantiocheilos melanopterus), and the beautiful clown loach (Botia macracanthus).

Other animals like proboscis monkey (Nasalis larvatus), orangutan (Pongo satyrus), estuarine crocodile (Crocodylus porosus), false gavial (Tomistoma schlegelii), siamese crocodile (Crocodylus siamensis), clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa), great argus (Argusianus argus grayi), and wooly-necked stork (Ciconia episcopus stormi) also inhabit the Park. EC-Indonesia FLEGT Support Project is a cooperation project between the Indonesia governemnt and the European Union with the objective of promoting the role of forests in the sustainable and equitable development of Indonesia.

The EC-Indonesia FLEGT Support Project together with nine other projects funded by the European Commission will participate in the annual Indonesian Environment Week to be held at the Jakarta Convention Center from June 5 to 8, 2008.

The abuse goes on and on, and on .....

Watch with horror.

Just click the link below.

Orangutan making money for media companies

The abuse of orangutans is worldwide and the USA is no exception.

To view a short video clip please click this link and afterwards leave your own comments.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

North Sumatra again blanketed in haze

North Sumatra again blanketed in haze

Apriadi Gunawan and Rizal Harahap , The Jakarta Post , Medan, Pekanbaru Thu, 05/22/2008

Choking haze from forest fires in Riau and Jambi has blanketed North Sumatra for several days and threatens to spread to neighboring countries.

Based on reports from the Meteorological and Geophysics Agency (BMG), the haze has reduced visibility to between three and five kilometers since May 18, from around 8 km previously, but has yet to disrupt flight schedules thus far.

The recent poor visibility in North Sumatra was attributed to haze from forest fires in Riau and Jambi, BMG Medan data division head Firman said.
Riau and Jambi contributed most to the situation despite the declining number of hotspots recorded in Sumatra over the past week, he said.
"Based on satellite images, we recorded 372 hotspots in Sumatra on May 17. This number had decreased to 207 the following day, and had further declined to 97 by May 20, but most of these were in Riau and Jambi," Firman told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.

Firman predicted that North Sumatra would be likely to experience choking haze until early June.

In Pekanbaru, Riau, the current intense heat in the lead-up to the dry season has raised concerns over the intensity of forest and peatland fires.
Riau Governor Rusli Zainal has alerted relevant agencies and the provincial population to prepare to prevent the spread of forest and peatland fires.
"The current extreme weather conditions in Riau could pose a hazard for the 4.044 million hectares of peatland -- around 56.1 percent of the total Riau area.

"The risk of forest and peatland fires will continue until serious efforts are made to prevent and mitigate them," Rusli said.

Rusli called on regency and city administrations to revitalize forest fire mitigation posts up to a district level.

Rusli said these posts could serve as a spearhead to further educate people from engaging in slash and burn methods to clear land.

"We have also urged police to take stern actions against people caught starting fires in forests," he said.

It is vital to prevent the recurring haze problem, Rusli said, because it could taint the image of the province.

"Riau has often become the subject of public attention as a producer of haze," he said, "so we must make strenuous efforts to prevent it."
The Riau provincial administration, as well as the forestry, agriculture and environment ministers, have made a commitment with 80 companies in the province to work together to prevent and fix the haze problem.

"These companies are committed to not resort to burning forests or peatland around their concession areas. They are also obliged to help with efforts to extinguish fires in their areas," he said.

Pekanbaru BMG analysis division head Aristya Ardhitama said haze had developed in a number of areas in Riau and could potentially spread to neighboring countries.

"Given the current wind patterns, the haze in Riau has the potential to blow toward the Malacca Strait," he said.

Riau Natural Resource Conservation Center head Rachman Siddik regretted the lack efforts made by agencies responsible to extinguish the fires.

"The administration should have set an alert status for forest fires mitigation, but so far these agencies have done nothing," Rachman said.

Govt plans estate for downstream palm oil industry

Govt plans estate for downstream palm oil industry

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta 22nd May

The government will facilitate the development of an industrial estate for downstream palm oil factories to encourage investors to produce palm oil products with higher added values, a minister says.

