Feb 03
Orangutan Mother and Child Rescued from Massacre in Oil Palm Plantation and Released into an Ecosystem Restoration Area, Kehje Sewen Forest, East Kalimantan

Orangutan Mother and Child Rescued from Massacre in Oil Palm Plantation and Released into an Ecosystem Restoration Area, Kehje Sewen Forest, East Kalimantan

22_Menemukan Suci & Sri

Two orangutans (mother and child) were rescued on January 22, 2012 and released on January 25, 2012 in Kehje Sewen Forest, in the Regency of East Kutai, East Kalimantan. Kehje Sewen is a forest ecosystem restoration concession (HPH-RE). The right to manage this area has been awarded to PT RHOI.
Jakarta, February 2, 2012. After nearly a week combing several oil palm plantations in the regency of Kutai Kartanegara, East Kalimantan, the Rescue and Release Operation which began on Tuesday, January 17, 2012 finally paid off. On Sunday, January 22, 2012, the Rescue Team, which was a joint-team of staff from PT Restorasi Habitat Orangutan Indonesia (RHOI), Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOSF), and The Office of Conservation and Natural Resources of East Kalimantan (BKSDA EastKal), managed to save two orangutans (mother and child) in the oil palm plantation of PT Bakacak Himba Bahari (BHB).

A day earlier, the Rescue Team, led by Dr. Aldrianto Priadjati as RHOI Deputy Director of Conservation, had been combing the area but only found a few orangutan nests that were estimated to have been built 2-3 days before. On Sunday morning, January 22, 2012, the Rescue Team received anonymous information that there was a group of people chasing two orangutans in the area of BHB since the night before. Thus the Rescue Team returned to search the BHB area.

The Rescue Team arrived just in time. When the team arrived at the informed location, a group of people were visibly ready with machetes and ropes to catch these two orangutans. Seeing the presence of a team that was also accompanied by officials from BKSDA EastKal – Ahmad Ripai and Ridho – they immediately released the machetes and ropes, allowing the team to conduct the rescue.

The mother orangutan, estimated to be 25 years old, looked exhausted, so there was no resistance when the vet, drh. Agus Irwanto of East Kalimantan Orangutan Reintroduction Program Samboja Lestari – accompanied by Hendro and Muliyono, two technicians from Central Kalimantan Orangutan Reintroduction Program Nyaru Menteng – approached and sedated her. She just hugged her daughter, aged 6 years, very tightly. This behavior is contrary to the behavior of wild orangutans in general, where it is not possible for humans to simply approach them. This suggests that the mother was exhausted after being chased through the night.

According to our informant, the poachers were not local residents, which was apparent from their accent and manner of communicating.  They seemed pleased when the team arrived; and even helped save the orangutans. But when the team thanked them and walked away without giving anything in return, their faces changed. It was clear that they expected something from the rescue.

Having checked their health, both orangutans were implanted with identity chips and the orangutan mother was then fitted with a radio transmitter that will be used for further monitoring. Both orangutans will be monitored regularly for several months to make sure that they’ve adjusted to their new home, in Kehje Sewen Forest.

“As a tribute to Dr. Sri Suci Utami, a leading primatologist in Indonesia who had also supported the team in this operation, the orangutans were named Suci (mother) and Sri (daughter),” said Dr. Priadjati.  We further discovered that Suci is also about 3 months pregnant. “This is good news, because it means that in a few months, one more orangutan will be born in Kehje Sewen Forest,” added drh. Irwanto.

The radio transmitter was donated by an animal welfare organization – Vier Pfoten – also known as Four Paws. In addition, Vier Pfoten also funded this activity entirely.

After the chip and radio transmitter had been implanted, Suci and Sri were taken to Kehje Sewen by road.  The team stopped regularly to do routine checks along the way, ensuring the wellbeing of the orangutans.  To access Kehje Sewen, the team must go through the town of Muara Wahau in East Kutai Regency, then continue on to Pelangsiran, a transit area for agarwood and bird nest collectors, which is right on the border of Kehje Sewen Forest.  After that, the team entered the Kehje Sewen Forest and to a designated release location, called Gunung Belah.

With unpredictable weather, the team traveled to the release location in harsh conditions and encountered many obstacles such as tracks that were badly damaged, slippery and muddy, landslides, broken bridges and several rivers that must be crossed with limited tools and mode of transportation. Due to these conditions, on arrival at the site of Gunung Belah, the team decided to bring Suci and Sri to their release point in the forest on a stretcher, because it was impossible to carry them in cages.

In the forest, Suci and Sri woke up from anesthesia and after a recovery period they began climbing up into the trees. They looked carefree and happy, swinging among branches of the trees.

The Rescue and Release Operation was completed successfully. The Rescue Team returned safely to their respective homelands. This activity was initiated from the goodwill of East Kalimantan provincial government, with a meeting between BOSF, RHOI and BKSDA EastKal with oil palm companies in East Kalimantan that belong to the Indonesian Palm Oil Association (GAPKI). The meeting, held on Saturday, January 14, 2012 eventually resulted in the formation of a Rescue Team seconded to BKSDA by the BOS Foundation, with the aim to find and save wild orangutans from oil palm plantations.

