Friday, 29 August 2008

TERRI IRWIN, TELEVISION CELEBRITY WITH NOTHING TO SAY

TERRI IRWIN

It would appear that Terri refuses to answer our questions.

Why would this celebrity permit the family name to be seen to be associated with rainforest destruction and the killing of orangutans?

Do you think her zoo is hoping to import animals from Indonesia for her zoo?

As Terri refuses to reply we are left to imagine what might be behind all this. Only time will tell.

IN THE MEANTIME THE GOVERNMENT OF INDONESIA WILL CONTINUE TO EXPLOIT THE IRWIN FAMILY NAME, WHICH DOES NOT HELP EITHER RAINFOREST'S OR ORANGUTANS.

Thursday, 28 August 2008

As someone who makes a living out of communicating with the public, Terri Irwin has gone very quiet. WHY?

It has now been four weeks since I first wrote to Terri Irwin.
http://www.australiazoo.com.au/

We all know that to write an email reply to anyone takes only a couple of minutes. Why, then, does Terri not reply - to any of us?

I imagine Terri would like us all to see her as a conservationist. But why would any conservationist allow their name and celebrity status to be used as an endorsement of the government of Indonesia's disregard for tropical rainforests and orangutans? Look around this Blog and you can see ample evidence of what the government permits in this regard.

Come on Terri, why not explain to us why you permit the government of Indonesia to continue using your name as an endorsement of their truly deadly form of orangutan conservation?

----------------------------------------------------------------------

Have you written to Terri yet? Her email address is in the next Blog posting below this. Surely you can spare two minutes? Thank you.

Why does Terri Irwin not reply?

Last month I write to Terri Irwin, wife of the legendary 'Crocodile Hunter' - the late Steve Irwin.

My letter below is really self explanatory.

What I don't understand is: why it is taking so long to get a relatively simple reply from Terri? Why would she allow herself and the reputation of her family to be associated with a government that PERMITS 2500 - 3000 orangutans to be killed every year? Let there be no doubt - the government of Indonesia continues to sell off rainforest's inhabited by orangutans, to palm oil and logging companies - often one and the same thing.

How can you help us get an explanation from Terri? Please can you ask her why it is she has not yet publicly dissociated herself from the orangutan killers? Maybe if enough of us write, it will get her attention. Please email Terry at: info@australiazoo.com.au


My emailed letter to Terri:

From: naturealert.org [mailto:sw@naturealert.org] Sent: Sunday, 27 July 2008 10:09 PMTo: info@australiazoo.com.auSubject: FAO Terri IrwinImportance: High

Dear Terri

I was wondering if you were aware that the government of Indonesia was using your name in defence of their orangutan conservation efforts?

The thing is, the government is making no effort to save orangutans, quite the opposite in fact.

In a letter from Indonesian Embassy they include:

" Terri Irwin, the wife of the late Steve Irwin, appreciates and has acknowledged the efforts that the Indonesian Government is conducting to save orangutans. Her statements have shown this kind of leadership Indonesia is taking to save endangered species. She believes that through this effort, Indonesia is making an enormous contribution in saving the earth."

Based on all my visits to Indonesia, specifically Borneo, including two this year, I can find no evidence of the Indonesian Government attempting to save orangutans, let alone the earth. Even the government admits to 'losing' about 3000 orangutans a year for the last 25 years (note the consistency), so I think by associating yours and Steve's name with this unfolding orangutan disaster the Indonesian Government is doing you no favours.

If you would like to set the record straight I will be only too pleased to add whatever you write, to my Blog
http://naturealert.blogspot.com/

Several months ago I sent you in the post details of the orangutan situation in Indonesia, but did not receive a reply, not even an acknowledgement, which left me disappointed.

I do hope for the sake of the orangutans you will correct the Indonesian government.

Many thanks.
Sean Whyte
CEO
Nature Alert
www.naturealert.org


The reply received - the writer did not declare his/her name:

From: Info [mailto:info@australiazoo.com.au] Sent: 28 July 2008 03:51To: 'naturealert.org'Subject: RE: FAO Terry Irwin

Dear Sean.


Thank you for your correspondence. Your email has been forwarded to the appropriate department for further consideration and assistance. You will be contacted as soon as possible and we thank you very much for your patience during this process.

Kind Regards.
International Correspondent
Australia Zoo
PH: 54 36 2000
FAX: 54 94 8604
Email: info@australiazoo.com.au

Steve Irwin Day November 15- Steve Irwin was one man. One man can make a difference. YOU can make a difference.

Steve Irwin Day on November 15 will be a day for remembering the one and only Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin. The day will represent the many things Steve was passionate about; family, wildlife and FUN. You can get involved in a number of ways including visiting Australia Zoo for an action packed day, having a Backyard Campout or donning your khakis for Khaki Day. All proceeds raised from these activities will go to Australia Zoo Wildlife Warriors Worldwide. Visit our website, file:///C:/Documents%20and%20Settings/azoo/Application%20Data/Microsoft/Signatures/www.australiazoo.com.au to see how you can get involved!


Since this reply we have exchanged two more emails and the Zoo continues to ask me to be patient. But when 50 - 60 orangutans are being killed every single week, at least 150 have lost their lives since I first wrote to Terry.

WILL YOU PLEASE WRITE - TODAY? It need only be a brief note.
The address is: info@australiazoo.com.au

INDONESIA: Journalist Metta wins Udin Award

This journalist mentioned in the article below is a brave, dedicated person who is very worthy of the award. Another journalist from this same organisation joined Hardi and I on a trip last month and I found him to also be courageous and dedicated. Until you have had to face fear and work in an atmosphere of secrecy it is impossible to know what these independent journalists have to contend with - often on a daily basis.


INDONESIA: Journalist Metta wins Udin Award

Metta Dharmasaputra wins for investigative report at center of defamation case between 'Tempo' magazine and palm oil producer Asian Agri

The Jakarta PostWednesday, August 27, 2008

The Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) has awarded Metta Dharmasaputra of Tempo magazine the prestigious Udin Award for uncovering an alleged tax embezzlement by one of the country's top palm oil producers, PT Asian Agri.

The award, given for exceptional contribution to press freedom, was presented by Vice President Jusuf Kalla during AJI's 14th anniversary celebration in Jakarta on Tuesday night.

Metta was chosen for the award by a panel of judges consisting of The Jakarta Post chief editor Endy Bayuni, Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) executive director Usman Hamid and Press Council chairman Abdullah Alamudi.

"His story in Tempo Magazine on an alleged tax evasion by Asian Agri has led him into a tough situation. His cellular phone was tapped, he was terrorized, the magazine he works for is sued for Rp 5 billion (US$545,000). The case is now still in trial," Endy said as quoted by Antara news agency.

The Central Jakarta District Court on Monday failed to hand down its verdict on a lawsuit brought by Asian Agri against Tempo for defamation and adjourned the trial until September 4.

Meanwhile, Asian Agri is currently being probed by the tax office for allegedly causing the state to lose some Rp 1.34 trillion through transferring prices and marking up expenditures. Eight people -- seven Indonesians and one foreigner -- have been named as suspects in the case.
AJI also awarded the Tasrif Award to Hanny Sulistyaningtyas of Kompas daily newspaper and Indonesian Radio Network Community (JRKI) for contributions in defending the public's right to information.

Usman Hamid said JRKI had been consistent in disseminating information to the public through a network of community radio, a method that had become very efficient for farmers, fishermen, rural communities, environmental groups and other civil society groups.

As for Hanny, Usman said her story on an alleged bribery case against the Attorney General's Office (AGO) top official, Urip Tri Gunawan -- a state prosecutor, was one of the first that reached the public.

"Her story on corruption and bribery practice in the AGO has opened the eyes of the public," he said.
Date Posted: 8/27/2008

Illegal logging closes down Mt. Selok national park

There would not have been any orangutans in this park on Java island. That said, the forests are now gone - along with all the wildlife that once lived in them.

Illegal logging closes down Mt. Selok national park

Agus Maryono , The Jakarta Post , Cilacap Thu, 08/28/2008

Forest authorities in Cilacap, Central Java have closed Mt. Selok national park as unchecked illegal logging activities have left the park barren. At least 126 hectares in the Adireja Wetan village area have been cleared, a massive loss for the park.

"The material loss is too great to be calculated, but what is even more catastrophic is the ecological damage," Dedy Rusyanto, a forest ranger at the Cilacap Natural Resources Conservation Center (BKSDA), told The Jakarta Post on Monday.

Dedy said illegal logging practices had first occurred in the area in 1999, after the downfall of then-president Soeharto.

