Tag Archive | Sumatran orangutan



A large male orangutan rescued from shrinking habitat through palm oil plantation. Palm oil expansion has pushed this iconic wildlife to the brink of extinction.
“The process of rehabilitating an Orangutan is dangerous and costly, we cant keep taking these orangutan out and rehabilitate them. It’s not the orangutans that should be leaving this area, it is the palm oil companies who are breaking the law” – Dr. Ian Singleton


Medan, October 15, 2012

A large, fully adult male Sumatran Orangutan weighing around 90 kg was rescued yesterday (14/10/12) from an isolated forest fragment in the Tripa Peat Swamp Forests in the Nagan Raya District of Aceh Province, Sumatra, Indonesia, as illegal destruction of this unique ecosystem by rogue palm oil companies continues.

Thanks to the cooperation of a team of experts from the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme (SOCP) and the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry’s Department of Forest Protection and Nature Conservation (PHKA), the orangutan, later named Seuneam after the nearest village to where he was found, was evacuated safely and later released early on Monday morning (15/10/12) at the SOCP’s specialist Orangutan Reintroduction Centre in the Jantho Pine Nature Reserve in northern Aceh. Seuneam had been monitored in the field by SOCP staff for several days and had to be rescued as he was trapped in a small fragment of forest surrounded by palm oil plantations, isolated from the rest of the Tripa swamp forests and the rest of Tripa’s surviving orangutan population, estimated today to be only around 200 individuals, and declining fast. Local informants even stated that there was a plan to poison him very soon if he continued to destroy young palm oil seedlings.

The team in the field comprised SOCP veterinarians, staff of BKSDA Aceh (the Government’s provincial Conservation Agency), staff of the Indonesian Sustainable Ecosystem Foundation (Yayasan Ekosistem lestari, or YEL) and local community members.

Head of BKSDA Aceh, Mr Amon Zamora MSc, stated on Sunday evening “BKSDA Aceh strongly supports this orangutan rescue and I hope that other orangutans facing similar threats in Tripa can also be rescued before they are killed, or die of malnutrition. Evacuation efforts like this are essential to our efforts to save the Sumatran orangutan and reduce conflicts with local communities. It’s a sad fact that orangutans are often regarded as pests by people and plantation companies, as when they have no other food to eat they can and do eat and damage agricultural crops.

Meanwhile, head of the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme, Dr Ian Singleton stated “We are always happy to see a successful rescue take place, but these activities are expensive, logistically challenging and also dangerous, for both staff and the orangutans themselves. There is always a serious risk of injury to the animals during capture, especially when they fall from the trees after being anaesthetized.  We would much prefer not to have to intervene in this way and in reality we should not be having to rescue orangutans from Tripa, as it is part of the Leuser Ecosystem, now a protected area under National Spatial Planning laws. In fact, several of the palm oil companies operating in Tripa are already under investigation for breaking Indonesian Law and one plantation has even be cancelled. But regrettably, forest clearance, drainage of the peatlands and burning of the land continue unabated, so we have no choice but to rescue orangutans when they will clearly die if we don’t”.

“Both locally, and Globally, people were inspired recently by the strong leadership of new Aceh Governor, Dr Zaini Abdullah, when the Aceh Government revoked an illegal oil palm plantation permit granted to PT Kalista Alam. But despite this, it is still clear to see that rogue palm oil companies are continuing to destroy Tripa’s remaining forests, creating more conflicts between human and orangutan, and other wildlife.” Dr Singleton added.   

Drh Yenny Saraswati reiterated during a quiet moment after Seuneam’s eventual return to the wild. “Rescues like this are not something we enjoy. There are serious risks of injury and even death to an orangutan like this during capture, however good modern equipment and drugs are these days. No matter what you do, orangutans climb higher when afraid, and then fall all the way to the ground. We have had several break bones in the past as a result of falls, even though we always try to get a capture net underneath them beforehand. As a veterinarian, its not pleasant to have to take such risks with an animal’s welfare”.

The Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme (SOCP; www.sumatranorangutan.org) is a collaborative programme involving the Swiss based PanEco Foundation (www.paneco.ch), Indonesia’s Yayasan Ecosystem Lestari (www.yelweb.org) and the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry’s Directorate General of Forest Protection and Nature Conservation (DitJen PHKA; www.dephut.go.id)

Main activities of the SOCP include:-

1.     Confiscation, quarantine, and reintroduction to the wild of illegal pet Sumatran orangutans
2.     Research and monitoring of remaining wild Sumatran orangutan populations
3.     Habitat protection and conservation
4.     Conservation education and awareness raising

To date the SOCP as returned to the wild more than 180 illegal captive orangutans and rescued a number of orangutans in similar situations to Seuneam.