"The government is preparing a plot of land for an industrial estate, to be equipped with a seaport, in Dumai, Riau. The estate will be developed by the private sector," Agriculture Minister Anton Priantono said after the opening of a three-day world palm oil summit and exhibition Wednesday.

Anton said the country must further develop its downstream palm oil industry to meet the rising demand for value-added products such as cooking oil in both domestic and overseas markets, particularly China and India.

Riau, the largest crude palm oil (CPO)-producing province in Indonesia, is central to the government's plan to boost the development of the downstream palm oil industry, Anton said.

"In the short term, it is more lucrative to sell crude palm oil, but not in the long term due to tighter competition from other countries," Anton added.
Last year, Indonesia, the largest palm oil producer in the world with about 17 million tons produced, recorded exports of US$5.5 billion (Rp 50 trillion) with more than 75 percent of its palm oil production exported as CPO.

In the same year, Malaysia, the second-largest palm oil producer with 15.7 million tons produced, posted a higher export value of RM37.54 billion ($11.37 billion) with 80 percent of its palm oil production exported as added-value products.

Anton said the government had provided incentives to boost the downstream industry such as reducing the export tax on oleochemical-based products like consumer goods and cooking oil.

However, chairman of the palm oil producers association Gapki, Derum Bangun, said the export tax reduction was not enough.

"The difference between export taxes on olechemical derivatives and CPO is slim, so there's no real advantage in processing CPO into oleochemical and then exporting it," Derum said, adding that the difference was only around 10 percentage points.

"The government should provide more incentives to producers of goods with higher added values," he said, adding that incentives could include tax holidays of between three and four years to let producers achieve sustainability.

"The government should also provide long-term policies so companies can make long-term calculations," he said.

"The government's policy on export tax rates, for instance, changes every month," he said.

The government lowered the export tax on CPO to 15 percent this month from 20 percent last month.

Indonesia exports palm oil to more than 150 countries, including India, China, Pakistan and Japan as well as European and Middle Eastern countries.

Indonesia, with 6.6 million hectares of palm oil plantations, aims to produce 18.6 million tons of palm oil this year. (anw)

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

SE Sulawesi agency seizes illegal timber from 3 ships

SE Sulawesi agency seizes illegal timber from 3 ships

Hasrul , The Jakarta Post , Kendari Wed, 05/21/2008

Authorities in Southeast Sulawesi foiled an attempt Monday to smuggle 400 cubic meters of illegal timber out of Lapuko port, South Konawe regency.

The Natural Resources Conservation Center (BKSDA) said the confiscated timber, already cut and processed, was loaded onto three ships identified as the KM Bunga Hariadi, the KM Surya Perangi and the KM Sinar Jaya.

Tajudin, 30, a crew member from the KM Bunga Hariadi, said the timber was to be shipped to Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara. He said the ship had smuggled timber to the same destination twice before.

BKSDA officials said the ships' transportation and cargo documents were likely forgeries, and suspected the timber originated from the Tanjung Peropa wildlife conservation area in South Konawe.

Sollu Batara, head of the BKSDA team, said there were irregularities in the documents obtained from the ships.

In neighboring Muna regency, members of a local military command recently confiscated 1,249 logs believed to be from illegal logging. They included local bayam and uris tree species and sandalwood.

"Thanks to information from the public we were able to seize the timber from illegal logging activities at the Wakorumba forest conservation area," said Col. MP Hutagalung, chief of the military command.

The military also arrested two people involved in the incident. One of them was identified as a civil servant at the Muna forestry office.

"We have turned them over to the authorities," Hutagalung said.

Under Law No. 41/1999, illegal logging offenders face up to five years in jail and a fine of Rp 10 billion (US$1.1 million) if found guilty.

Illegal logging has spiraled out of control in South Konawe and Muna regencies over the last eight years.

"Surveillance is lax and those behind the crimes have never been prosecuted despite the heavy timber traffic in these regions," said Alimudin, a member of the Swami environmental group.

Swami says its investigations implicate local officials with involvement in organized illegal logging syndicates.