Thousands of trees including teak, pine and angsana (Pterocarpus indicus or rosewood) were stolen from the park, with outnumbered rangers unable to prevent the looting.

"The looters came from every direction. When we arrived, the trees had already been cut down and taken away," he added.

Police and other security forces attempted to help rangers stop the looting, but illegal logging continued unabated, Dedy said.

"The illegal logging took place over a two-year period, but it left the park without a single tree," he said.

"There are no activities now, except for Buddhist monks who conduct spiritual exercises in a temple inside the park," Dedy added.

Tourists no longer visit the park, which had been known over the past 50 years for its fertile soil and dense forests, he said.

The conservation center began a regreening program for Mt. Selok eight years ago, but it has apparently been fruitless, Dedy said.

While the program was in operation, a tsunami hit the coast of southern Java in mid 2006, destroying young trees which had only recently been planted.

"We also planted indigenous trees like Benda and Kedawung in early 2006, but almost all of them were swept away in the tsunami," he said, adding it would take some 30 or 40 years to restore the barren forest to its prior state.

"Current conservation efforts have covered less than 10 percent of the park, and the trees are still small."

Dedy said he expected the Cilacap regency administration and other parties to support efforts to save the park, as it once served as the "lungs" of Cilacap.

Ansor Basuki Balasikh, an employee at Adipala district's tourism office, confirmed the looting of the trees in the park coincided with the transition from the Soeharto regime.

"Illegal loggers figured they should take the trees before they were acquired by logging companies, as occurred during the Soeharto era," said Ansor, who is chairman of the Cilacap Arts Council.

With its Buddhist temple, Mt. Selok park will be converted into a spiritual tourist destination, he added.

Many people, including the late former president Soeharto and singer Mayangsari, had reportedly used the park as a meditation site, Ansor said.
"Former president Abdurrahman Wahid once visited the tomb of the ulama, Syeh Somalangu, inside the park," he added.


It is worth noting the actions proposed below have only come about as a result of consumer pressure - a great deal of this came from supporters of Nature Alert and Orangutan Appeal UK.


Implement RSPO, Oil Palm Planters And Producers Told


SANDAKAN, Aug 27 (Bernama) -- Oil palm planters and producers in Sabah have been asked to implement the Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certification to ensure continued export market access for their products to the European market.

State Minister for Tourism, Culture and Environment Datuk Masidi Manjun said they should not regard RSPO as burdensome as it served as a reminder for their business advancement.

"Whether they like it or not, RSPO must be implemented as eventually they have to conform to the standards stipulated by consumer countries.

"The European Union (EU) has set stringent conditions that need to be complied with if they wish to continue exporting palm oil products to EU member states," he told reporters after opening a seminar on clean oil palm production mechanism.

Among elements considered under RSPO certification is product manufacture labelling to enable importers to check whether the product was produced through of the product which indicates if it has been produced through sustainable methods and met EU standards.

"They don't want the products to come from an estate or a palm oil refinery that does not conform to EU standards and if they are doubtful, they can visit the estate and reject the product," he said.

Masidi stressed planters and producers must understand RSPO so that when the EU enforced it one day, they have no choice but to comply."If we are not ready, palm oil exports from Malaysia will find it hard to penetrate the European market.

This will be a problem for them and will harm the country's economy," he said.He said Sabah remained as the state with the largest oil palm planted area, covering 1.27 million hectares or 30 percent area under oil palm cover in the country.

Sabah also has 115 palm oil refineries, the highest number in the country, with most of them concentrated in Kinabatangan district.On the seminar jointly organised by the East Malaysia Planters' Association and the Kuala Lumpur-based Royal Dutch Embassy, Masidi said planters and producers would be exposed to the new mechanism to reduce toxic gas emissions in the oil palm industry which contributes to global warming.

Planters and producers will also have an insight into sustainable practices compliance in their daily operations besides knowing the latest conditions imposed, especially RSPO certification, by consumer nations.-- BERNAMA

Benchmark for palm oil player

Thursday August 28, 2008 The StarOnline Malaysia

Benchmark for palm oil player
By DANNY YAP

Award of first RSPO cert to United Plantations changes whole ball game for the industry.

KUALA LUMPUR: United Plantations Bhd being awarded the world’s first Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certificate on Tuesday has a significance beyond a company-specific milestone.

It sets the benchmark for other players in the industry to follow suit.
More importantly, it changes the whole ball game for industry players as those with RSPO certification would be deemed the “preferred” palm oil companies by the big international buyers, who are likely to insist on dealing with producers that practise sustainability.

Other large palm oil players in Malaysia and countries like Indonesia have taken note of the bar being raised in the industry, and a number of them are in various stages of preparation for RSPO certification.

However, there are some questions that beg to be answered: What about the small and medium palm oil players which might not have the human resource and capital to undergo such a stringent test of sustainability? Would they be marginalised for the lack of RSPO certification?

These smaller players might be wondering what the future would hold for them in the name of sustainability.

Hopefully, the migration to RSPO certification will not be too detrimental for the smaller players, as assured by some RSPO experts and affiliates at the United Plantations’ RSPO certificate presentation ceremony.

They said that fair consideration and time would be given to these players to move to an “acceptable level” of sustainabiilty.

An RSPO certification expert said the organisation was looking seriously at the issue and how to make adjustments for the smaller players so that they would not be marginalised.

The move by the palm oil industry to have a sustainable business model is likely to set a precedent for a slew of commodities to be produced by sustainable means.

Stringent standards similar to the RSPO for the palm oil industry are likely to be introduced in a host of commodity-based industries.

This will have far-reaching implications in terms of the survival of many big as well as small players in the various industries.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

12 years demanded for regent over graft case

12 years in jail demanded for regent over graft case

The Jakarta Post , Jakarta Tue, 08/26/2008

The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) on Tuesday demanded a 12-year imprisonment for Tengku Azmun Jaafar, non-active regent of Pelalawan, Riau, for allegedly issuing illegal authorization of forest resource utilization.

The KPK prosecutors said the defendant was found guilty for illegally issuing authorization letters to 15 companies for the utilization of more than 120,000 hectares of forest in Pelalawan, Riau, in 2002 and 2003.According to KPK, the exploitation of the forest resources by the companies caused a total of Rp 1.2 trillion (US$132 million) in losses to the state.

The prosecutors also demanded the defendant pay a Rp 500 million fine or serve an additional six months in jail and to pay Rp 19.83 billion in restitution to the state, Antara news agency reported. (dre)

Malaysia targets Africa and the Amazon for palm oil expansion

another reason why Malaysia announced recently they would restrict palm oil expansion in its own country.



Malaysia targets Africa and the Amazon for palm oil expansion

mongabay.comAugust 25, 2008

Facing land scarcity at home and environmental complaints, Malaysian palm oil producers should look overseas to expand operations, a high-ranking Malaysian agricultural minister said Monday.

Speaking to reporters in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysian Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Peter Chin Fah Kui repeated an earlier call for Malaysian palm growers to use their expertise to establish oil palm plantations in Africa and South America. "There's a need to look beyond Malaysian shores," Chin was quoted as saying by Bloomberg. "It's difficult to say how much land Malaysia needs, but we are encouraging our local companies to invest to other countries."

Facing increasing criticism from environmental groups over deforestation and pollution from plantations, the palm oil industry has launched a two-pronged response: cleaning up operations by establishing criteria for sustainable production (the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil - RSPO) and global PR campaign to promote the virtues of palm oil while simultaneously attack critics via editorials, blogs and web sites. The marketing effort has included misleading claims on the carbon balance and biodiversity value of plantations.

According to Chin, Malaysia currently has about 4.4 million hectares of land under cultivation, while another 2.2 million hectares are available for oil palm estates. Most expansion is currently taking place in the states of Sabah and Sarawak on the island of Borneo. Malaysia is the second largest producer of palm oil after Indonesia.

Figures from the Malaysian Palm Oil Board show that production in 2007 stood at 15.8 million tons, while export revenue reached a record 45.1 billion ringgit ($13.6 billion) due to surging palm oil prices. Chin's comments come shortly after Malaysia's Land Development Authority FELDA announced plans to immediately establish 100,000 hectares (250,000) of oil palm plantations in the Brazilian Amazon.

To facilitate oil palm expansion in the Amazon, the Brazilian government is now weighing legislation that would allow land owners to include plantations as part of their "forest reserve" requirement. The law would enable Amazon landowners to boost forest-clearing on their land from 20 percent to 50 percent.