But the Rescue and Release Operation is not without consequences. “Releasing wild orangutans in Kehje Sewen Forest resulted in reduced area which was originally prepared for rehabilitated orangutans. RHOI requires more land for orangutans. RHOI has filed Ecosystem Restoration (RE) permit applications for additional lands in East Kalimantan and Central Kalimantan, but the process seems to run into various obstacles. Government support is needed to accelerate this process, so that rehabilitated orangutans that are now lining up in BOSF rehabilitation centers can be immediately released,” said Prof. Dr. Bungaran Saragih, as BOSF Chairman of the Board of Trustees.

In addition, the private sector, especially companies / oil palm plantations, in fact have a great responsibility in orangutan conservation efforts. The biggest challenge now is to make the private sector aware of this and get serious commitment from them.  Most companies in Indonesia tend to oversimplify the process of natural resource management and charge environmental costs to other parties. Yet logically, externalities or negative impacts of a business should be included as part of the company’s own operational costs.

“Over recent years until now, the orangutan population has dropped dramatically and is on the verge of extinction. Saving wild orangutans from potential conflict with humans is only a short-term solution. Commitment and involvement of all parties, especially the private sector whose businesses intersect with their presence, is necessary to enforce the law and conserve the orangutans,” said Tandya Tjahjana, Head of BKSDA EastKal.

“We also still need a lot of financial support from various parties to continue the struggle to preserve the orangutan and its habitat,” added Dr. Signe Preuschoft, a primate expert from Vier Pfoten and concurrently advisor to BOSF.

In this new year 2012, Suci and Sri also get a new hope to return to live freely and safely in their habitat. The Orangutan Rescue and Release Operation, held in cooperation with RHOI, BOSF and BKSDA EastKal, with support from the Governments of East Kalimantan Province and East Kutai Regency, as well as Vier Pfoten, successfully demonstrated that the synergy between development and conservation is feasible and therefore should be mandatory.


Aug 24
Saving Forests with Carrots as well as Sticks – Part 2

August 20, 2010

by Tensie Whelan, President of Rainforest Alliance

Part 1 of this blog overviewed the recent rise of robust interdiction of illegal logging, including stronger laws recently passed in the US and the EU, and an emerging trend towards stronger enforcement. These recent developments are significant signs we’re getting serious about protecting forests, and they have been one factor among others in cutting illegal logging by 25% in the last decade. 

But there are other important factors in the current gains that we shouldn’t ignore, because they will be decisive in future gains. They include better due-diligence tracking, building markets for voluntary sustainability certification regimes and sourcing practices, encouraging higher industry CSR standards and greater consumer demand for legal and sustainable wood products, plus positive incentives for forest preservation. It will take all these factors working together with interdiction to cut illegal logging all the way to zero.

In other words, we need carrots as well as sticks. Protecting forests is not only or even primarily a question of policing bad actors; it’s mainly a question of shifting the future of the global forestry onto a positive, sustainable path.

One good example is built into the ban on illegal logging passed by the EU last month. In addition to negative penalties and stronger enforcement, it also provides a new set of due-diligence monitoring requirements for all importers and traders of wood products, requiring them to track the provenance and prove the legality of wood they source from abroad. The supply chains are often very complicated, with some wood being sold at auction, which makes it challenging to track from the forest to the manufacturer. 

On that front, my organization
the Rainforest Alliance helped pioneer independent, third-party legality verification for wood producing and processing industries around the world. RA and our European partner NEPCon specialize in verification services and tools for companies to improve their due diligence, and we’re also building new ones, like a new Global Forest Risk Registry risk assessment platform. Demanding better tracking and transparency and making better tools available will make it harder for illegally sourced wood to creep into supply chains. That builds confidence in the legal market and makes enforcement more viable not only by catching cheaters, but much more often, by positively verifying legally sourced wood. 

Another key factor that will take global forestry beyond just penalizing bad actors is the UN’s REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) scheme, which provides strong positive incentives for forest preservation. Under REDD 37 producer (mainly tropical) countries would be paid some $14 billion from consumer countries by 2015. The purpose of the payments is to help them reduce their carbon emissions by changing their logging and other forestry practices. Among other things, the money helps offset the short-term perverse incentives they would otherwise have to clear their forests for the timber money or to make room for slash-and-burn agriculture.

France and Norway have already pledged $3.5 billion by 2012. When fully functioning, REDD payments would far outstrip current international aid and be a key factor in developing economies. This is a bargain because it could reduce global carbon emissions 17-20% — more than the entire global transport system currently emits. 

Voluntary regimes for third-party independent certification of sustainable forestry such as the non-profit, multi-stakeholder
Forest Stewardship Council, established in 1993, have been and will be major factors both in stopping illegal logging and making legal forestry sustainable. Only a small fraction of the world’s remaining forests are parks or government preserve. The vast majority are privately owned, working forests. FSC certification places these under a strict sustainability regime that ensures sustainable livelihoods while preserving forests and habitats and cutting carbon emissions. 

