Orangutans Displaced, Killed by Indonesian Forest Fires
Intentionally lit forest fires on the island of Borneo are killing Southeast Asia's endangered orangutans, conservationists warn. The fires are lit annually to clear land for oil palm plantations and agricultural fields. Many of the blazes quickly rage out of control.
A mother orangutan and her baby rest in a tree in Gunung Palung National Park on the island of Borneo in Indonesia. Forest fires set intentionally to clear farmland have been raging on Borneo for weeks, killing about a thousand orangutans and forcing others to flee the forests. Experts say if the pace of destruction continues, the animals may be extinct within a decade.
"Fires Threaten Orangutans"
11 November 2006
Deliberate fires to clear land around the park have burned out of control and are destroying thousands of hectares of forest. Orangutans in the park have fled to the interior to escape the fires. But these interior forests are at risk. And orangutans outside the park are facing grave danger.
Orphaned orangutans are arriving in OFI's Care Center nearly every day. Your donations will help buy food, medicine and staff support to care for them.
Cargill today owns and operates five palm plantations through its business unit CTP Holdings. Two are in Indonesia: one on the island of Sumatra (P.T. Hindoli) and one on the island of Borneo in Kalimantan (Harapan Sawit Lestari).
Singapore — Cargill and Temasek Holdings have acquired CDC Group plc’s palm plantation interests in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. These include a plantation in Kalimantan (Indonesia) and a majority shareholding in four other plantations in the region. One of these plantations is located in Sumatra (Indonesia), with the other three in Higaturu, Milne Bay and Poliamba (Papua New Guinea).
The new venture is registered in Singapore as CTP Holdings Pte Ltd (CTP). Cargill is the majority shareholder of CTP and will assume managerial and operational responsibilities. Cargill’s existing palm plantation in Sumatra will now become part of CTP.
Plans to create the world's largest palm oil plantation along Indonesia's mountainous border with Malaysia could have a devastating impact on the forests, wildlife and indigenous people of Borneo, warns World Wildlife Fund.
The proposed scheme, funded by China and supported by the Indonesian government, is expected to cover an area of 4.4 million acres on the island of Borneo. Most of this mountainous region, part of the "Heart of Borneo," still holds huge tracts of forests supporting endangered species like orangutans and pygmy elephants, and 14 of the island's 20 major rivers originate there. According to WWF, new species have been discovered there at a rate of three per month over the last decade, making the area one of the richest on the globe for biodiversity.
JAKARTA - Indonesia's government plans to develop 3 million hectares of palm oil plantations in the next five years to meet increasing demand for biofuel as an alternative source of energy, the agriculture minister said on Wednesday.
- "The Bitter Fruit of Oil Palm"
WRM's book on the impacts of oil palm plantations. August 2001.
- Oil Palm. From Cosmetics to Biodiesel - Colonization Lives On
The forests of Indonesia, along with the thousands of animals and plants that live there, are facing grave danger as they are destroyed at an alarming rate due to massive illegal logging and clearing for palm oil plantations. These tropical forests are of global importance, ranked second in terms of size to those of Brazil and covering over 406,000 square miles. The rapid deterioration of tropical forests is causing an incalculable loss in terms of biodiversity and is pushing species such as the orangutan ever closer to extinction.
Indonesia’s Forests Are Disappearing at an Alarming RateIndonesia’s forests represent 10% of the world’s remaining tropical rainforests and cover about 260 million acres. According to the European League, by 2001 Indonesia has lost 99 million acres of forest in the last 32 years, which is equivalent to the combined size of Germany and the Netherlands. The current rate of forest loss is about 6.2 million acres a year, but the rate is accelerating.
Plant and Animal Populations Are Also Decreasing RapidlyIndonesia is one of the five most species-diverse countries in the world, home to 12% of all mammal species, 16% of all reptile and amphibian species, and 17% of all bird species. It also contains 33% of insect species, 24% of fungi species, and 10% of higher plant species. Tanjung Puting National Park (TPNP), site of Camp Leakey, is home to more than 220 bird species, at least 17 reptile species, and 29 mammal species.