"We have reported illegal logging cases to the local prosecutor's office but nothing has been resolved yet," Alimudin said.

He estimated 70 percent of the 400,000 hectares of teak forests in Muna have been cut down.

"Disasters of dramatic proportions could likely occur in the two areas if forest destruction continues unabated," he said.

The Indonesian Government plans to increase its palm oil output by creating up to four million hectares of new plantations on the islan

Indonesia to Boost Palm Oil Production with Extra 4 Million Hectares of Plantations


21 May, 2008 – The Indonesian Government plans to increase its palm oil output by creating up to four million hectares of new plantations on the island of Papua.

Officials from the Ministry of Agriculture announced companies would be able to initially create plantations of around 20,000 hectares each, with a view to enlarging them later to the current maximum of between 100,000-200,000 hectares.

A number of firms from Indonesia and Malaysia have already expressed an interest in the initiative, said the Ministry of Agriculture.

Indonesia considering mandatory use of biofuel

By Fitri Wulandari and Niluksi Koswanage

JAKARTA, May 21 (Reuters) - Indonesia, the world's biggest palm oil producer, is considering bringing in a mandatory policy for the use of palm-based biodiesel in the domestic market this year, government officials said on Wednesday.

The resource-rich tropical nation has been pushing for the use of biofuels de from palm oil to cut the use of costly petroleum products and ensure the fledging biodiesel industry survives rising prices of the commodity.

"The government is studying a mandatory policy for palm biodiesel mix, for example starting with a 3 percent mix," Franky O. Widjaja, chairman of the Indonesian Palm Oil Board, told reporters on the sidelines of a palm oil industry conference.

State oil firm Pertamina has been selling biodiesel since 2006 but rising palm oil prices and the lack of a mandatory policy, as well as incentives, has prompted the firm to cut the blend in its diesel fuel from an initial 5 percent to 2.5 percent and then 1 percent.

Evita Legowo, secretary at the National Biofuel Development Team, confirmed the plan and told Reuters the policy could be introduced this year.

"We haven't decided how much the biodiesel blend will be. Without a mandatory policy, producers are worried that their products are not being used," Legowo said.

The combined capacity for biofuel using palm oil as a feed stock in Indonesia is 1.7 million tonnes per year and the country exported an estimated 300,000 tonnes in 2007, according to data from the Indonesian Biofuel Producers' Association.

But a lack of domestic demand amid rising palm oil prices has meant that five out of the nine firms in the Indonesian palm-oil based biofuel sector have been using less than 10 percent of capacity or have stopped operations, the association said recently.

Palm oil futures have tumbled around 20 percent from a record high of 4,486 ringgit a tonne hit in March. But prices are still nearly 17 percent higher than at the start of the year.

"In other countries, biofuel industries have government policy. Without the policy, it will be difficult for the industry to develop," Widjaja said. Indonesia is expected to produce 18.6 million tonnes of palm oil this year, rising from 17.18 million tonnes in 2007.

The grain and oilseed-based biofuel sector has come under attack from green groups for accelerating the destruction of forests, while some analysts blame it for contributing to soaring world food prices by diverting crops that could be used for food.

Biofuel industry officials have denied this. (Editing by Ed Davies)

Greepeace encourages sustainable growth of palm oil industry


Greepeace encourages sustainable growth of palm oil industry

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Greenpeace has called on crude palm oil producers to think of sustainable growth to prevent environmental damage.

"We are not against industries, but they need to understand the need for the most appropriate management of the environment so that industries could continue operating safely, without harming the environment," Southeast Asia Greenpeace political advisor Arief Wicaksono told a press conference in Jakarta on Wednesday.

He added that the expand of land for the cultivation of oil palm should be temporarily stopped to enable the industries to continue operations safely."If the producers and suppliers of CPO, and CPO-consuming industries failed to immediately stop damaging the forests unsustainable industrial operations will create carbon emissions in the future," he added.

He added that as the result of oil palm plantation expansion into forests, and peatland, will increase the emission of CO2 (carbon dioxide/greenhouse effect)."In Indonesia, the annual greenhouse emissions from peatland located near oil palm concessions constitute one percent of the total global emissions," he said.