Oil-palm plantations in and around Tanjung Puting National Park in Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo Satellite image courtesy of Google Earth.
Oil palm expansion is also occurring in tropical Africa, the region where Malaysia's palm stock originated but where yields lag far behind those of industrial plantations in Southeast Asia.

In October 2007, a Chinese company signed a billion-dollar contract to develop more than 3 millions hectares of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for oil palm plantations. In June this year, Unilever sold its oil palm holdings in Cote d' Ivoire (Ivory Coast) to Singapore-based Wilmar International and Olam International. Analysis by the Woods Hole Research Institute suggests that DRC has the potential to convert 778,000 sq km of forest land for oil palm plantations.

The Brazilian Amazon has 2.3 million sq km of forest suitable for oil palm. RELATED Brazil to establish oil palm plantations on degraded Amazon rainforest landsBrazil will allow the establishment of oil palm plantations on degraded lands in the Amazon rainforest under a agreement signed between Brazil's ministers of agriculture and the environment, reports Folha de S. Paulo.

Environment minister Carlos Minc said the proposed law aims to expand biodiesel production in the Amazon without contributing further to deforestation, but environmentalists argue the plan will effectively cut the amount of forest landowners are required to keep on their property from 80 percent to 50 percent, thereby accelerating forest conversion and breaking an earlier promise by Minc that the government would not change the restriction.

Amazon palm oil: Palm oil industry moves into the Amazon rainforestMalaysia's Land Development Authority FELDA has announced plans to immediately establish 100,000 hectares (250,000) of oil palm plantations in the Brazilian Amazon The agency will partner with Braspalma, a local company, to form Felda Global Ventures Brazil Sdn Bhd. FELDA will have a 70 percent stake in the venture.

UK 'should end biofuel subsidies'

Tuesday, 26 August 2008 01:56 UK BBC News web site


UK 'should end biofuel subsidies'

Critics say increased biofuel production could lead to higher food prices. The government should stop funding biofuels and use the money to halt the destruction of rainforests and peatland instead, a think tank has said. Policy Exchange said the switch would have a bigger impact on climate change because trees and peatland remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

The government currently spends £550m annually on biofuel subsidies.
The Conservatives said biofuels "may be damaging the environment and endangering food security".

Under the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO), the government had said that by 2010, 5% of all UK ethanol and diesel should come from biological sources - primarily crops including corn, sugarcane and rapeseed.
But last month, Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly said the UK would slow its adoption of biofuels because there were "increasing questions" about them.
'Halve the costs'
The RTFO is designed to cut up to three million tonnes of CO2 emissions each year, but Policy Exchange said investing in the protection of peatland or rainforests could result in a "50 times greater amount of avoided emission".

The think tank said tropical deforestation contributed about 20% of all greenhouse gas emissions - similar to the amounts generated by the USA and China.

To be truly effective a global response is needed, but the UK has an opportunity to lead the way. Ben Caldecott, Policy Exchange
Ben Caldecott, editor of the report, said changing tack "would halve the total costs of tackling climate change".

"To be truly effective a global response is needed, but the UK has an opportunity to lead the way," he said.

"In the UK alone, biofuel subsidies cost £550m annually. In 2005, a similar investment in preventing deforestation and peatland destruction could have offset the equivalent of up to 37% of all UK CO2 emissions.
"In the UK we can dramatically increase funding for forest and peatland projects domestically and with key partners, especially in South-East Asia, as well as lobbying at an international level for the right global policies.
"All this can be done within our current budget, by ending wasteful and damaging biofuel subsidies."

Critics say encouraging biofuels could prompt farmers, especially in poorer countries, to abandon food production in favour of growing fuel crops.
This could lead to food shortages and higher food prices, as well as encouraging deforestation of areas to make way for biofuel crops.
'Hypocrisy crticism'

Last month, ministers said they would consult on delaying the RTFO's 5% target from 2010-11 to 2013-14.

But shadow environment secretary Peter Ainsworth said the government was still guilty of "staggering hypocrisy".

"While ministers are calling for the international community to look at the impact of biofuels, here in the UK, the government's policy means people are filling up their cars with biofuels that may be damaging the environment and endangering food security," he said.

"Time and again the government has been warned that their policy of targets without safeguards is madness.

"When will it admit it has got this wrong and bring in proper sustainability criteria for biofuels?"

Palm oil firms reject forest moratorium

Palm oil firms reject forest moratorium

Adianto P. Simamora, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta 27th August

Palm oil companies operating in Indonesia have opposed any moratorium on forest and peat land conversions, saying it will play havoc with the industry and the national economy.

The Indonesian Palm Oil Producers Association (GAPKI) said halting forest conversion would only slow the country's economy, causing more job losses and further poverty, beleaguering the country.

"Indonesia does not need to apply a moratorium on its forest. GAPKI strongly rejects the forest conversion moratorium idea," GAPKI executive Derom Bangun said on the sidelines of a Greenpeace-organized dialogue on palm oil companies in Indonesia on Tuesday.

Some 250 palm oil producers are GAPKI members.
"If we stop expanding our business, many rich nations will be happy because then they don't need to take action to tackle global warming. We don't want to be the good boy."

International environmental group Greenpeace had asked palm oil industry players to temporarily stop converting forest into plantation as part of their large-scale expansion program. Greenpeace's request accords with that of developed nations which have cautioned the change in forest use will aggravate global warming.

Derom said the producers' association had asked richer nations to prove their concern about climate change by shifting their farmland to forest to help cap carbon emissions.

Derom said palm oil companies in Indonesia had embraced greener ways set by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) to protect the environment.

The RSPO, supported by World Wildlife Fund, was established to promote the growth and use of sustainable palm oil through cooperation within the supply chain and open dialogue among stakeholders.

The RSPO has called for improving the land use planning process for the development of new oil palm plantations.

Derom claimed GAPKI members had stopped tilling virgin forest or forest with high conservation value since 2005.

Indonesia is the world's largest producer of palm oil, harvesting 17.2 million tons in 2007. The industry occupies about 6.7 million hectares of land across the country.

Political observer Arief Wijaksono said poor governance of palm oil companies had caused deforestation and worsening greenhouse gas emissions.

"The palm oil industries should not take advantage of the poor governance of our forests," he said.

Greenpeace has long campaigned for a forest conversion moratorium to meet zero emissions in an effort to tackle global warming.

The group estimated about 1.8 billion tons of carbon has been released into the atmosphere from forest degradation and the burning of peatland in Indonesia, or about 4 percent of global emissions.

It stated Indonesia held the global record for carbon emissions due to deforestation, putting it third behind the United States and China in terms of total man-made emissions.

Greenpeace said, during the last 50 years, more than 74 million hectares of Indonesia's forest has been destroyed -- logged, burned, degraded, pulped -- and its products shipped around the planet.

The director general for plantation at the Agriculture Ministry, Mangga Barani, said the government was currently studying whether to use the country's huge peatland for palm oil expansion.

United Plantation In Malaysia Make Sustainable Palm Oil

United Plantation In Malaysia Make Sustainable Palm Oil

By Bjarne Wildau

The Danish owned United Plantation (UP) will today receive the world's first certificate for the sustainable production of palm oil in Malaysia. Certificates guarantee that all the palm oil products made of IP is produced sustainably manner.

The recognition of the UP, one of Malaysia's largest plantation groups, comes from the new international NGO organization Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, RSPO. The organization is formed by environmental groups as WWF, producers, distributors, retailers and more.

“No other crop - be it coffee, cocoa, wheat, soybeans or rape - are grown under such strict guidelines, such as those RSPO now has set for palm oil production", says Carl Bek-Nielsen, Up’s vice-president and director. The palm oil company is 102 years old, and currently has 6500 employees and plantation in an area of 400 square kilometres in Malaysia.

Created 2008-08-27
Original news source: http://www.jv.dk/artikel/488173?rss

Al Amin faces multiple charges

Al Amin faces multiple charges

Irawaty Wardany , The Jakarta Post , Jakarta Wed, 08/27/2008

Prosecutors handed out indictments ranging from from blackmail to bribery Tuesday against House of Representatives lawmaker Al Amin Nur Nasution.

Prosecutors told the Corruption Court Al Amin received bribes for the conversion of conservation forests on Bintan Island in Riau and at Tanjung Pantai Air Telang in the South Sumatra regency of Banyuasin, in addition to demanding money from companies that joined tenders for the Forestry Ministry's procurement of the Global Positioning System (GPS) Geodetic, GPS handhelds and Total Station.

"The defendant received gifts and promises in exchange for acting beyond his authority as a lawmaker," prosecutor Suwarji said.