To date about 335 million acres and counting (the land area equivalent of California plus the entire American southwest) of forest around the world are FSC certified. This has made a significant contribution to the recent decline in illegal logging. In fact, FSC certification can be much more effective at preventing encroachment and preserving forests than government protected areas. This was the case in Guatemala’s
Mayan Biosphere Reserve, where the FSC management areas were much better preserved and many times safer from encroachment and fires than adjacent government-preserved areas. 

Voluntary certification regimes like FSC give companies positive incentives to conserve forests, because they offer efficient management, a transparent supply chain, a way to build consumer loyalty and a more profitable operation. In the wake of the Lacey Act and EU ban on illegal logging, they will be doubly attractive as compliance tools. This not only encourages more acreage to come under certified sustainable management, it’s also helping build new markets for sustainable forestry in key emerging economies, including in China.

So although ramped up government interdiction, better spy satellites and stiffer penalties are deservedly in the media spotlight today, interdiction is necessary but not sufficient. It will only take us so far, because we aren’t going to be able police all logging on billions of acres of forest worldwide, any more than we can outlaw the forest-based livelihoods a billion people worldwide depend on. If we tried, we’d only get more illegal logging. 

The key is to use a coordinated combination of sticks and carrots to build a viable system of incentives and disincentives that puts forest-based livelihoods on a sustainable footing, using best practices for habitat protection, sustainable harvesting and carbon sequestration. That’s the way to realize the potential for new forestry reforms to cut global carbon emissions deeply, zero out illegal logging and protect our climate, forests, biodiversity, economies and livelihoods. 

The current junction in the history of the long fight to stop forest loss and preserve what’s left is an auspicious one, because after decades of work, ramped up interdiction is coinciding with ramped up monitoring, voluntary regimes, best practices and positive incentives that are reaching global scale and critical mass. That amounts to a genuine bright spot in the struggle for a sustainable future.

Aug 24
Saving Forests with Carrots as well as Sticks – Part 1

Author: Tensie Whelan, President of Rainforest Alliance

August 19, 2010

Forests cover about a third of Earth’s land area and contain about 70% of the carbon found in living things. They are one of the keys to climate change, especially tropical forests, which also harbor 95% of the planet’s terrestrial biodiversity and 40% of terrestrial carbon, and are responsible for at least one-third of the annual exchange of carbon dioxide between the biosphere and the atmosphere. Today deforestation and forest degradation accounts for 20% of global atmospheric carbon emissions, and the bulk of that comes from tropical countries.

Protecting forests, especially tropical forests, is one of the most cost-effective ways there is to reduce emissions as well as preserve biodiversity. Yet globalization has accelerated the alarming rate at which we have been losing forests worldwide, including sensitive tropical forests in Latin America, Asia and Africa.

Agriculture (especially soy, oil palm, cattle, bio-fuels, and fast growing, short rotation plantation timber for pulp/paper) is the leading cause of deforestation. But illegal logging is probably the most pernicious and visible cause of forest degradation, which is defined as the reduction of tree biomass over time through over-extraction, poor management and/or illegal harvesting of valuable timber. Degradation accounts for roughly 20% of carbon emissions from tropical forests, so illegal logging is a significant contributor to global warming, in addition to the other forms environmental damage it causes, from habitat loss to erosion and flooding. It has been implicated, for example, in the severity of the floods in Pakistan.

It’s also big business. Illegally harvested timber represents 20 to 40 percent of global production of industrial wood (460 million to 850 million cubic yards) according to the UN. Most illegal logging occurs in particularly vulnerable regions such as the Amazon Basin, central Africa, southeast Asia and Russia, according to the EU. From producer countries, it may pass through downstream manufacturers before eventually making its way to consumer countries — that is, into the hands unwitting shoppers like you and me. Cheap wood products whose wood comes from inscrutable, unverified sources may seem like a bargain to us individually, yet they come with hidden costs to all of us, including accelerated climate change, loss of habitat and biodiversity and the loss of sustainable livelihoods which depend on intact forests.

Organizations like mine have been fighting forest loss since the awareness broke in the 1980s of the crisis in the Amazon rainforests. But now there is evidence that the fight is starting to go our way, and the tide is turning. A new study by the UK think tank Chatham House shows that over the past decade, the efforts of governments, NGOs and the private sector around the world have actually cut global illegal logging by 25%, including whopping 50-75% drops in the Brazilian Amazon, Cameroon and Indonesia. Imports of illegally sourced wood to the seven wood consumer and wood processing countries studied are now down 30 percent from their peak in 2004. As a result 42 million acres of forest over the past few years — roughly the same land area as the state of Illinois – and at least 1.2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions have been saved.

These dramatic gains, and the even bigger ones we must achieve in the near future, are due to a couple of factors. One important one, though by no means the only one, is government interdiction – tougher laws and tougher enforcement.

In 2008, the United States passed the Lacey Act, making it the first country to adopt a criminally enforceable ban on all trade in illegally sourced plants and plant products including furniture, paper and lumber. The law requires importers to indicate origin of wood products, and to pay stiff penalties if they can’t or won’t, and even risk jail time if they knowingly import illegal wood.