He also said that if the Kyoto Protocal, second stage, is applied by giving a compensation 30 euro per ton of C02 gas emissions, the producers will lose their income.As an example he cited Unilever as one of the biggest CPO consumers, if the carbon effects is directed to the company, it would have to pay 714 million euro per year, or 14 percent of its total profits. "For that purpose, Unilever as a company has pioneered in calling for a halt in environmental damage through a moratorium in the CPO industry," he said.

He also said that the damage on the forests caused by oil palm state expansion is also the result of bad government management of this industry.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Tortured displays

Tuesday May 20, 2008

Flawed wildlife law (Malaysia)

Stories by TAN CHENG LI

Our wildlife law calls for saving wildlife but it has limited powers to do so. TRAP a tiger and you will be arrested. Sell wine or plaster made from ground tiger bone and you can escape punishment, reason being, the Protection of Wildlife Act 1972 (PWA) is silent on “derivatives” of protected species.

That is just one of many flaws prevalent in the PWA. Here’s another: contrary to popular belief, the elephant is not totally protected but listed as a “big game animal” in the Act – which means it can be hunted if one obtains a hunting permit from the Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan).

And another: not a single plant, fish or amphibian is protected by the Act. There’s more: some highly endangered species are getting scant protection, legal hurdles abound when prosecuting offenders, penalties are ridiculously low ... the list goes on – no wonder our wildlife is depleting.
Is it ethical to trap an endangered species such as this leopard, just to stock a zoo or animal farm?

Many species owe their survival to the PWA but this legislation has not kept up with the times in some instances. Today, with wildlife being pushed to the brink by habitat loss, poaching and flourishing commercial trade, the Act is in sore need of an overhaul.

“In dealing with sophisticated wildlife criminals and their syndicates, this 35-year-old law appears to be failing to achieve what it set out to do in the 1970s.

It is outdated and there are many loopholes which unscrupulous criminals take advantage of, and at the expense of wildlife. We need the Act to be comprehensively reviewed, passed and implemented urgently,” says Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) executive director Dr Loh Chi Leong.
A review of the PWA dates back some 10 years and Natural Resources and Environment Ministry officials have said that a new Wildlife Protection and Conservation Bill is in the works.

However, this document remains tightly under wraps. Wildlife protection groups, despite their vast knowledge and experience in wildlife
management, are not privy to the Bill.

Nevertheless, MNS, Worldwide Fund for Nature, Wildlife Conservation Society and Traffic South-East Asia have come together to highlight crucial elements missing in the PWA. They first submitted their recommendations to the Ministry three years ago and again, last month.

Punishment and derivatives
Low penalties – under the PWA and meted out by the courts – is a worry for the non-governmental organisations (NGOs). Remember the case of the butchered tiger in Tumpat, Kelantan? The offender got off with only a RM7,000 fine in 2005 although the PWA allows a maximum of RM15,000.

That same year in Bentong, Pahang, a man caught with five bear paws, 32kg of bear meat and bones, one trophy barking deer head, four skinned civets, part of a hornbill beak, three skinned doves and nine live blue-crowned hanging parrots, was fined only RM5,500. Also in 2005, a man caught with four leopard cats in Gombak, Kuala Lumpur, and another with 294 pangolins in Perlis, were each fined RM3,000.

Wildlife laws have failed to keep up with growing threats to wildlife, such as the flourishing trade in wild meat.

Traffic regional director Azrina Abdullah says light sentences will not deter poachers. ”The impact of illegal trade on the survival of species underscores the need for strong penalties which reflect the harm caused,” she says.
The NGOs want penalties to be raised, to have a minimum, be based on the number of seized animals or wildlife products, and to include mandatory prison sentences for offences related to totally protected animals.

Another fault in the PWA is its silence over “derivatives”. It only states that “parts (readily recognisable)” of totally protected species cannot be traded. This oversight has hindered Perhilitan from stopping the sale of folk medicine containing by-products of animals such as the tiger and Sumatran rhinoceros.

And even when the product label states that parts or derivatives of a totally protected species form the ingredients, the burden of proof lies with the prosecution to show that the product does contain that stuff.

