Orangutan News Update: SOCP Responds to Permit for Palm Oil Permit in Tripa

Medan –  The former governor of Aceh who granted a permit  to a palm oil company, said he did so to bring attention to failing climate  change policies, but SOCP in a response to the governor today, called his  actions “completely reprehensible.”

Digital Journal first  reported the plight of Indonesia’s Sumatran orangutans on March 31, after  learning that an estimated 100 apes had been killed in 92 fires, burning out of  control in the Tripa forest on the coast of Aceh province.

The fires, illegally started by palm  oil companies, are devastating prime habitat areas and killing orangutans said  conservation groups, who challenged the legality of the permit granted by Aceh  governor Irwardi Yusuf in court. The permit issued to PT Kallista Alam, allowed  for the development of a 1,600-hectare (3,950-acre) oil palm plantation in the  heart of the Tripa swamp.

After 5 months of hearings in the court  case, the Banda Aceh Administrative Court said last week, it had no authority to  rule on the case because the parties involved had not tried to solve the case  outside of the court room.

It was an act that Dr. Ian Singleton,  Director of Conservation at the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation  Programme(SOCP) in Indonesia, told us could mean the destruction of the forests, and the extinction of the  Sumatran orangutan by the end of 2012.

Yet Dr. Irwardi, who denied the permit  was illegal, told Australia’s The  Age a few days ago, that the permit was “morally wrong,” but he signed  it as, “a wake-up call to the international community over its failing climate  change policies.”

Irwardi also denied that orangutans  were in jeopardy from the land clearing, an allegation that SOCP is now strongly  refuting. In a press  release issued to Digital Journal this morning, SOCP said:

While we appreciate the former Governor of Aceh’s admission that  issuing the permit was “morally wrong”, we completely refute his claims that the  remaining Orangutan population has been unharmed by recent clearing and burning  of the remaining peatland forests of Tripa.

The former governor, said SOCP, had  been been “informed on numerous occasions of the presence of an important  Orangutan population in the Tripa peat swamp forests.” Furthermore, the group  added, while they appreciated the governor’s frustration over insufficient  funding:

“We also find his method of drawing attention to the problem, namely  sacrificing carbon-rich deep peat swamp forests and a population of the  Critically Endangered Sumatran Orangutan, completely  reprehensible.”

What has confused many about Dr.  Irwandi’s so-called cry for help, is that the man himself has a history of  strong conservation policies, yet by signing the permit, he has sacrificed a  critical habitat for Sumatran orangutans. One that as part of the Leuser  Ecosystem, is one of the largest remaining natural habitats for orangutans in  the world.

SOCP is now insisting that the  Indonesian government enforce their own laws to prevent the extinction of  Tripa’s orangutans. The group also highlights several law-breaking incidents in  the Tripa swamps conducted by other concessions besides PT Kallista Alam ,  including PT Dua Perkasa Lestari and PT Surya Panen Subur 2.

Yet despite a massive push through  petitions and correspondence signed by thousands of people from around the  world, “no responsible Government official has made a public statement about the  case since early December 2011,” said SOCP, who adds that this doesn’t bode well  for Indonesia’s global image.

The conservation group said it will  continue to lobby the Indonesian government for protection of the Tripa forests  and the orangutans who inhabit them. “We would be betraying the Sumatran  orangutan and all our many supporters, if we do not continue to lobby for this  using all means at our disposal.”

And SOCP has vowed strong action if  necessary, adding that it would push for a suspension of Norway’s Letter of  Intent on emissions reduction with Indonesia, including its $1,000,000,000 aid  package, and ask for a global suspension of all purchases of Indonesian palm oil  that is not fully certified by the Round Table for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).

Finally, said the Sumatran Orangutan  Conservation Programme said, it would completely reject the Indonesian  Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO) certification scheme, until the rogue companies  operating in Tripa are prosecuted.

This article was written by Elizabeth Batt of Digital Journal.  Orangutan photo courtesy of Lyenia at Creative Commons.  Title edit by Tom.

Read more: http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/322566#ixzz1rfMj2tt5

Comments

  1. Any updates? I would like to keep watching this story. . .

    1. You can see Ian’s most recetn update.

  2. My personal opinion is that any company or other group which starts fires and ends up killing orangutans should be prosecuted for arson and murder. Some of the people in authority in Indonesia are double-minded. They state that they want to conserve their natural resources and the biodiversity which goes along with them, but then they seem to be doing all they can to destroy both. Someone should tell these people (including that governor) that actions speak louder than words! Thank you.

    1. It’s true Paula, government officials there too often speak out of both sides of their mouths. You cannot protect biodiversity if you’re allowing international corporations to come in and destroy the land. There does, though, as of late, seem to be more people within the government speaking out about the loss of land and aniamals that make their home there. If the world community keeps the pressure on, perhaps these few who challenge a broken system will evolve into many and we’ll finally see long-term change for the better in Indonesia. With the numbers of orangutans now at about 40,000 time is obviosuly a crucial factor.

  3. It is obvious that the palm oil companies and the suspect governor of Aceh are hand in glove.
    The only responsible thing to do is to pressure Norway to withhold its offer of money until Indonesia shows a will to conserve its beautiful wildlife, including orangutans.

    Why should so many outside of Indonesia fundraise and work so hard when Indonesian authorities flaunt the law….for instant profits?

    1. Agreed Helen. The money is still pouring in there, and until that valve is closed, or threatened to close, action will be spotty.

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