This summer, the European Parliament followed suit and voted for a similar ban on the import and sale of illegally harvested timber. It may seem surprising, but it is not currently illegal to sell wood or wood products in the EU that was cut down illegally in the country of origin. The new ban will change that. The European Council still has to formally approve it, individual EU states will set the penalties, and the ban won’t actually go into effect until 2012. But together with the US Lacey Act the EU ban will soon close big loopholes that have been allowing illegal timber into consumer markets. They have the potential to significantly reduce the volume of illegal wood traded and imported into consumer countries, and to reduce the negative impacts of illegal logging on producer countries, which include corruption, poverty, unsustainable use of resources, loss of sustainable livelihoods, and lasting damage to their economies as well as to their environments. 

The producer countries are precisely those developing countries whose economies and ecologies are most vulnerable and most damaged by illegal logging. That’s why it’s so important that the changes in the EU and the US are coinciding with a new trend towards further tightening of laws and enforcement in producer countries. For example, Brazil recently announced current Amazon deforestation has fallen 20% over last year’s rate, and is only about a fifth of the 2004 rate. The Brazilian government attributes this partly to declining commodity prices, but also to much tougher enforcement, including new satellite photography technology that allows them to spot illegal logging even in cloudy weather. In the wake of the EU illegal logging ban, Liberia just agreed to interdict exports of illegal lumber to any EU member country, setting up a new system to monitor logging and downstream milling and manufacturing of its timber.

So the recent upturn in government interdiction and enforcement is an important factor in gains against illegal logging over the past decade. But there are also other important factors to consider. Interdiction has not done it alone and will not be enough in the future. We have learned by experience in the Amazon and elsewhere that simply outlawing logging by government fiat ultimately won’t be enough to protect the world’s forests – too many people (a billion) rely on extracting forest resources for their livelihoods, and too little of the world’s forests can be effectively policed by governments anyway. Protecting them reliably will require not only big sticks, but big carrots as well – ramped up positive incentives for managing forests properly that are at least as powerful as ramped up laws and enforcement to deter abuse. The carrots are explained in Part 2 of this blog.

Aug 24
Indonesian govt says no to converting peatland into plantations

Govt says no to converting peatland into plantations

Adianto P. Simamora, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Mon, 08/23/2010 9:45 AM | Headlines

Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan has turned down a request by the Central Kalimantan provincial administration to develop 127,000 hectares of peatland production forest for oil palm and mining sites.

The request was made by Central Kalimantan Governor Agustin Teras Narang and Katingan Regent Duel Rawing.

“Zulkifli rejected the request because peatland forests in Katingan are to be allocated for conservation projects,” Hadi Daryanto, the ministry’s director general of production forest development told The Jakarta Post on Saturday.

Central Kalimantan has the largest area of peatland of all the provinces. The peatland stores huge amounts of carbon.

Last month, UN climate adviser and philanthropist George Soros visited Katingan to inspect peatlands in the area, but Hadi was quick to point out that Soros’s visit had nothing to do with the government’s rejection.

The governments of Indonesia and Norway signed a letter of intent (LoI) on a climate deal in May requiring Indonesia, the world’s third-largest forest nation, to slow down forest loss. In return, Indonesia would receive US$1 billion from Norway under a climate change scheme.

The government would stop issuing new permits to convert natural forest and peatland for two years starting in 2011 with the pilot project for the moratorium to be announced in October at the latest.

A source told the Post that Central Kalimantan would likely host the pilot project.

Indonesia has 120 million hectares of forest, but the country’s deforestation rate hovers at 1 million hectares per year.

Zulkifli has repeatedly claimed he had not issued any permit to convert peatland for commercial purposes since he took office last year.

The 2007 Spatial Law prohibits the conversion of peatland with a depth of more than 3 meters.

Hadi said the ministry would implement new forestry mechanisms to shift income from selling timbers to ecosystem restoration projects. “Indonesia is the first country to implement the so-called innovative forestry mechanism,” he said.

The conservation projects would be held in former logging areas to restore damaged ecosystems and biodiversity.

Concession holders can reap money from trading in carbon in the forests, environmental services or opening ecotourism sites in the area.

“They could still be allowed to harvest timber, but it would not be their core business,” he said.

The permit for ecosystem restoration projects would be valid for 60 years and could be extended for another 35 years.

The ministry is looking to allocate 500,000 hectares per year for ecosystem restoration activities.

A map issued by the ministry indicates that conservationists could run ecosystem restoration projects in 40 million hectares in the country.

So far this year, the ministry has issued permits to PT Restorasi Ekosistem Indonesia (REKI) in Jambi and South Sumatra with 98,000 hectares and another 86,450 hectares to PT Orangutan Habitat Restoration Indonesia in the East Kutai district of East Kalimantan.

Aug 24

Orangutans in rehabilitation to get new homes in Kalimantan

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Tue, 08/24/2010 9:19 AM | National
With a permit already in hand, PT Orangutan Habitat Restoration Indonesia (ROI) is preparing to release orangutans into Borneo jungles after years of being held in rehabilitation centers.