To close these loopholes, Azrina says the word “derivatives” should go into the PWA, together with a “claims to contain clause” as seen in Sabah and Sarawak legislations and the newly passed International Trade in Endangered Species Act 2007. There must also be legal provision to shift the burden of proof to the offender.

Listing of species
The PWA may have extensive lists of “totally protected” and “protected” species but these cover only terrestrial and marine mammals, birds and 40 species of butterflies. Glaringly absent are plants, amphibians, insects, spiders, freshwater turtles and tortoises, and fish. The result is oddities such as this: the polar bear is protected whereas the highly traded arowana fish is not.

The omission of plants from the PWA (because they are not considered “wildlife”) means that all our flora have no protection unless they grow in protected areas such as wildlife reserves and parks. The lists of protected species need a review as some species in trouble are still not totally protected, for instance the Asian elephant, Irrawaddy dolphin and pilot whale.

Freshwater turtles and tortoises are also getting a raw deal as they are under state control but not all states protect them.

Wildlife groups want all plants and amphibians added to the PWA, and the Asian elephant and sambar deer moved to the “totally protected” schedule. They say species listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species should be added to the PWA.

Except for marine mammals like whales and dolphins, marine species are ignored in the PWA. There was a debate over who should be in charge of marine species, Perhilitan or the Fisheries Department, with the latter eventually staking claim despite concerns that its priority is to improve fish hauls rather than conserving them.

The Fisheries Act 1985 had nothing on biodiversity protection until it was amended in 1999 and only then to include a handful of imperilled species such as the whale shark, giant clam and some marine turtles. Corals, other marine invertebrates, sharks and threatened reef fish such as the Napoleon wrasse and groupers remain unprotected.

The bigger picture
Listing animals for protection, however, serves little good if wild lands continue to shrink. Entire ecosystems and habitats, from lowland forests to wetlands, are now just as scarce as the wildlife they harbour and yet, the PWA does not oversee habitat protection and cannot stop conversion of wildlife refuges into plantations or settlements.

What is needed, says WWF policy co-ordinator Preetha Sankar, is legislation that is holistic in nature. To steer the PWA towards this direction, she says we need provisions that protect critical wildlife habitats, restore degraded habitats and provide for species recovery plans.

The public also deserves a bigger role in wildlife conservation. In Australia, the law allows the public to nominate species for protection. The PWA offers no such public involvement. To create an informed public which can help defend threatened wildlife, the NGOs propose an information register on these: all Perhilitan wildlife sanctuaries and their boundaries; regulations enacted under the PWA; issued licences and special permits and the quotas; prosecution cases; sites for licensed hunting and collection; and methods used to set hunting quotas and bag limits.

There is no denying that the PWA has helped safeguard Malaysian wildlife but in some areas, it is no longer current. One is hard-pressed to name a species that has rebounded thanks to the PWA.

It is time to fix the flaws with a new Bill that has bite, and soon, before more species tip over the edge.

NGOs have collected over 6,000 signatures calling for urgent and thorough review of the PWA. To sign the petition, go to
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First Lady and Forestry Minister honoured for tree planting

We really need your help today, please.

Indonesia's Forestry Minister Kaban has just received an award from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) for 'planting' trees, whilst Ministry of Forestry personnel are being investigated (against Minister Kaban's wishes and despite his objections) for numerous alleged corrupt logging practices and, he sells (legally) licences to cut down protected forests inhabited by equally protected orangutans.

Can this be the same UNEP who in February 2007 produced a scathing report on deforestation and the demise of orangutans? How can UNEP justify this award? What next? Maybe a special Nobel prize for Orangutan Conservation or, perhaps a job for the Minister in UNEP New York? It's (almost) beyond belief that UNEP could do this.

This same Minister personally intervened in a court case last year, resulting in Indonesia's most notorious illegal logger going free and two (at least) of the judges subsequently being promoted.