For further information contact:-

1.     Mr Amon Zamora, MSc, Kepala BKSDA Aceh,
Tel: +6282169313999, Email: amonzamora@gmail.com

2.     Dr Ian Singleton, Director of Conservation PanEco Foundation / Head of SOCP,
Tel: +62811650491, Email: mokko123@gmail.com

Ian Singleton, Ph.D Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme, PanEco-YEL Jl. K.H. Wahid Hasyim No 51/74 Medan Baru Medan 20154 North Sumatra Indonesia Tel: +62-61-4514360 Fax: +62-61-4514749 Mobile: +62-811-650491 Email: mokko123@gmail.com
Skypename: Mokko123 Website: www.sumatranorangutan.org Website: www.paneco.ch
Blog: IanSingletonSOCP.wordpress.com/

Historic Cancellation of Oil Palm Permit Opens Door for Prosecution of Companies Crimes


03 October 2012


Coalition to Save Tripa Peat Swamp Forest

“Historic Cancellation of Oil Palm Permit Opens Door for Prosecution of Companies Crimes

Latest Satellite Image shows company still burning protected peatlands”

JAKARTA – Less than one week after history was made as the Aceh Government revoked the first industrial palm oil permit from the Tripa Peat Swamp Forest, a coalition of NGO’s known as ‘Save Tripa Peat Forest’ highlighted today in a press briefing additional clear breaches of Indonesia’s multi million dollar forest protection agreement with Norway, only kilometers from the first location, and demanded National Police increase their activities to quickly bring these crimes to trial.

Deddy Ratih, Forest Campaigner for Walhi (Friends of the Earth Indonesia) explained “This continues to be a the leading test case for a National problem. While the revocation of PT Kallista Alam is a step in the right direction, there is still much more action required by police and Government to resolve the problems in Tripa. The Ministry of Environment continues to investigate a raft of the envrionmental crimes in Tripa with no end in sight, meanwhile, the legal testomonies of local communities to the National Police continue to be ignored”

Kamarrudin, the lawyer representing local people and the environment in the Tripa case, said, “There are strong indications that the enforcement of the law in the Tripa case has been “hijacked” by the financial power of corporations operating in the Tripa peat swamps. This can be seen in the less than optimal work of the provincial and national police, and the investigators of the Ministry of the Environment. We request that the National Police Chief and the Ministry of the Environment immediately evaluate the investigative processes to date, and move forward with a thorough investigation of the criminal crimes against spatial planning, plantation and environmental laws and regulations in the Tripa peat swamps. We hope that this case, that has drawn national and international attention, will not be frozen by those with vested interests in the law enforcement and government agencies. We also hold the Ministry of the Environment to its promise to launch criminal and administrative against companies that have committed serious environmental crimes in the Tripa peat swamps”.

In an impassioned address, Adnan NS, a prominent Community leader from Aceh stressed, “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. Community livelihoods continue to be destroyed, even though local community leaders travelled all the way to Jakarta to report this to the national police back in November 2011. We are still waiting for action and demand to know why their testimonies have been ignored”.

“Over the last two months I’ve been on speaking tours of both the USA and Australia, and all around the world people are continually asking me about the situation in Tripa.” Said Dr Ian Singleton, Conservation Director of the Sumatran Conservation Programme. “International interest in the governance of Indonesia’s remaining forests and rapidly declining wild species populations is extremely high, and to them my message is clear – anyone with a computer can now check on forest clearance in Indonesia, measure and quantify it, and get daily updates on illegal fires, and circulate that information globally. As individuals we have never before had access to so much quantifiable information in other parts of the world or the ability to share it so widely and 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.

“The forest concession known as Dua Perkasa Lestari (DPL) has been marked as off-limits in all three releases of the Government’s moratorium map, a tool designed to reduce carbon emissions from deforestation and degradation, but satellite imagery from last week clearly show that burning and illegal clearing of Tripa’s peat swamp forests is still taking place. Furthermore, the DPL area has no clear HGU permit, it clearly lies within the Leuser Ecosystem protected by National Spatial Planning law 26/2007, and it contains peat over 3m deep.   There are three companies that have been the major burning culprits, namely PT.SPS2, PT DPL and PT KA. We should pay greater attention to this because it is in violation of Law No. 32/2009 on the Environmental Protection and Management” explained Riswan Zen, a Senior GIS mapping expert from the Univeristy of North Sumatra.