The Forestry Ministry awarded a ROI license to restore 86,450 hectares of former timber concession area in East Kutai district, East Kalimantan, to be the new home for rehabilitated orangutans. 

“We target the gradual release to start in April 2011 at the latest,” chairman of Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOSF) Togu Manurung told The Jakarta Post.

There are currently 226 orangutans held in captivity in the BOSF rehabilitation center in East Kalimantan. The BOSF set up ROI when the government allowed only the company to propose permits for ecosystem restoration projects.

He said that the new area was located 750 meters above sea level and well-stocked with tree species to provide shelter and food for wild orangutans.

The BOSF also rehabilitated some 612 orangutans in its Central Kalimantan center.

Togu said the release of orangutans in Central Kalimantan was expected to start from November in cooperation with timber company of PT Akhates Plywood.

“The plan is to return some 40 orangutans back to their habitat in the jungle by November, the forest fruit season,” he said.

The company currently proposed an additional area of some 23,000 hectares in East Kalimantan and 200,000 hectares in Central Kalimantan.

BOSF chairman of board of trustee, Bungaran Saragih asserted that ROI would not harvest trees in its concession areas.

“We are committed to protecting the orangutans. They need forests. They have been living in the rehabilitation centers for too long,” he told the Post on Saturday.

Bungaran, who was former forestry and agriculture minister, admitted the high costs to conserve orangutans, whose population sharply declined due to the expansion of oil palm plantations and mining sites, among others.

He said ROI would spend at least two years monitoring the daily activities of released orangutans in its new habitat to ensure that they could survive in the area. 

“We should teach [orangutans] survival skills for the wild. Some have been in the rehabilitation center for about nine years,” he said.

The government pledged to release every orangutan into forests. In the last 35 years, about 50,000 orangutans have died due to deforestation and habitat loss, government data shows. 

About 90 percent of orangutans live in Borneo and Sumatra. It is estimated there are 6,667 orangutans in Sumatra, mostly in the Leuser ecosystem, and 54,567 in Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of Borneo.

The remaining 10 percent are in Sabah and Sarawak, Malaysia. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature said the orangutan species native to Kalimantan was endangered. Orangutans in Sumatra are also critically endangered.

JP/Adianto P. Simamora
Aug 24

Aug 23, 2010

Sally Kneidel, Ph.D

Pet trade threatens orangutan survival

“Having a pet orangutan is a status symbol,” I was told by my Indonesian friend Ria, who lives and works in Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital. Doesn’t matter if the animal lives in a small, dirty cage behind the house, which most do; it’s still a social asset to have one.

That’s too bad, because the local, national, and international demand for young orangutans as pets is a major threat to the survival of both species: the Bornean orangutan and Sumatran orangutan.  Since both are endangered, they are theoretically protected by law from commercial trade.  However, in Indonesia, these laws are mostly ignored.

Habitat loss remains the single biggest threat to orangutans,but as it turns out, the pet trade and deforestation are closely linked.

At the market, I was offered an orangutan and a leopard

Almost every Indonesian city has a bird or wildlife market, where legal and illegal species are sold by independent vendors to anyone who can pay. I went to 4 of these markets during my Asian travels, including Indonesia’s biggest market – Pramuka, in downtown Jakarta. I hired an Indonesian from “ProFauna Indonesia” (a wildlife conservation NGO in Jakarta) to go with me as my guide and translator.

We saw plenty of wild-caught primates, birds, reptiles, and small mammals at Pramuka. But we didn’t see any orangutans. We were, however, offered ababy orangutan for the price of 20-25 million IDR ($2200-2800) and an adult orangutan for 30 million IDR ($3300). Pramuka is famous for its network of homes behind the market (referred to as “in the back”) where especially valuable or illegal animals are kept safely out of sight until a sale is made.

Vendors often keep photos of their illegal (endangered and thus protected) animals on their cell phones, to show interested buyers. For example, we were shown a photo of an available baby leopard that the vendor said was “in the back.” The leopard was offered to us for 80 million IDRs ($8800), although the vendor called it a “Javan tiger” to justify the price. [Javan tigers are actually extinct, although many potential buyers may not know that.]

The majority of vendors would not talk to us about orangutans they might or might not have, because I was not in one of the demographic groups that typically buy animals (Chinese and Koreans are likely to buy, they said. Australians, Europeans, and Americans just look.) But this one vendor did talk to us about orangs – the one who quoted us prices. He said that he didn’t have an orangutan on the spot, but “could bring it directly,” if we had the money. Since we didn’t slap down the money, we didn’t get to see it.

For forest-dwellers, orangutans are valuable trade commodities

Although orangutan sales in the past may have been concentrated at wildlife markets, nowadays sales often occur at other locations. Pet orangutans may be moved from the interior of the country to more developed coastal towns, or professional traders may travel to a remote area and buy or order young orangutans to transport to populated areas. According to TRAFFIC’s Victor Nijman, most forest-dwelling people in Indonesia know the commercial value of an infant orangutan. Given the absence of effective law enforcement, few will resist the opportunity to obtain an infant to sell.  In a country where more than half the population survives on $2/day or less, young orangutans are regarded as valuable trade commodities.