Please would you write to the head of UNEP and express your own views on his organisation rewarding Minister for cutting down PROTECTED forests? Please do so today, whilst it is fresh in your mind. His name is Mr Achim Steiner: If it helps you. When writing you might ask Mr Steiner how he justifies giving the "Certificate of Global Leadership" award to Minister Kaban, when (a) last year UNEP condemned Indonesia for its illegal logging and the rapid decline in the orangutan population (b) this Minister is attempting to prevent the anti-corruption officers from investigating his Ministry (c) Minister Kaban personally helped Indonesia's most notorious illegal logger walk free from court last year. Please will you write - today? It will only take a few minutes and I hope it will give you the satisfaction of helping the orangutans.

Thank you.

First Lady and Forestry Minister honoured for tree planting

Adianto P. Simamora , The Jakarta Post , Jakarta Thu, 05/15/2008
The United Nations awarded First Lady Any Yudhoyono with a special certificate for her role in promoting tree planting in Indonesia to support the global war against climate change.

The UN's Environment Programme (UNEP) also honored Forestry Minister Malam Sambat Ka'ban with the "Certificate of Global Leadership" for his support of the billion-tree planting campaign.

"The award is an encouragement for Indonesia to work harder and intensify tree planting activities to prevent natural disasters, such as floods and landslides, which often hit the country," Dana Kartakusuma, a staff expert to the environment minister at the UN headquarters in New York said as quoted by Antara.Dana received the awards on Tuesday on behalf of Any and Ka'ban.

The government said at the climate change conference in Bali in December last year it had planted about 86 million trees in 2007. The conference resulted in a roadmap urging forest nations to end deforestation to reduce carbon emissions.

Indonesia has the third largest forest area in the world, with about 120 million hectares.UNEP said the billion-tree planting campaign had catalyzed the planting of two billion trees in just 18 months.

"When the billion-tree campaign was launched at the Climate Convention meeting in Nairobi in 2006, no one would have imagined it could flow so fast and so far. Rather, it has given expression to the frustrations, but also the hopes, of millions of people around the world," UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said in a statement.

"Having exceeded every target that has been set for the campaign, we are now calling on individuals, communities, business and industry, civil society organizations and governments to evolve this initiative onto a new and even higher level by the time of the crucial climate change conference in Copenhagen in late 2009

Tortured displays

The StarOnline Malaysia

Tuesday May 20, 2008

Tortured displays

MINI zoos, bird parks, reptile farms, butterfly farms, snake farms and theme parks with wildlife displays are proliferating and here again, the Protection of Wildlife Act 1972 (PWA) has failed to keep up.

When complaints over poorly run parks and animal cruelty surface, Perhilitan’s oft-cited excuse is that it has little clout over these places because the PWA is silent on them and so, does not license them or dictate how animals should be displayed.

A Perhilitan official has previously said that guidelines on management of facilities with animal, insect and bird displays exist but the document is not legally binding.

It cannot be gazetted into an Order or Regulation – which would give it legal bite – because the PWA lacks provisions on zoos. The official also said that proving cruelty to wildlife – which carries a penalty of RM5,000 or five years’ imprisonment under the PWA – is difficult as the Act does not spell out what constitutes “cruelty”.

Such legal defects have led to the sad state of affairs in mini zoos and animal farms, where many have poor animal husbandry, keep animals in deplorable conditions and make them perform silly acts. Wildlife is also unsuitably displayed in shopping malls and public places.

Critics also protest the “special permits” allowed by the PWA, which sanctions the holders to kill, take, trade, keep or breed totally protected species. The mushrooming of animal farms has led to many applications for special permits to keep highly endangered wildlife such as the orang utan, tapir, slow loris, white-handed gibbon and serow.

Critics say the special permits make a mockery of the law and further fuels wildlife trade. Also, there appears to be little scrutiny over how the animals were sourced, used or kept. Abuses of the special permits surfaced in 2005 after two parks, A’Formosa and Johor Zoo, which both have valid special permits for orang utans, were found to have smuggled in the primates.

Illegal Logging Eradication: Supreme Court Terminate to “Undisciplined” Judges

Illegal Logging Eradication: Supreme Court Terminate to “Undisciplined” Judges

Source: TEMPO Interactive - May 14, 2008 Jakarta

Head of the Supreme Court Bagir Manan has instructed judges to support illegal logging eradication throughout Indonesia. He said that he would terminate undisciplined judges in these cases.