“Over 25,000 people have already signed a petition calling for immediate action to halt the destruction of Tripa’s unique ecosystem, from within Tripa itself, from Aceh, from Indonesia, and from all over the world, contributing to the recent closure of the illegal PT Kallista Alam concession. Now we, together with the local community, are launching a new petition (at http://www.change.org/savetripa2) calling on Indonesia’s National Police to support the findings of the REDD+ Taskforce and the Ministry of Environment, and immediately escalate the cases under investigation to formal prosecutions. Much more still needs to be done to protect the remaining forests of Tripa, Aceh, and Indonesia as a whole. But the 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” Said Usman Hamid of Change.org Indonesia.

Its up to all of us to take action to protect the environment, and it can be as simple as signing a petition online, sharing it with your friends, tweeting and using social media to make our country a better place for all Indonesians,” said Melanie Subono. “I’m proud to have signed the petition to save Tripa and to see our laws finally being enforced. In fact, it is our duty as citizens to demand that our laws be upheld, especially those protecting the environment we all live in. Very soon I plan to visit Tripa and see the Orangutans, the forests, and the destruction still taking place with my own eyes. I’ll be going in close to 4 weeks time, and sincerely hope that before I get there, the National Police will have finally begun to take action on this globally important issue”

For further media comment or information, please contact:

Dr Ian Singleton

Director of Conservation, Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program


Deddy Raith

Forest Campaigner, WALHI Indonesia (Friends of the Earth Indonesia)


Yuyun Indradi

Political Campaigner, Greenpeace Indonesia



Aceh Pulls Plug on Kallista Plantation


Nurdin Hasan | September 28, 2012

Banda Aceh. Aceh Governor Zaini Abdullah has revoked the business permit for a palm oil plantation in Rawa Dipa, a lush forest and peatland region in the province’s Nagan Raya district.

The move to close the estate, which is owned by plantation firm Kallista Alam, was hailed as a victory by environmentalists, who have sought to see the stretch of land protected.

Makmur Ibrahim, the Aceh administration’s legal and public relations bureau head, said that the governor signed the revocation letter on Thursday to comply with a ruling issued by the Medan High Court on Aug. 30, ordering the permit to be pulled.

“It’s not possible to file an appeal on the High Court’s ruling and that’s the basis of [our decision],” Makmur said on Friday. “All of PT Kallista’s activity on the 1,605-hectare plantation must stop. It will be a violation of the law if it continues to operate.”

He added that Aceh’s Forestry and Plantation Agency will monitor the company to ensure that it complies with the order.

The company obtained the permit to open the plantation from then governor Irwandi Yusuf in August 2011.

But the governor’s decision was met with protests by environmental activists who said that the area was the habitat of Sumatran orangutans, which are critically endangered, and other rare animals.

The Aceh chapter of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) dragged the governor to the Aceh state administrative court but the court rejected Walhi’s suit on April 3. Walhi then appealed the ruling to the Medan High Court.

Walhi Aceh praised the governor’s willingness to comply with the law.

“The order from the Medan High Court is clear that the Aceh governor has to revoke the permit for PT Kallista’s 1,605 hectare plantation in Rawa Tripa,” Walhi Aceh director T. Muhammad Zulfikar said. “The Aceh administration has to execute the ruling because if not, it will be in violation of the law.”

Zulfikar said that Rawa Tripa is part of the Leuser Ecosystem Area, which is considered a strategic national zone that is protected.

The permit originally allowed the firm to set up shop in the Tripa peat area, which was within the boundary of a deforestation moratorium area on a map that had been published in 2011. Critics claim that the permit should not have been issued because companies aren’t allowed to do damage to protected areas.

A government-formed task force later concluded that Kallista Alam had violated regulations by turning the swamp forest into a plantation.



Indonesian palm oil company loses permit on illegal logging

Indonesia’s Aceh province revoked a permit from a palm oil company found to be logging illegally, a spokesman said Friday, in a case seen as a test of the nation’s commitment to a deforestation ban.

The Indonesian palm oil company Kallista Alam was accused of clearing 1,605 hectares (3,966 acres) of protected carbon-rich peatland on the island of Sumatra, where tropical rainforests have fallen to rampant logging.

“We revoked Kallista Alam’s permit on Thursday. The Aceh government has gone through a long process of evaluation and found the company’s logging permit was illegal,” Aceh government spokesman Makmur Ibrahim told AFP.

Former Aceh Governor Irwandi Yusuf issued the permit more than three months after Indonesia implemented a two-year moratorium on logging peatland and other high-conservation-value forests in May 2011.

The ban is the centrepiece of a $1 billion bilateral agreement with Norway aimed at significantly reducing Indonesia’s carbon emissions.

The court decision to revoke the permit earlier this month came after intense campaigning by environmental groups, including Friends of the Earth Indonesia (Walhi).

“We hope this is the beginning of a cleaner more transparent process to forestry in Indonesia’s future,” Walhi national executive director Abet Nego said.

