Indonesia’s ecologically-sensitive Tripa peat swamp forest is still in trouble.

As reported in IPPL News earlier this year, environmentalists around the world raised the alarm as fires raged throughout the Tripa forest, which is one of the last habitats remaining on earth of the critically endangered Sumatran orangutan. The Tripa forest, which is located in Indonesia’s Aceh province, is part of the Leuser Ecosystem, a lush and relatively undisturbed rainforest known for its wealth of biodiversity.

Tripa in flames
Indonesia’s Tripa peat forest, home to critically endangered Sumatran orangutans, was in flames earlier this year.

The fires were in many cases being set (allegedly) by companies that were trying to clear the land in order to set up oil palm plantations. Palm oil is a lucrative global commodity found in numerous processed foods, consumer goods, and even biofuel. Malaysia and Indonesia have both seen huge amounts of deforestation in the past two decades as former rainforests are converted to oil palm plantations.

Still, environmentalists and orangutan lovers around the world can take heart in a historic legal victory, as the Aceh government for the first time has actually revoked an industrial palm oil permit. PT Kallista Alam had been granted a concession to develop a 1,605-hectare (4,000 acre) oil palm plantation within Tripa in August 2011 by the then-governor of Aceh province, Irwandi Yusuf.

Suspiciously, this permit was granted more than three months after a nationwide moratorium on deforestation went into effect. The moratorium, issued by Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, had prohibited new concessions in peatlands and primary forests, in an effort to curb greenhouse gas emissions. According to reporting by the Ape Alliance (a UK-based international coalition—of which IPPL is a member—that works for the conservation and welfare of apes), PT Kallista Alam has already cleared at least 30 hectares of its concession.

Earlier this year, IPPL asked readers of IPPL News and visitors to our literature tables at various conferences to write letters or sign petitions on behalf of the Tripa forest and its inhabitants. According to confidential feedback from some of our supporters, at least some of these protests were being attended to. The recent historic legal victory seems to have confirmed what we’d been hearing.

But we’re not out of the woods yet. In a press release distributed earlier today by the Ape Alliance, Dr. Ian Singleton (Conservation Director of the Sumatran Conservation Programme International) is quoted as saying that “people around the world continue to be extremely alarmed and concerned about Tripa, as what they see is that so far nothing has yet changed. Unless the destruction is halted very, very quickly, we are still likely to see the local extinction of Sumatran orangutans from Tripa in the very near future.” In addition, Adnan NS, a prominent community leader from Aceh, is quoted as declaring, “Despite the recent cancellation of the PT Kallista Alam permit, and ongoing investigations into violations of the law by this and other companies in Tripa, on the ground nothing has changed yet.”

If you would like to join with our friends and allies in Indonesia, you can sign their new petition to urge the continued protection of the Tripa forest.

As Usman Hamid of Change.org Indonesia has stated, “[T]he recent cancellation of the illegal PT Kallista Alam concession is an historic legal precedent for the country and it now needs to be followed up with the investigation and processing of all law breakers, and prosecution for their offences.”

Let’s keep up the pressure!

Photo © Carlos Quilles.

 

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