Unchecked timber industry yields orangutans for market

The hunting and capturing of orangutans for the pet trade is, in a way, a by-product of the timber trade and the conversion of forests to palm-oil plantations. As roads are created to provide access to not-yet plundered forests, these arboreal red apes become more accessible to humans with guns. Newly exposed mothers are often shot to obtain their infants. As trees are felled, orangutans may be killed or they may become stranded and vulnerable to capture.

Up to 15 orangutans die to get one live infant to market

TRAFFIC published a number of estimates of the “loss rate” – the number of orangutans killed in order to get one live orang to a village or city where it can be sold. Quite often both mother and infant are killed if the mother is shot from a tree and falls, so another mother is shot to try again. That’s a loss rate of 3. And in shipping the infants, 5 may be packed in one crate in hopes that one animal will arrive alive. If 4 die, that pushes the loss rate to 7. Some researchers estimate average loss rates as high as 15! (See the 2009 paper listed below for more about loss rate assessments.)

The situation is frustrating, and even incomprehensible in some ways. What is the Indonesian government doing to stop this “harvesting” of orangutans like they were ears of corn?

Indonesia is a trade center due to lax enforcement of wildlife laws

Here’s a fact that surprises most Americans: the illegal trade in animals and animal parts is the 3rd biggest black market in the world, behind drugs and arms (according to Interpol).

Indonesia is an epicenter of this illegal trade, because of the country’s rich tropical biodiversity and because of the laissez-faire attitude of the Indonesian government. Although the country has enacted a range of laws and regulations to protect species and limit deforestation, the government fails to enforce these laws effectively. Indonesia is also a Party to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), and all orangutans are listed in Appendix I, which prohibits all international commercial trade of these species among contracting Parties. Yet this treaty, like the local legislation, is generally ignored. I was told by several Indonesian conservation workers that if an Indonesian is found to possess a pet orangutan, the chances of having the animal confiscated or of facing prosecution are extremely low. Rather, the pet owner can, upon discovery of his pet, probably obtain a permit from the government that will allow him to legally keep the orangutan.

TRAFFIC researcher Victor Nijman found that, in spite of existing laws and treaties, the number of confiscated orangutans being delivered to rescue centers and the number of new arrivals at local zoos has remained more or less steady over the last 15 years, suggesting that the brisk trade in orangutans is not decreasing.

What should be done?

“TRAFFIC: the wildlife trade monitoring network” is very active in Southeast Asia and has studied the situation closely and made several recommendations that seem to hit the nail on the head. Their published papers are excellent sources of information. (See “Sources” below.) When I got home from my journey, I sent TRAFFIC copies of all my wildlife-market photos and videos, in case they might be helpful. They’re working hard; I want to help!

TRAFFIC’s recommendations for reducing the trade in orangutans are as follows (I’ve condensed and abbreviated):

1. Better protection of the remaining forest is needed – through the Indonesian government, land concession holders (timber and palm-oil companies), and landowners.

2.Wildlife protection laws need to be enforced more effectively.

3. Handing out registration letters to make pets “legal” needs to be stopped immediately. Persons whose protected wildlife is confiscated should face legal charges as a deterrent to others.

4. The relationship between poaching of orangutans and illegal logging should be more thoroughly assessed.

5. The major ports of Indonesia should be monitored more stringently to curb international sales of orangutans.

6. Co-operation between the government and NGOs that work to protect orangutans and rehabilitate confiscated orphans should be increased.

7. Bold and innovative approaches are needed to educate the public with regard to buying, selling, and keeping protected wildlife as pets.

(See the 2005b paper listed below for more about these recommendations.)

Sources for this post and for additional information:

Victor Nijman. 2005a. Hanging in the Balance: An Assessment of Trade in Orang-utans and Gibbons on Kalimantan, Indonesia. A TRAFFIC Southeast Asia report.

Victor Nijman. 2009. An Assessment of Trade in Gibbons and Orang-utans in Sumatra, Indonesia. A TRAFFIC Southeast Asia report.

Victor Nijman. June 2005b. In Full Swing: An Assessment of Trade in Orangutans and Gibbons on Java and Bali. A TRAFFIC Southeast Asia report.

Serge A. Wich et al. 2008. Distribution and conservation status of the orang-utan (Pongospp.) on Borneo and Sumatra: how many remain? Fauna and Flora International. Oryx42(3):329-339.

Eric Meijaard et al. August 11, 2010. Hunting a key factor in Orangutan’s decline. TRAFFIC home page.

Aug 24

Malaysian planters urged to take cue from Sinar Mas case

By Amy Chew

Tuesday August 24, 2010

JAKARTA: Malaysian palm oil producers should heed the case of Sinar Mas Group where claims of forest destruction committed by its palm oil unit, PT Smart, led international consumer companies, including Unilever, to stop buying palm oil from the company, said environmentalists.