“I expect total investigation into the thousands of illegal logs that were found last month,” he said yesterday (13/5). Bagir has sent notification to judges about this requirement. “I ask them to pay attention,” he said
According to Bagir, the Supreme Court has made a special policy that illegal logging cases be handled by trained judges with knowledge of and training in environmental law. Illegal logging perpetrators, he said, would be trapped through a corruption section. Bagir recommended that the police auction off illegal logging evidence.

“Rather than it being destroyed or vanishing,” he said. The money from the auction can be kept in a bank or at the court.

The Police, said Bagir, could treat evidence in illegal logging cases in the same way as with drug cases. Investigators are allowed to present small amounts of evidence if there is a great deal.

Illegal logging eradication measures have recently been executed intensively in Riau and West Kalimantan. The Riau Regional Police has investigated 189 illegal logging cases with a total of 248 suspects. Some of the cases have already been completed, while others are ready for the trial. This does not include the thousands of illegal logs found during the past two months.

Chief of the Riau Regional Police Brig. Gen. Sutjiptadi said he suspected that the illegal logs had been stored in the warehouse of pulp factory.
According to Sutjiptadi, the factory could be charged with being involved in storing illegal goods. Sutjiptadi said fifteen timber companies are being investigated by the Commission to Eradicate Corruption (KPK). They have been in Riau since three days ago and three teams are investigating.

Johnny Setiawan Mundung, Executive Director of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) for Riau, said he suspected the pulp factory was involved with the illegal logging.

“They are partners of giant paper factory in Riau,” he said. Walhi is demanding that all permits for timber usage be canceled. NURLIS E MEUKO SUTARTO FANNY FEBYANTI SANDY INDRA PRATAMA

Orangutans fight for their survival on a protected island

Orangutans fight for their survival on a protected island
If you click on the above link it should take you to the original article with photos.

By Claire Bates

A group of young orangutans have been given a second chance at living in the wild, thanks to the hard work of a former air-stewardess.

The primates were driven from rainforests in Borneo after logging and forest fires destroyed their habitat.

Lone Dröscher Nielsen began working with the apes as a volunteer while she was a flight attendant with a Swedish airline. In 1999 she founded the Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Rehabilitation Project in Indonesia, which has become the largest primate rescue project in the world.

Bonita and Cha Cha share a snack while sitting on a branch of a tree.

Lone comforts orangutan Angalie. Many primates have been forced out of the rainforests by logging. Ms Nielsen also established an island sanctuary where orphaned baby orangutans are taught the skills they need to survive in the wild.

Unlike wild orangutans, who are solitary creatures, 35 youngsters live on the protected island in a community. Their progress is to be featured in a new TV series called Orangutan Island.

The stars of the show include the dominant one-eyed Chen Chen, who rules the roost. Jasmine the femme fatale and Saturnus the clown.
Over the weeks we see gentle Cha Cha struggle without human attention while boisterous Compost adapts easily to independent life. There is high drama when an intruding orangutan kidnaps Jasmine, leading to a daring rescue by the other youngsters, and tragedy strikes when one of the primates dies.

“As a whole the orangutans have done very well, fending for themselves on the island," Ms Nielsen said.

"There have been a few who have not done as well but they have survived and will continue to improve.”

Rehabilitation projects like these are vital to the survival of the species. Less than 50,000 orangutans are thought to remain in the wild and are split into small, fragmented populations.

The primates have lost 80 per cent of their habitat in the last twenty years due to logging. Further loss of lowland forests could lead to their extinction.

Orangutan Island begins on Animal Planet on Monday, May 26, at 9pm.

Certified Non-Rain Forest Palm Oil Set For Germany

Certified Non-Rain Forest Palm Oil Set For Germany

GERMANY: May 20, 2008

BERLIN - The first consignments of palm oil, certified as produced using farming which has not involve destroying tropical rain forests, will arrive in Germany in the second half of this year, the German edible oil industry association OVID said on Monday.