The charges carry a maximum penalty of lifetime imprisonment and up to Rp 1 billion in fines, according to the 2001 Anti-Corruption Law.
In the indictments, prosecutors cited Al Amin's colleagues at the House's Commission IV on forestry as accomplices, particularly Sarjan Tahir and Azwar Chesputra.

The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) arrested Al Amin on April 8, hours after the House's Commission IV approved the conversion of the Bintan conservation forest for the development of a new capital. Bintan secretary Azirwan is standing trial separately in connection with the case.
For his role in helping the Bintan administration win the House's approval for the conversion, Al Amin received at least Rp 250 million and S$300,000 from Azirwan, who also promised to give Rp 2 billion to Commission IV members.

"Al Amin asked for an additional Rp 1 billion for the endorsement, Rp 75 million in travel allowances for each of the Commission IV members who went to India, plus pocket money for lawmakers who were to visit Bintan," Suwarji added.

Investigators later discovered Al Amin received part of the Rp 2.5 billion in bribes given to Sarjan and Azwar for the commission's endorsement of the clearing of Tanjung Pantai Air Telang's conservation forest to make way for a new seaport.

Sarjan, a member of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's Democratic Party, has been named a suspect in the case and detained, while the probe into Azwar is still underway.

According to prosecutors, Al Amin forced executives of GPS supplying companies PT Almega Geosystem and PT Data Script to pay Rp 1.2 billion and Rp 286 million to expedite the procurement process, threatening to raise questions about the procurement in the House and to push for revocation of the contracts if they refused.

Al Amin denied the charges, saying many elements of the indictments ran counter to the facts.

Presiding Judge Edward Patinasarany asked the defendant to submit his defense plea at the next session, scheduled for Sept. 5.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Malaysian logging scandal may delay trade negotiations with the E.U.

Malaysian logging scandal may delay trade negotiations with the E.U.

mongabay.comAugust 25, 2008

Sarawak's Chief Minister, Taib Mahmud, has been linked to a timber trade scheme involving illegal imports of Indonesian logs and which were then re-exported as Malaysian timber to other countries, including China, Taiwan, and Japan, reports the Indonesian newspaper Tribun Pontianak.

An environmental group is using the scandal as the basis for a request for the E.U. to delay timber trade talks with Malaysia.

The Bruno Manser Fund, a Switzerland-based NGO that promotes the rights of forest people on the island of Borneo, says the allegations show that "Malaysia is currently unable to fulfill the requirements of a voluntary partnership agreement with the EU, because of widespread corruption at government level, particularly in the timber-rich state of Sarawak."

Malaysia hopes to have all of its timber exports to the EU certified as being of legal origin. The negotiations have carried on for nearly three years to date. The timber scam was uncovered during a joint investigation by an Indonesian-based NGO and a UK-based charity. Bribes were paid to the forest controller.

Sarawak Timber Industry Development, a state agency, has also been implicated in the scheme, which is similar to other smuggling operations uncovered in recent years.

Friday, 22 August 2008

Do animals have emotions?

From The Sunday Times August 24, 2008

Do animals have emotions?

Look deep into her eyes ... Is she sad or do we just think so? Many scientists now believe that animals feel emotions too

A three-month-old baby died in its mother’s arms earlier this month. For hours the mother, Gana, gently shook and stroked her son Claudio, apparently trying to restore movement to his lolling head and limp arms.

People who watched were moved to tears — unfazed by the fact that Gana and Claudio were “only” gorillas in M√ľnster zoo, northern Germany.
It wasn’t just witnesses who were moved. A British woman who read about Gana’s loss online posted this comment: “From one bereaved mother to another — Gana, you are in my thoughts. My baby boy died last June and you wouldn’t wish it on any form of life.”

Some, to be fair, reacted differently. One newspaper writer asked bluntly whether we are “ too quick to project human feelings onto animals”.

However, Dr Bill Sellers, a primatologist at Manchester University, believes gorillas experience pain and loss in a similar way to humans, “but of course it’s extremely difficult to prove scientifically”.

As Einstein said: “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted, counts.” Only a few years ago doctors did not give anaesthetics to tiny babies, believing they did not feel pain. By focusing narrowly on specifics — in this case, the emotional capacity of animals — scientists may fail to take account of what seems obvious and meaningful to the rest of us. The scientific experience of the world must seem a bit like watching a football match at night, with a single spotlight instead of floodlights.

Many of those who commented on Gana’s story online took a robustly anti-science line, asking angrily how “experts” could be so idiotic. “Have they not heard a cow calling for days when her calves are removed?” asked one. Others described how dogs and cats had become “depressed” by the death of their own kind — and indeed by the loss of human companions. These people would turn the sceptics’ question on its head: “Haven’t we been rather slow to recognise that animals have emotions?”

The question goes to the heart of our way of life. If animals have feelings, it is much harder to justify experimenting on them in laboratories, ogling them in zoos and farming them intensively — or, indeed, at all. The academics attempting to resolve this fall into two camps. Behaviourists accept only the results of tests, rejecting any unproven suggestion that animals think or feel or are even capable of emotion. Ethologists, on the other hand, are prepared to draw conclusions from studies and observation, anecdote and personal observation.

Ethologists, these days, are in the ascendant. One of the best known is Marc Bekoff, professor of biology at the University of Colorado and co-founder with the primatologist Jane Goodall of the group Ethologists for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

Sceptical behaviourists often ask him, “How do you know dogs and elephants feel joy or jealousy or embarrassment?”
Bekoff replies: “One retort is to say: how do you know they don’t? Darwin said there was continuity in evolution, so the differences between species are differences in degree rather than differences in kind. They’re shades of grey.

“If we feel jealousy, then dogs and wolves and elephants and chimpanzees feel jealousy. Animal emotions are not necessarily identical to ours but there’s no reason to think they should be. Their hearts and stomachs and brains also differ from ours, but this doesn’t stop us from saying they have hearts, stomachs and brains. There’s dog joy and chimpanzee joy and pig joy, and dog grief, chimpanzee grief and pig grief.”

Although many people would feel comfortable associating emotions with large, charismatic mammals, hard evidence increasingly suggests that other animals are similarly capable. The neurobiologist Erich Jarvis of Duke University, North Carolina, argues that evolution has created more than one way to generate complex behaviour; and that they are comparable.

Some birds have evolved cognitive abilities far more complex than those of many mammals. Dr Nathan Emery, a neuropsychologist at Cambridge University’s department of zoology, suggests that in their cognitive ability, corvids — the bird family that includes crows, ravens, rooks, jackdaws, jays and magpies — rival the great apes and might well be considered “feathered apes”.

Esther Woolfson, author of a new book, Corvus: A Life with Birds, has lived for years with a variety of these feathered apes. Woolfson doesn’t believe that her birds understand every word she says — the claim beloved of pet owners everywhere — but she does believe they have emotions. “I have seen — or believe that I have seen — in birds, impatience, frustration, anxiety in the urge to impart news, affection, fear, amusement (the last being a difficult one, I admit, to prove, merely on the basis of watching the look on a magpie’s face as its booby-trap was successful) and, particularly, joy.”

One bird, Spike, would balance an object — a pamphlet, a rubber glove, a matchbox — on top of a half-open cupboard door, then wait until it fell onto the head of the next person to open the cupboard.

Her birds also seemed to empathise: “To have a magpie, on seeing me weep, hover on top of the fridge, wings outstretched, tremble for a few moments then fly down to my knee to crouch, squeaking quietly, edging ever nearer until his body was close against mine, seemed to me at the time, (as it does now) an act of an unexpected tenderness that I can interpret only as empathy. There may be other explanations of their behaviour, but I can’t think what they might be.”

Bekoff agrees that we can no longer associate emotion only with the charismatic mammals: “The fact is that fish show fear. Rodents can empathise. This is hard science. With birds and mammals there is no doubt that they have a very rich ensemble of emotions.”

Satish Kumar, editor of Resurgence magazine, was for several years a Jain monk. The Jain respect for life is extreme: Kumar didn’t wash his hair for years in case there were fleas in it. He gave up being a monk eventually, for other reasons, but still believes that all living beings should be respected.
“We are animals. And we have a kind of empathy with the animal kingdom. They’re our kin. There is a slight difference between a cat and a dog and a chimp and a female human and a male one and a black human and a white one. These differences are very small: 98% of our DNA is the same as in other animals such as primates,” Kumar says.

“There used to be a time when people thought that animals had no soul, just as they thought that slaves or Africans or women had no soul. We realised a long time ago, as Jains, that animals have souls.