Poachers were killing proboscis monkeys along the river
en route to Camp Leakey until OFI began patrolling the area.
Illegal Logging Largely to Blame for Forest DepletionA study done in 2000 by the Indonesia-United Kingdom Tropical Forest Management Programme concluded that 73% of logging done in Indonesia was illegal. While Indonesia’s forest ministry official harvest figures are just under 882 million cubic feet per year, the combined log consumption capacity of plywood, sawn wood, and pulp and paper industries is 2.6 billion cubic feet per year, which means that industries obtain between one-half and two-thirds of their logs from illegal or unsustainable sources. Illegal logging produces 1.8 billion cubic feet of logs annually, resulting in state financial losses of approximately $3.37 billion. The value of timber stolen from TPNP alone is $8 million each year.
Illegal loggers working in the forest in Lamandau.
Increased Demand for Palm Oil Causes Conversion of ForestsBecause of its versatility, world demand for palm oil has increased by 32% over the last five years with the advent of the rapidly expanding food and industrial manufacturing industries, growing at a rate of 7% each year. In fact, palm oil is the world’s best-selling vegetable oil, representing 40% of the total global trade in edible oils. Indonesia accounts for 31% of the world’s production of palm oil, and is expected to be responsible for 41% by 2005. The aim of the former Suharto government was to create a total of 13.5 million acres of palm oil plantations by 2000 - by 1999 the figure had reached 7.4 million, which is nearly five times the size of Bali. The sudden increase in palm oil use has led to the clearing of Indonesia's tropical forests to create monoculture palm oil plantations. Studies in Malaysia and Indonesia have shown that between 80 and 100% of the species of fauna inhabiting tropical rainforests cannot survive in oil palm monocultures (Wakker 2000). In 1999, nearly 800,000 acres of forest were converted for palm oil. Global demand is expected to increase by 50% in the next five years, primarily because palm oil profits are assured by cheap labor, low-priced land, a lack of effective environmental controls, easy availability of finance and support, and a short growth cycle.
Demand for Paper Production Increases, Leading to More LoggingAs much as 40% of the wood used by Indonesian pulp producers between 1995 and 1999 came from illegal sources. Massive expansion in plywood, pulp, and paper production in the last two decades has brought demand for wood fiber to exceed the legal supply by 1.2-1.4 billion cubic feet per year. Pulp and paper subsectors have expanded by nearly 700% since 1987.
Timber and Plantation Companies Burn Forests to Clear LandApproximately 22 million acres of land were damaged by the 1997 and 1998 fires in Indonesia largely caused by timber and palm oil plantation companies clearing land. According to Remote Sensing Solutions GMBH, the 0.80 to 2.57 billion tons of carbon released during that time was the biggest ever measured, corresponding to 13 to 40 percent of the annual global production by burning fossil fuels like oil, coal, and gas. The estimated financial consequences of the fires were over $3 billion from losses in timber, agriculture, and non-timber products, plus the loss of hydrological and soil conservation services as well as biodiversity benefits. Haze from the fires cost an additional $1.4 billion for health treatment and lost tourism revenues.
Orangutan Foundation International (OFI) Works Towards Research, Conservation, and EducationOFI is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation of wild orangutans and their rainforest habitat. Founded by Dr. Biruté Mary Galdikas and Dr. Gary Shapiro in 1986, OFI operates Camp Leakey, an orangutan research area within Tanjung Puting National Park. OFI also runs the Orangutan Care Center and Quarantine Facility in Pangkalan Bun, which is home to 200 displaced orphan orangutans, and co-manages the Lamandau Nature Reserve, where rehabilitated orangutans are being released into the wild. OFI partners with the Orangutan Conservation Forum, a consortium of groups that is working to counter the primary threats to orangutan survival throughout Indonesia. Through its field programs, OFI also provides employment for over 220 local Indonesians in the vicinity of Tanjung Puting National Park and the Lamandau Nature Reserve.
"Unless extreme action is taken soon," said Dr. Galdikas, "these forests could be gone within the next five to 10 years, and wild orangutans along with them."
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