According to Greenpeace, Malaysian palm oil producers operating in Indonesia could suffer the same fate if they did not practice sustainable palm oil production.

“What happened to Sinar Mas can also happen to Malaysian companies who own about 30% of the palm oil companies in Indonesia,” said Bustar Maitar, Greenpeace South-East Asia forest campaigner team leader.

Unilever told StarBiz yesterday they would not be resuming purchase of PT Smart’s crude palm oil (CPO) for the time being.

“We would like to see additional measures to be taken to ensure sustainable palm oil production,” Sher Afzal Masari, Unilever corporate relations director for Asia, Africa, Middle East and Turkey, said.

Masari said Unilver would like Smart’s parent company, Golden Agri Resources (GAR), to have Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certification for “all of its palm oil plantations.”

“We would also like GAR to set a target date for the certification,” Masari added.

Greenpeace’s claims that Smart was destroying forests and peatland had led Nestle SA, the world’s largest nutrition and food company, Unilever, the second largest consumer goods company as well as Kraft to halt multi-million contracts with Smart.

“Large consumer companies like Unilver, Nestle and Kraft do not want to be associated with forest destruction in Indonesia, Malaysia and anywhere else in the world,” Maitar added.

Unilever said it would also like GAR to operate more transparently and make publicly available a list of their forest concenssions and where they are planted.

“Sustainable palm oil is the way of the future and it is a requirement for any long-term supplier,” said Masari.

“Sustainable palm oil is also good for the sustainability of the palm oil industry, for all stakeholders and the wider public in Indonesia and Malaysia,” said Masari.

Unilever aims to be have 100% certified sustainable palm oil supply by 2015.

“And we are on track to achieve that target. By the middle of this year, we already have 35% RSPO for our supply,” said Masari.

At the end of 2009, 15% of Unilever’s CPO was RSOP. That amount comprised 80% of the total global RSPO supply.

Last Friday, Smart image took a further dent when independent auditors hired by the company to investigate Greenpeace claims announced the firm had “misreported” elements of its report when it declared itself largely free from wrong doings.

An environmental consultant said Sinar Mas’ woes with Greenpeace should not be viewed as a public relations war but an opportunity to investigate what is happening on the ground.

“Palm oil companies should not view the NGOs attacks on them as just another PR war,” said Rezal Kusumaatmadja, partner of Starling Resources.

Starling Resources is an independent sustainable natural resource management consultancy.

“Instead, they should treat the criticisms as an opportunity to examine what is really happening on the ground and find ways to improve the situation,” he added.

Sinar Mas started off on the right when they appointed independent auditors.

“But instead of addressing the problem identified in the audit report head on, they resorted to a panicky PR spin.

“Relying on too much on spin with little concrete follow up actions will cost them their credibility,” said Rezal.

Aug 24

Norway Government Pension Fund-Global, Oslo, divested from three companies found by the Norwegian Finance Ministry to be “contributing to or are themselves responsible for grossly unethical activity,” Finance Minister Sigbjorn Johnsen said in a news release.

The 2.79 trillion Norwegian kroner ($446.7 billion) sovereign wealth fund, which invests state profits from sales of Norway’s oil reserves, sold its shares in Israeli companies Africa Israel Investments and subsidiary Danya Cebus, and the Malaysian company Samling Global, according to the release.

The ministry’s Council on Ethics recommended the divestment, saying the Israeli companies were involved in building settlements in occupied Palestinian territory and Samling Global, a wood and palm oil company, engaged in illegal logging and other offenses.

The fund owned stocks worth 7.2 million kroner in Africa Israel Investments and 8.1 million kroner in Samling Global as of Dec. 31.

Aug 24
24 Aug 2010 11:50:58 GMT
Source: Reuters

* Likely to be first fully validated REDD project under VCS

* Approval of methodology boost for REDD projects

By David Fogarty and Sunanda Creagh

SINGAPORE/JAKARTA, Aug 24 (Reuters) – An Indonesian project aimed at saving a vast tract of rainforest has past a milestone seen as a boost in the development of a global market in forest carbon credits.

That market under the U.N.-backed scheme reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD) could eventually be worth billions of dollars annually and is central to the goal of driving private sector involvement in forest protection.

The Rimba Raya conservation project covers nearly 100,000 ha (250,000 acres) of carbon-rich peat swamp forest in the province of Central Kalimantan on Borneo island. Forests soak up large amounts of carbon dioxide and scientists say curbing deforestation is a key way to fight climate change.

The project has earned the first-ever approval of an accounting method for measuring the reduction in carbon emissions under REDD and is being developed by InfiniteEARTH, with funding from Shell <RDSa.L>, Gazprom Market and Trading <GAZP.MM> and the Clinton Foundation.

The Voluntary Carbon Standard programme, the most respected standard for voluntary carbon offsets, approved the methodology after it passed a mandated double auditing process.

The project itself is now undergoing third-party validation and is likely to become the world’s first VCS-approved REDD project later this year, Gazprom and InfiniteEARTH say.