They do feel pain and joy. Mostly they feel what we feel. Animals have empathy and intelligence. We have to be humble and accept that we are only one kind of animal and these are others.”

Jains divide the living world into several categories. “Living things like trees and vegetation have only one sense — touch. Then you have two senses, touch and taste, the animals that eat. Then there are animals with a third sense, smell. Fourth are the ones that have sight, too. And then hearing. Intelligence is limited in these cases because they get their information through fewer senses than us,” says Kumar. “But look at people who are not literate. Literacy is a relatively new thing. Before that we had only an oral culture. That does not mean that people lacked intelligence; just techniques.

“So even mosquitos have something. Even viruses and fungi have intelligence. Nature is full of intelligence. That intelligence manifests in different ways. A tree knows how to bear fruit.”

Many people will reject this as sentimental nonsense, but scientific evidence is increasingly providing support for such ideas. Dodder, the parasitic plant, appears to “choose” which host plants to parasitise on the basis of an initial evaluation of a potential host’s nutritional status. Transplanted shoots are more likely to coil on (“accept”) host plants of high nutritional status and grow away from (“reject”) hosts of poor quality. Crucially, this acceptance or rejection occurs before any food has been taken from the host. We do not yet understand how the parasite evaluates the host’s food value.

However, intelligence is not the same as emotion. Studies of intelligence and ability have been around for ever — a new one last week showed that elephants can do maths.

Evidence of emotional capacity, conceivably older in evolutionary terms than intelligence, has the greater potential to change the way we treat animals. You might put an animal into a circus if it did tricks, but if you knew that this upset the animal you would take it out again. (Unless you were a psychopath, many of whom have been shown to be cruel to animals as well as humans.)

To Bekoff, the great distinction between living beings is whether they have eyes: “The eyes tell it all.

If we can stand it, we should look into the fear-filled eyes of animals who suffer at our hands, in horrible conditions of captivity, in slaughterhouses and research labs, fur farms, zoos, rodeos and circuses. Dare to look into the sunken eyes of animals who are afraid or feeling all sorts of pain and then try to deny to yourself and to others that these individuals are feeling anything. I bet you can’t.”

Bekoff abandoned a promising career at medical school for this reason. “A very intelligent cat looked at me and asked, ‘Why me?’ I couldn’t find the words to tell him why or how badly I felt for torturing and killing him.”
Strict behaviourists might laugh at this, saying the animal’s expression was merely a physical response to particular stimuli. But if they are consistent they must say the same about human emotions, too.

Marian Stamp Dawkins, professor of animal behaviour at Oxford University, points out that even in humans it is difficult to measure emotion: “There are three ways: we can listen to what people say they feel; measure body temperature and heart rate and hormonal levels; and observe behaviour. Unfortunately, the three emotional systems do not necessarily correlate with each other. Sometimes, for example, strong subjective emotions occur with no obvious autonomic changes — as when someone experiences a rapid switch from excitement to fear on a roller coaster.”

Ultimately, the minds and feelings of individuals other than ourselves are private. “Access is limited because we can’t really get into the head or heart of another being — and that includes other people,” says Bekoff.
“I often imagine a dinner table conversation between a scientist and his or her child concerning research in which the nature of mother–infant bonds is studied by taking the infant away from their mother.

“Child: ‘What did you do today?’
“Parent: ‘Oh, I removed two baby chimpanzees from their mother to see how they reacted to this treatment.’
“Child: ‘Do you think the baby minded being taken from her mother?’
“Parent: ‘Well, I’m not sure — that’s why I did it.’
“Child: ‘But what do you think the baby’s fighting to get back to her mother and her writhing and screaming meant?’
“Parent: ‘It’s getting late, isn’t it time for bed?’ ”

If animals have feelings, can we justify ogling them in zoos?

From The Sunday Times
August 24, 2008

If animals have feelings, can we justify ogling them in zoos?

As Gana’s loss of Claudio went round the world, the director of M√ľnster zoo hailed the episode as “one of the greatest gifts that a zoo can bestow – to show ‘animals’ are very much like ourselves, and feel elation and pain.

Gana lost a child, but I think in that loss she taught people here so much”.
Others think that the story has opened a fresh line of attack on the existence of zoos and their breeding programmes in particular. “What in the world was the zoo doing allowing a female to breed?” asked Marc Bekoff, the ethologist.

“A baby in the wild is born into a large social group. What kind of life is the baby animal going to have in the zoo – sentenced to a lifetime in captivity? Zoos say it’s about repopulating wild populations but that’s a lot of bull. They’re going to make a lot of money, selling cute toys and candy.”

Berlin zoo intervened 18 months ago to save the life of the now internationally renowned polar bear cub Knut after he was rejected by his mother at birth.

Several polar bear experts objected, saying that it was unnatural for the zoo to step in and rescue the bear: human intervention would result in Knut being unable find a mate and would leave him dependent on humans.

Similar arguments were raised earlier this year after the birth and rescue of another polar bear cub rejected by its mother at Nuremberg zoo.

The death of Claudio adds to the belief that breeding in captivity may be a mistake. Eleven-year-old Gana has a history of neglecting her young. Claudio’s death may have been a result of Gana’s poor parenting, which itself may well have been the result of Gana’s detachment from the wild.
Last year Gana rejected a six-week-old daughter, Mary Zwo.

The baby was moved to a zoo in Stuttgart, where she is now one of the star attractions.

Ian Redmond, of the United Nations’ great apes survival project, points out that keeping animals in zoos does not hurt only animals. “Forests are important for the planet and great apes are a keystone species in the forest ecology,” he says. Without the apes, does the forest suffer?

How to crack down on rampant illegal logging

Letter to the Editor published Jakarta Post 22nd August 2008

How to crack down on rampant illegal logging

Ahmad Maryudi, Goettingen, Germany

If you had the chance to see the documentary movie Timber Mafia released by Journeyman Pictures in 2002, you would have some idea of the massive scale of illegal logging in Indonesia.

Although efforts have been made to crack down on illegal logging in Indonesia, it appears the problem is getting worse. It is hard to get accurate data on its magnitude, because there are no accurate records on it.

Estimates indicate that approximately 70 percent of timber sourced from the country is illegally harvested, amounting to a massive 50 million cubic meters. A high-ranking government official said the annual loss from illegal logging accounts for between US$600 and $1,500 million.

This accounts for over 1.5 percent of the country's gross domestic product, as much as the contribution of "legal" forest products to the GDP. This loss is only assessed on the royalty that would have been paid if the timber had been legally harvested. Therefore, the total financial loss is much larger.

What are the underlying causes of illegal logging and how can we deal with it? Some analysts have mentioned market failure as a main cause. Markets for illegally-logged timber are so widely available, even in environmentally-concerned regions, that the legal markets can hardly function alongside the illegal ones!

The international marketing problem is undeniable and apparently beyond government control. While expecting improvements in global markets, we should also focus on government failures in dealing with illegal logging.
Domestically, it is evident that illegal forestry activities are strongly linked with underdeveloped regulatory frameworks and lack of enforcement capacity by governmental agencies, compounded by corruption and collusion between illegal loggers and officials in forestry and state agencies.
It is difficult to isolate these factors as they are interdependent.
From a policy perspective, some current regulations are thought to have encouraged illegal logging. These includes poor taxation and levy systems for timber products and poor regulation of forestry concessions, including soft penalties for violations.

Others point to corruption and collusion involving forestry officials. Although this is hard to prove at both institutional and individual levels, few would deny that it happens.

Given the trend to decentralization, local governments have become more influential, including in the granting of logging permits. There have been strong pointers to corruption and collusion in respect of the granting of logging concessions.

Evidence shows that in many cases illegal forestry activities are supported by state officials, including forestry officials and police, as well as military personnel.

Not so long ago, some middle-level forestry and police officers in a timber rich region were brought to Jakarta allegedly for supporting illegal logging. One might argue that these reflected individual or personal actions, but there were also institutional failures to control individual actions.

Unfortunately, efforts to crack down on illegal logging are further hindered by poor law enforcement. The limited number of forest rangers the forestry ministry can deploy are not enabled to proceed on the illegal cases they have discovered.

Experience show that in many illegal logging cases the alleged suspects have been left unnapprehended, untried and unpunished.
To control illegal logging at domestic level the government can take the option to improve forestry industry regulations.

More importantly, the regulations should provide sanctions against violations. Illegal loggers and those working with them can ignore the law with impunity because it is not backed by convincing sanctions.