But palm oil certified under the programme Round Table for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) could be up to 10 percent more expensive than non-certified oil, OVID Chairman Wilhelm Thywissen told a press conference.
However, it was not yet possible to make an accurate forecast of the price difference.

Asian and South American countries have been criticised by environmentalists for expanding palm oil production by cutting down tropical rain forests, in a controversy which has also been felt by industrial palm oil buyers in Europe and elsewhere.

"We are vehemently against tropical rain forests being destroyed in producing countries for cultivation of oilseeds," Thywissen said.
The European Union is discussing a programme to prevent palm oil produced on former rainforest land being used for EU biofuels production, but the RSPO would apply to both food and biofuel industries, he said.
The RSPO was established in 2004 on the initiative of environmental pressure group World Wildlife Fund, bringing palm oil industry and consumers together.

Juergen Keil, from the German unit of giant US commodity group Cargill, said the first consignments of certified palm oil for Germany this year were likely to come from Asia, probably Malaysia, Indonesia or Papua New Guinea.

Cargill, among the world's largest vegetable oil and oilseeds traders, was working to certify its own Asian palm oil plantations and was encouraging its supplies to participate, he said.

He would not comment on the likely volumes of certified palm oil likely to arrive, but said he hoped they would be significant.

Along with the costs of certification, certified palm oil would face substantial additional expense such as being transported and stored separately from other palm oil.

Some observers have doubts whether Germany's food processing industry will be willing to pay more for such certified products at a time when the country's giant discount supermarket chains are involved in an intense price war to attract customers into their shops.

But OVID Chief Executive Petra Sprick said the association believed there will be considerable interest in the palm oil even at a time of intense retail price pressure.

A major European processor, Unilever has already publicly stated it would use it, and she hoped others would follow.

When the certified oil is actually available, food processors would also be able to label their products as using ingredients only produced from sustainable farming.

"We firmly believe that these products will receive increased consumer demand," said Keil. "We believe a momentum will be generated which will create a transformation of the global supply system."

The palm oil initiative follows another voluntary agreement, the Round Table on Responsible Soy, which the oilseeds industry claims has put a virtual stop to destruction of tropical rain forest in Brazil for soybean cultivation.

(Editing by Ben Tan)
Story by Michael Hogan

Massive media coverage of the palm oil industry with encouragement from the government of Indonesia, decimating the orangutan population.

Hardi is talking about the orangutan population of Central Kalimantan

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Recent video film.

Although in the Indonesian language, this video will give you a very real and recent feel for what is happening out in Borneo right now. The film is about 10 minutes long. At the beginning of the film there is about a five second delay. The film
was shown last week in Indonesia during a Press Conference held by The Centre for Orangutan Protection.

Where you see orangutans being man-handled, it is because they
have been caught and are being taken to nearby travel crates and
onward to the Borneo Orangutan Rescue Centre. The handling may
look tough, but these orangutans are strong and when scared they will bite.

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Medco invests around US$1 bln to diversify business

Presumably, Medco will have sought the land purchase licences from the Ministry of Forestry - the same ministry Minister Kaban (recent UNEP award recipient) is in charge of. I wonder if Mr Steiner will explain why UNEP rewards a Minister for such actions? It's a scandal. I've written, have you?

05/16/08 15:09

Medco invests around US$1 bln to diversify

Jakarta (ANTARA News/Asia Pulse) -

The Medco Group said it will invest at least US$1 billion to diversify its business. The group whose core business is in the oil and gas industry, has established new companies - PT Medco Mining, PT Medco Agro and PT Medco Papua.

Medco Mining will start by acquiring coal and steel mining concessions in Sumatra and Kalimantan, Group President Hilmi Panigoro said Thursday.

Medco Agri already has 23,000 hectares of land in Central Kalimantan for oil palm plantation and will soon expand to 1 million hectares, and 200 hectares in Papua will be expanded to 100,000 hectares.

In Papua Medco will build a pulp and paper plant and grow trees to guarantee feedstock for the pulp plant.Source:Business in Asia Today - May. 16, 2008published by Asia Pulse