The step is a boost for other REDD projects and investors wanting certainty on the quality of REDD carbon credits. There are several dozen REDD projects globally, including more than a dozen in Indonesia at various stages of development.

“This is seen as a landmark moment for the carbon market,” Gazprom said in a statement. “Historically REDD projects have suffered due to their exclusion from the Kyoto Protocol,” it said, as well as the absence of a recognised global standard.

The project is expected to reduce 18.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide from being emitted in the first 10 years and up to 75 million tonnes in the 30-year life of the project.

At about $10 a credit, that means about $750 million over 30 years.


The future sale of carbon offsets from the project will help boost the livelihoods of more than 11,000 people in the area and save rare species including orang-utans and other primates, the statement says.

REDD aims to reward developing countries that save, protect and rehabilitate forests through large-scale projects. Poorer nations and local forest communities are meant to take a major share of the sale of the carbon credits to rich nations, which can use them to meet mandated emission reduction targets.

REDD is not yet formally part of a broader U.N. climate pact and potential buyers of the credits have been waiting for an approved global standard for forest CO2 credits to ensure the reductions are real and verifiable.

“The methodology was designed for conservation projects that avoid planned land-use conversion in tropical peat swamp forests in Southeast Asia,” the statement said.

The project itself borders Tanjung Puting national park and the area has been under growing threat from encroaching palm oil plantations.

“It shows small-scale REDD can be done. This is also demonstrating the ability of project-based activities, that they can do that,” Daniel Murdiyarso, senior scientist at Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), told Reuters on Tuesday. (Editing by Sue Thomas)

Aug 24
Free At Last: First rehabilitated orangutans in 9 years to be released into the wilds of Borneo

Indonesia Forestry Ministry issues decree allowing orangutan release in restored timber concession forest

Bogor, Indonesia, 20 Aug 2010: The Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOSF) announced today that it would, for the first time in 9 years, release  rehabilitated captive orangutans  back into the wild.  The long-awaited release was finally facilitated by the issuance of a special Ministerial Decree by the Indonesian Forestry Minister dated August 18, 2010, which will allow the release of the orangutan into a former timber concession restored into natural forest by PT Orangutan Habitat Restoration Indonesia. The restored forest is located in the East Kutai district of East Kalimantan, Indonesia.

PT Orangutan Habitat Restoration is a forest rehabilitation company established by BOSF for the purpose of creating a suitable area to release rehabilitated orangutans currently living in BOSF rehabilitation centers in Kalimantan.

The release is the first step toward the release of all captive orangutans in Indonesia by 2015 as directed in December 2007 by the Indonesian government at Nusa Dua Bali. For the past 8 years BOSF has been unable to release rehabilitated orangutans back to the wild due to a lack of suitable habitat for the releases.  The Forestry Ministry Decree has now, for the first time, opened the door for BOSF to begin releasing the formerly captive orangutans it has rehabilitated for survival in the wild.

The release area was selected because its conditions are near perfect for the survival process for newly released orangutans. It is an 86,450 hectare site in which there is a low density of wild orangutans.  Generally, around 30,000 hectares are required to support 250 orangutans. The topographical conditions in the restored forest area are ideal, with an altitude of 750 meters above sea level and well-stocked with tree species which provide shelter and food for wild orangutans.  It is also safe from human threats as the local inhabitants are highly supportive of the release program.

At the present time, BOSF has some 838 orangutans in its rehabilitation centers, with 612 in the Central Kalimantan Reintroduction Center in Nyaru Menteng and another 226 in the East Kalimantan Reintroduction Center in Samboja Lestari.

The historical release process began during a courtesy call by the Board of Trustees and Board of Directors in April of this year to then forestry minister Zulkifli Hasan, who voiced his full support for the BOSF release program.  The August 18 Ministerial Decree is a direct outcome of that visit.

“Now we can begin to concentrate on the next step, the preparation of new habitats,” said BOSF CEO Togu Manurung.  “There is still much that we have to do,” he added, “but at least this is a good start for all of us.”

Manurung further said that the issuance of the decree did a great service to the BOSF as it will allow the organization to begin to realize its goals.  The first priority, he said, was the release of Bornean Orangutans into their natural habitat with the help of local populations.

“The government has now started the process of issuing permits for us to take control of suitable land for orangutan release,” said the BOSF Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Professor Bungaran Saragih, a former Minister of Forestry.  “We must release all captive orangutans back into the wild.  They have for too long been living in cages,” said Professor Saragih.

The Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation is an organization committed to the rescue, rehabilitation and release of orangutans in Central and East Kalimantan.  The BOSF has a number of sister organizations around the world supporting its efforts with fund-raising and public awareness. BOSF currently operates two orangutan reintroduction centers—Samboja Lestari in East Kalimantan and Nyaru Menteng in Central Kalimantan. BOSF also operates land rehabilitation program at Samboja Lestari, and program for the rehabilitation of orangutan natural habitat as well as the 369,000 hectare Mawas conservation area in Central Kalimantan, which has an estimated orangutan population of 3,000.  The Bogor, West Java-based foundation also operates an eco-tourism lodge at its Samboja, East Kalimantan rehabilitation center.