Since illegal logging involves international trade, the government should be actively engaged in bilateral and multilateral agreements within and across regions, involving both producer and consumer nations. This should include exchanges of information on timber production, consumption and trade and collaboration on law enforcement between police forces at international level.

To sum up, Indonesia clearly suffers from illegal logging. While circumstances in timber markets also contribute to encouraging illegal logging, to a large extent the underlying causes are linked to governmental failures.

Therefore, the government needs to make substantial efforts to deal with the problem. Options for positive strategies include reform of the national forestry policy framework as well as promoting intergovernmental agreements against illegal logging.

The writer is a lecturer at the University of Gadjah Mada and a PhD candidate at Goettingen University, Germany. He can be reached at maryudi76@yahoo.com. This is a personal opinion.

Forests suffer from lack of support

Friday, August 22, 2008

Forests suffer from lack of support

Panca Nugraha , The Jakarta Post , Fri, 08/22/2008

Due to inadequate support from local administrations, community forest programs in three provinces -- West Nusa Tenggara, Yogyakarta and Lampung -- are unlikely to meet their targeted goal of 400,000 hectares by 2009, an official said.

Togu Manurung, an expert from the Forestry Ministry, said Wednesday that West Nusa Tenggara had set aside only 1,600 hectares, while Yogyakarta and Lampung have designated 1,000 hectares and 6,000 hectares, respectively.

"Since the launch of the program in Dec. 2007, only 8,600 hectares have been dedicated to the community forest program." Togu told The Jakarta Post after a meeting was held in Mataram on Aug. 19 to Aug. 21 to discuss the program.

The program's objective, which was inaugurated by Vice President Jusuf Kalla in Gunung Kidul regency, Yogyakarta, is to empower communities who live around the forests by allowing them to manage and benefit economically from the woodlands as well as to help conserve them.

About 10 million people live on the edges of the forests across the country and most of them are poor people, according to data from the Forestry Ministry.

Communities are unable to secure forest management permits, thus ensuring the target will not be met, Togu said.

According to Forestry Ministry Regulation No. 37/2007, a community must obtain a permit from the Forestry Ministry to manage forests.
Meanwhile, the Forestry Ministry's Director General for Land Rehabilitation and Social Forestry Erna Rosdiana said the local administrations are impeding the communities from obtaining the permits so they are unable to join the program.

"This is evident from the support given to the communities from the administrations. For example, do the local legislative councils even allocate budgets for the program?"

Erna asked after the meeting in Mataram.
The meeting was also attended by officials from West Nusa Tenggara and East Nusa Tenggara as well as activists from several NGOs.

Erna suggested local administrations should cooperate with NGOs in assisting the communities to process the permits while the ministry would allocate the plots of lands.

She urged the public to monitor the program, fearing it could be misused.
"It is possible that local administration heads will give the permits to other parties instead of to the communities. Therefore, the public should demand accountability and transparency," she said.

However, Erna said some regencies, such as West Lampung in Lampung province and Kulon Progo and Gunung Kidul in Yogyakarta, have successfully assisted their residents in joining the program.
The central government has set a national target of 2.1 million hectares for community forest development by 2015.

Bintan official under threat to bribe: Defense

Friday, August 22, 2008

Bintan official under threat to bribe: Defense

Irawaty Wardany , The Jakarta Post , Jakarta Fri, 08/22/2008

Suspended Bintan administration secretary Azirwan, on trial for graft in a forest conversion scheme, on Thursday claimed he had been under pressure to commit bribery.

Azirwan told the Corruption Court that House of Representatives legislator Al Amin Nasution demanded the money, threatening the planned conversion would not be approved by the House's Commission IV, which oversees forestry, and of which Al Amin was a member.

Thursday's hearing was the last before the panel of judges delivers its verdict in two weeks.

The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) alleges Azirwan gave Rp 2.2 billion (US$242,000) to Al Amin to expedite the issuance of a permit to convert a protected forest on Bintan Island into an office complex construction project.

"Based on the facts found in the trial, the defendant gave the money to Al Amin under a threat," Azirwan's lawyer Rusydi Arlond Bakar told the court.
The local administration planned to use 8,300 hectares of protected forest to house the regency's new capital, Bandar Seri Bintan.

Under the forest conversion scheme, any land conversion request must be submitted to the forestry minister by the local administration. The minister then requires approval from Commission IV before issuing a permit.

The KPK arrested Azirwan and Al Amin at a hotel in South Jakarta on April 8, 2008. The arrest came just hours after Commission IV approved the conversion.

"It was Al Amin, not the defendant, who took the initiative by demanding money to expedite the issuance of the forest conversion permit," Rusydi said.

He said his client objected to the demand, but because Al Amin threatened him, he had no choice but to pay the money.
"My client originally rejected the demand, saying the request was exorbitant," Rusydi said.

Witnesses in the trial testified they heard Azirwan complain several times about Al Amin, saying he often demanded large amounts of money.
"He's just like a robber," Rusydi said.

However, prosecutors rejected the defense's plea, saying the defendant had the opportunity to reject the demand for money.

"Since the defendant opted to violate the law by giving the money to Al Amin, he should be held responsible for his actions," prosecutor Suwardji told the court.
He added the defendant's excuse did not justify the crime, nor could it be used to acquit him.

"Therefore we insist on rejecting the defense's plea," Suwardji said.
Al Amin, from the United Development Party, is not the only politician embroiled in the scandal. Four other Commission IV members -- Sudjud Sirajuddin of the National Mandate Party, Hilman Indra of the Crescent Star Party and Azwar Chesputra and Syarfi Hutauruk of the Golkar Party -- and former commission member Yusuf Emir Faishal of the National Awakening Party, as well as Forestry Minister Malam Sambat Kaban, are also implicated in the case.

Eco-police find new target: Oreos

Eco-police find new target: Oreos

Kraft Foods, Kellogg's and other U.S. food producers come under attack as demand for vegetable oil made from palm trees soars.

By Marc Gunther, senior writer
August 21, 2008: 5:52 PM


(Fortune) -- What do Oreo cookies made by Nabisco (KFT, Fortune 500), Cheez-It crackers from Kellogg's (K, Fortune 500) or General Mills' (GIS, Fortune 500) Fiber One Chewy Bars have to do with global warming and the destruction of tropical rainforests? A lot, say environmental activists.

The link between the supermarket shelf, climate change and shrinking rainforests is palm oil, a controversial ingredient that may now be the most widely-traded vegetable oil in the world.

Here's the problem: Demand for palm oil, which is found in soaps and cosmetics as well as food, has more than doubled in the last decade as worldwide food consumption has soared. Farmers, in turn, are expanding their plantations, burning forests in Indonesia and Malaysia, where nearly all of the palm oil imported to the United States originates. Deforestation is the primary reason that Indonesia's greenhouse gas emissions are the third-highest in the world.

The Rainforest Action Network, Greenpeace International, Friends of the Earth and the Center for Science in the Public Interest are all campaigning against palm oil. (You can find their arguments here and here and here and here.) Last week, RAN asked about 2,000 volunteers to sneak into food stores across the United States and attach stickers to products made with palm oil.

"Warning!," the stickers said. "May Contain Rainforest Destruction."
The targets of the RAN campaign are three global agricultural firms that grow or import palm oil: Archer Daniels Midland (ADM, Fortune 500), Cargill and Bunge (BG). The goal of last week's stunt was to get the attention of consumer-goods companies, who are being asked to look into their sourcing of palm oil.

"We're working our way down the food chain," explained Mike Brune, the executive director of RAN. "Most customers won't want rainforest destruction and climate change in every mouthful of cookies or crackers, so our plan is to start with the most prominent brands.

Once we get some of the top brands on our side, we'll use the power of the pocketbook to convince the 'A,B,C's' (ADM, Bunge and Cargill) that destroying rainforests and increasing climate change isn't smart - for business or the planet."

The agribusiness companies say they are doing their best to buy palm oil that is produced with minimal harm to the environment. All are participants in a partnership, formed by the World Wildlife Fund and Unilever (UN), called the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, or RSPO, which is setting standards for palm-oil cultivation.

Said Mark Klein, a Cargill spokesman, by e-mail: "We are currently working towards having all of our company-owned plantations officially RSPO-certified as quickly as possible in 2008." You can read more about Cargill's position here.

The trouble is, critics say, the RSPO principles as they are now written are vague, don't prevent the destruction of rainforests, and are not well-enforced. What's more, only a handful of palm plantations have been certified to date by RSPO.

"There's currently no palm oil in the world that can be proven to be sustainable," said Leila Salazar-Lopez, who leads RAN's agribusiness campaign. The growing use of palm oil in biofuels has made the problem even more urgent.

Caught in the middle of the controversy are the consumer brands. A handful of companies have already made efforts to buy palm oil that is responsibly grown. The Body Shop says that it gets its palm oil from an organic producer in Colombia. Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps, a small firm that makes organic soaps, says that it sources all of its palm oil from small growers in Ghana.

There's precedent for bigger brands to push their suppliers to do better. Several years ago, after Greenpeace attacked McDonald's (MCD, Fortune 500) for buying soy from the Amazon and contributing to deforestation, the fast-food giant persuaded Cargill and Bunge to stop buying soy from newly-cleared areas while the parties come up with a longer-term conservation plan, which is still in the works.

John Buchanan of Conservation International, which works with Bunge and Cargill, says those companies are trying to improve their practices. "I see them as part of the solution," he said. But he agrees with the Rainforest Action Network that buyers of palm oil need to more actively seek out responsible sources. "It's really important for the market to step up and create demand."

The World Wildlife Fund's Jason Clay, author of the an authoritative book called World Agriculture and the Environment, says that, instead of cutting and burning forests to make way for palm plantations, farmers should be encouraged to grow the crop on already cleared land.

"Global production could be doubled by planting palm trees on degraded areas of Borneo," Clay said. "The advantage is that not a tree would have to be cut."



Australia, Indonesia hold talks on logging and fishing

Australia, Indonesia hold talks on logging and fishing

Updated August 22, 2008 ABC Radio, Australia

Illegal logging and proper fishing practices have been the subjects of ministerial talks in Jakarta between Australia's Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tony Burke and his Indonesian counterpart.

Mr Burke says he received strong backing in Indonesia over the need to halt illegal logging and move to sustainable forestry management.

He says this includes working with a community in Kalimantan Borneo to show how income can be made while still involved in forestry and then demonstrating the benefits to the wider community.

Mr Burke says fishing communities are also having the benefits of stopping illegal practices explained to them.

"You need to have information, you need to have education and then you also have to have enforcement."

His visit follows similar talks earlier in the week in PNG.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

FFI

If you have sent FFI an email, please could you send me a copy of it?

I would just like to assess how many of you wrote as requested below.

If you have already copied to me your email to FFI, please don't do so again!

Thank you as always for caring enough to help.

MB: Logging plan is on

2008/08/21 New Straits Times, Malaysia

MB: Logging plan is on

By Noor Adzman

ALOR STAR: Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Azizan Abdul Razak remains adamant about cutting down trees in the Ulu Muda forest reserve to pay for the state's development programmes.

He said yesterday that while he was open to criticism on his proposal to log valuable timber trees, estimated at RM16 billion, others, too, should consider the state's intentions.

"I hear what they have to say but I hope they will also hear us out on our intentions," he said after chairing the weekly state executive council meeting.Azizan was asked to comment on Derga state assemblyman Dr Cheah Soon Hai's recent call for the forest reserve, which is nearly twice the size of Singapore, to be turned into a national park.

Dr Cheah was the latest to flay the state government's decision to log timber at the water catchment area, which is an invaluable source of water supply for industrial, agricultural and domestic use in Kedah, Penang and Perlis.

He described the forest reserve as a repository of biodiversity which could be a major source of income for the state.Others critical of Azizan's logging plan included Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and more than 15 environmental groups, led by Sahabat Alam Malaysia.Azizan said experts in various fields, including environment and drainage, would be consulted before logging was carried out.

"We have a right to decide on the matter and when the time comes, we will log the forest."Azizan also said the state would contribute RM250,000 to the Kedah Chinese Assembly Hall to host the Malaysian Chinese Cultural Show later this year."I have received several calls from certain segments of the Chinese community here for the allocation to be spent on education and other activities."However, we have decided to contribute to the Chinese assembly hall to help them organise the cultural show."

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

SARAWAK

Although I have yet to visit Sarawak I have held an interest in the country's indigenous people for maybe 20 years. If there is an even greater international scandal than what is happening to forests in Indonesia, it is in Sarawak - just over the border.

That said, I'm sure Vietnam, Cambodia, Burma amongst others could be added to the list.

I have friends who are closely involved with the various issues surround logging in Sarawak.

The following web site has been brought to my attention today, but I have no connection with its owners or authors.
http://sarawakheadhunter.blogspot.com/

Orangutans need OUR help - now.

If you have already signed up to receive our news alerts, THANK YOU.

I'm wondering if you might be able to encourage friends to do the same, please? As you can see, we ask people for only a little of their time, and no money. Do you know anyone who could help the orangutans?

If you have not already signed up, please could you take a few moments to return to the top of this page where we have details of our News Alerts and how you can keep up to date - at no cost to you.

The mind has exactly the same power as the hands: not merely to grasp at the world, but to change it. Colin Wilson

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Frequently Asked Questions

I am often asked:

Question: Can I say which orangutan charities are of concern to me, and which are not?

Answer: Sorry, I would prefer not to. Although it was never was my original intention to do so, I am being forced into using my Blog as a means of expressing my personal views on these issues. I do so with a heavy heart and ONLY after giving the groups and people concerned countless chances to be transparent and/or put things right discreetly. Even so, I still hold back a lot of information that might cause discomfort to some people closely involved, but who do not personally deserve this attention.

Question: Do I know of any organisation who will accept paying volunteers. i.e. you pay them for the privilege of being able to work close to orangutans.


Answer: This is an area I have virtually nothing to do with, but I think this organisation may be able to help you. http://www.orangutan-appeal.org.uk/ There may be others I am unaware of, so I do recommend you visit the various web sites.

Killing Kwila trade down under

Killing Kwila trade down under

Source: The Jakarta Post - August 12, 2008
By Duncan Graham, Contributor,

Wellington Conservationists are claiming an early victory in the preservation of Indonesian native forests, not by taking action in the lush forests of Papua and Kalimantan, but by protesting on the streets of Western cities.

Kwila, also known as merbau and ipil, is an Indonesian hardwood much loved in Australia and New Zealand for its durability, color and price. It's particularly popular in outdoor furniture, a much sought after consumer item in these two countries that love open-air recreation and barbecues.

While winter winds cut across Australasia, entertainment is around log fires in well-sealed houses, leaving rain-lashed backyards empty. Once the sun reappears, come Spring, the buyers will be back, though many will not be able to buy their favorite kwila furniture, once present stocks are cleared.

"We've been trying to persuade New Zealanders not to buy furniture made from Indonesian timbers that have been illegally harvested," said Dr. Russel Norman, co-leader of the NZ Green Party and a member of Parliament. "We've been lobbying the shops not to buy kwila furniture for next season.

Of course some don't care, but we are on the point of getting there in terms of making people aware of the issues. "The illegal destruction of forests in Indonesia is a major concern because it's contributing to global warming.

The timber is being cut in Indonesia, then exported to Vietnam and China, where it's made into furniture for export." Kwila grows to 50 meters and was once common in Southeast Asia. Traditionally its bark was used for medicine.

According to the Greens about 80 percent of illegally sourced wood sold in NZ is kwila. The NZ government reckons this trade is costing the NZ forestry industry $NZ 266 million (US$188 million) per year in lost revenue because buyers are not selecting goods made using local timbers.

The trade to Australia is even bigger. Kwila resists termites, a huge problem in that country, making the timber even more desirable. Although Indonesia bans the export of kwila that hasn't been verified as sustainable and legally obtained, conservationists allege the timber is being sent to China using forged documents. Some is made into furniture and sold to Australia and NZ -- a lot has reportedly been used in Beijing Olympic Games venues.

Norman was an invited speaker at an event organized by the Indonesian Embassy in the NZ capital Wellington to promote TV programs on preserving orang-utans in Kalimantan where illegal felling is contributing to destruction of the animals' habitat.

The films, made by Natural History NZ, are being shown internationally on the Discovery channel. Norman urged Indonesia to pay farmers in Kalimantan and Papua not to fell native timbers. "Indonesians want to develop economically," he told the audience. "We've chopped down our native forests and it's not fair to ask Indonesians to do the same without compensation."

NZ banned the felling of native timbers in 2000. Kwila exports aren't the only concern of NZ conservationists. In 1999 NZ imported about 400 tons of palm kernels for cattle feed; that figure has now jumped to more than 400,000 tons as rising milk prices have created a huge demand for dairy products leading to rapid growth in dairy farms.

Large areas of land in Indonesia are being clear felled and turned into palm plantations, mainly for the oil that is now being used to make bio-diesel fuel. The kernels are a by-product. The campaign to stop Kiwis buying furniture made from Indonesian hardwoods, spearheaded by the Indonesian Human Rights Committee in NZ, seems to having an impact.

Harvey Norman stores, a major retail outlet in Australia and NZ and the target of protests in Auckland, has written to the campaigners saying it has stopped buying kwila products and will stop selling goods it has in stock by 31 March next year. Committee spokesperson Maire Leadbeater said the campaign was starting to change the public perception of kwila.

"I do believe that collectively we have made a difference," she said. "The NZ government's recent statements on this issue confirm the close link between illegally logged wood and kwila but unfortunately they are not willing to regulate to stop the imports... yet. "However retailers are quite sensitive to consumer reaction and many have said they won't stock kwila next summer."

Yet another corruption case begins to unfold

Tuesday, August 19, 2008 The Jakarta Post

Yet another corruption case begins to unfold


Dian Kuswandini , The Jakarta Post , Jakarta Tue, 08/19/2008

The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) said Monday it had searched the office of Forestry Minister Malam Sambat Kaban for material evidence in connection with a new graft case.

The Friday raid was also related to a bribery scandal over a mangrove forest conversion in Banyuasin, South Sumatra, in which Kaban was implicated, KPK deputy chairman M. Jasin said.

But Jasin declined to provide information about the new corruption case, nor did he say whether it involved Kaban.

The search drew a protest from the minister, who said the KPK had seized documents that were not related to the Banyuasin forest conversion.
The minister demanded the KPK publicly reveal the documents it had confiscated.

"The search was not only to find evidence on the mangrove forest conversion case, but was also part of our investigation into another case," Jasin said.

He said the KPK could continue its search at the Forestry Ministry to seize further evidence if preliminary investigations indicated that was necessary.
"We don't just carry out a search without authority. Our searches are always based on Article 12 of the KPK law," Jasin said in response to Kaban's protest.

Article 12 of the KPK law gives the commission the right to arrest and detain someone, conduct searches and seize evidence in any corruption case it is investigating. The law also stipulates that the search procedure refers to the 1981 law on criminal procedure.

"We have already carried out hundreds of searches and none of them was found to be a violation. Why is this one being made an issue?" Jasin said.
During Friday's raid, KPK investigators broke into the offices of the Forestry Ministry secretary-general and members of the general affairs, finance and planning divisions.

The KPK had previously said the search was an extension of an investigation into alleged bribery related to the conversion of a mangrove forest for the construction of the Tanjung Api-Api seaport in Banyuasin.
The case has implicated two members of the House of Representatives' Commission IV overseeing forestry, agriculture and fisheries: Yusuf Emir Faisal of the National Awakening Party (PKB) and Sarjan Taher of the Democratic Party (PD).

In the South Sumatra administration master plan, the Tanjung Api-Api mangrove forest is a protected area. The construction of the Tanjung Api-Api seaport is scheduled to finish by July next year.

Kaban has said the forest conversion was legitimate under the law.
Yusuf, the husband of famous singer Hetty Koes Endang, admitted he accepted money in relation to the Banyuasin conversion project, but said he had handed the money over to the PKB in accordance with party regulations.

According to Yusuf's lawyer Sela Salomo, his client received Rp 800 million (US$87,500) from an unknown party, Rp 300 million of which he handed over to then PKB treasurer Aries Djuanedi.

The remaining Rp 500 million was given to deputy party chairman Muamir Muin Syam, Sela said.

Yusuf is the sixth lawmaker to be declared a suspect in the case this year. The KPK earlier arrested Saleh Djasit and Hamka Yandhu of the Golkar Party, Al Amin Nasution of the United Development Party (PPP) and Sarjan and Bulyan Royan of the Reform Star Party (PBR) in separate corruption cases.

Kaban recently defied two KPK summonses for questioning as a witness in the embezzlement of Rp 100 billion from the central bank.

Monday, 18 August 2008

SARAWAK - new campaign web site

Curious about Sarawak?

Then please visit this web site - http://www.whatrainforest.com/ - feel free to share it with your friends.

Feeling the heat already, and it is going to get a lot hotter yet.

One large organisation who had up to now been rather less than helpful or forthcoming, within hours of my recent postings below they sent me more details about their organisation's activities. Perhaps the timing was just a coincidence, but then again, they would have known they were soon to be named.

Like almost all big organisations in this field of work, they have big plans to show what they will be doing in the future, and even bigger budgets, but little to show for what money has already been spent.

I'm never sure when such groups reply to me if they really believe what they are saying or, just hoping that a good PR letter full of wishful thinking and politically correct words might keep people like me satisfied. Sadly, this latest letter I'm referring to is big on PR and small on substance: It leaves me dissatisfied.

I mean, if you were based in Indonesia and had a couple of million dollars (about £1,000,000), even a million dollars to spend (this year alone) on orangutan conservation, wouldn't you expect to be saving a lot of orangutans and even rainforest's? Well, I can think of at least three organisations with these kind of budgets, but whose effectiveness I am questioning. Why? Because I don't see them saving orangutans or rainforest's, but I do see lots of expenditure I consider at this moment in time to be at least questionable - so this is what I am doing; questioning where all this money is being spent.

The sums of money mentioned above are large by any standard. In Indonesia, US$1,000,000 would go maybe seven to ten times further than in any non-Asian country. i.e the USA. Bearing this in mind, don't you wonder why it is the orangutan population continues to decline? How many big household name groups have you heard say they have saved this forest or these orangutans?

WWF likes to talk up their Heart of Borneo project, which may well do some good one day, but it is yet another 'big' fundraising project that will take years to evaluate, by which time a few million more pounds/dollars will have been spent. I mean, if WWF cannot Save the Tiger, what can they save? Do you want to trust them with orangutans and your money?

Thank you

I wish to thank all of you who have sent me kind and encouraging emails concerning my disclosures below.

Sadly, there are more disclosures to come. If I had the time I'd write a book, but I'm not convinced many people want to know what happens with their money once they make a donation - which I find extraordinary. It's what you might call AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH

The ineffectiveness of some conservation groups is simply breathtaking. It appears to me the more money they have, the less effective they become. And if someone like me did not alert people to such things, how would you ever know?

If there are any doubters still out there, please could you just reflect on this for a few moments: if big budget groups like WWF, etc. were actually saving any orangutans - why does the population still keep crashing? The only answer some groups seem to have is to ask people like you for more money.

If you have not already done so, please could you write to Mark Rose and Terry Irwin as mentioned below - for the reasons indicated?

If all you do is to read this Blog - know this, reading will not change a thing. Rather than give you this news and leave you feeling helpless, I am trying to empower everyone to help and - make a difference.

There are people who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who wonder what happened.


Saturday, 16 August 2008

A quest for Transparency, accountability and results. It's all about MONEY, lots of it being spent, but on what?

In all my travels to Indonesia using my own time and money, I have been shocked to see how ineffective in my personal opinion, so many charitable organisations are with saving orangutans. In the coming weeks it is my intention to explain to you what I have found.

If millions of pounds are being raised every year for orangutans conservation, but the population still declines by 2500 - 3000 every year, it's clear something is going wrong somewhere. The book I recommend above, but had nothing to do with its publication, makes mention of a number of similar concerns to those I am raising.

I have come across some organisations who are doing all they can to avoid my questions about their finances.

There are others who blatantly don't care about orangutans being held illegally - in their own towns. They refuse to help them.

There is a major international organisation that has given out tens of thousands of pounds and has no idea if the projects it was meant to support have been successful. There is no reporting procedure in place.

I know of an American organisation who funds a very secretive small group of people who have done everything they can to avoid answering questions like, 'well, please can you tell me, what do you do with all this money?' They have also been unable to present any financial accounts, and the US sponsor seems not to care.

I know of an organisation who appear to spend 75% of their multi-million funds on what they call 'support work to achieve their self-professed goal of helping to save orangutans. By this they could mean travel, saleries, etc. - we can only guess because they won't say.

I know of an Indonesian Forestry official who claims to have a report stating 32 orangutans currently held in very inhumane conditions, which we want to help, are better off where they are, rather than in a rescue/rehab centre. There is no such report - he does not give a damn about these orangutans. No one from his department went anywhere near these orangutans, so how could they have made a report on them? As bad as this is, he is also the official representative of an international great ape organisation associated with UNEP.

And there is a lot more than this you need to know. After all, it's your money they are spending, most probably the bulk of it on themselves......when the heads of organisations managing public
donations refuse to explain their finances, don't you wonder why?