The land cleared was in the Tripa peatswamp, an area measuring over 60,000 hectares with the highest density of critically endangered orangutans in the world, according to the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program.

Indonesia is the world’s biggest palm oil producer and growing demand has put pressure on the nation’s already threatened tropical rainforests.

Before Indonesia’s logging moratorium, 80 percent of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions came from deforestation, UN data showed, making it the one of the world’s top emitters.

Dr Ian Singleton, Earth 4 Orangutans

Ep 34 iv Dr Ian Singleton, Earth 4 Orangutans

In the latest Episode 34 of Eco TV you’ll hear about Tony Burke’s strict fishing rules for the super trawler in Tasmanian waters (which has since been updated to a total ban), how Israeli cosmetics company Ahava has been accused of exploiting the Red Sea and the global food crisis prompts the food or fuel debate to continue.  In our celebrity news, big name celebrities join Yoko Ono & Sean Lennon’s anti-fracking campaign and Eco TV Host Lara Shannon talks to Dr Ian Singleton about the dire plight of the Sumatran Orangutan in the Tripa Peatland Forest of Indonesia.

Good News for Species on the Brink of Extinction in Tripa


Hotspots detected by MODIS satellite in Tripa Peat Swamp between 17-26 June 2012. Plotted on LANDSAT imagery 7 dated June 3rd, 2012. Map show boundary of Kallista Alam concession, SPS2 concession, GSM, DPL and Cemerlang Abadi conccession. All located within the boundary of Protected National Strategic Area Leuser Ecosystem.


Chelsea Matthews | RAN Understory

In a huge turn of events last week and a massive step in the right direction for the Tripa peat forest of Sumatra, the Administrative High Court of Medan hascommanded the Governor of Aceh to withdraw the permit of palm oil company PT Kallista Alam.

This is the very same palm oil company that played a role in the tragic illegal burning of the Tripa rainforest last Spring, which threatened this delicate peat swamp, home to the highest population density of the critically endangered Sumatran orangutan anywhere on Earth.

PT Kallista Alam’s permit was originally issued by former Governor Yusuf in August 2011 to allow 1,605 hectares (just under 4,000 acres) of deep peat in the Tripa forest to be converted into oil palm plantations. The permit was issued despite the fact that the area of Tripa covered by the permit is protected by national laws that prevent any development that causes environmental degradation or destruction. A police report was filed by the local community to the National Police in Jakarta, and Indonesian environmental group WALHI sought legal justice by filing a case against Governor Yusuf and PT Kallista Alam for the illegal expansion into the Tripa forest.

But the story only thickens from there. This past March, hundreds of fires raged through the Tripa peat swamp as palm oil companies rushed to clear the forestbefore the verdict was announced—with none other than PT Kallista Alam leading the pack. To the dismay of environmentalists and orangutan lovers alike, the Indonesian court decided to throw out the case and WALHI filed for an appeal. RAN and Tripa supporters from all around the world sent thousands of emails, faxes, letters and petitions to the Indonesian government, and Tripa became the subject of a National Police investigation into the crimes and illegal burning by the expanding oil palm plantations.

That brings us to today. Since the appeal was filed, the world has witnessed continued burning of Tripa— fires so bad that they created a regional air quality crisis and made the extinction of the critically endangered Sumatran orangutan a more imminent reality.

The High Court’s decision to grant the appeal and its order to the Governor of Aceh to withdraw PT Kallista Alam’s permit is not just an achievement for WALHI, but also a victory for the communities of Aceh and the hundreds of national and international groups concerned with the conservation of Tripa. This decision sets a new precedent that law enforcement is key for the protection of Indonesia’s forests. WALHI expects this may be the beginning of “momentum of law enforcement in a broader sense” concering environmental issues in Indonesia.

But this is not the end of the road for saving the threatened rainforests of Tripa. Rather, it’s only a small step in the right direction. Now it’s up to Governor Zaini Abdullah to follow through with his instructions and cancel PT Kallista Allam’s permit. Beyond revoking the permit, other necessary action is needed by the courts in order to protect Tripa: evaluate the licenses of the other palm oil companies operating illegally and revoke any permits in violation of legal procedure, and punish the guilty parties who issued any illegal permits. Tripa is an important test case to see if Indonesian Police and Government really can uphold the law—the survival of Tripa depends on it.

This small but meaningful win for Tripa was made possible with the help of the thousands of people worldwide who took actions to put a spotlight on Tripa and created international pressure to save this peatland. There’s still a long road ahead, but we will continue to call for support and together we can continue to gain significant victories towards saving Tripa once and for all.


Burned orangutan dies as result of increasing palm oil demand


burned orangutan.

Tina Page | Greener Ideal

After his forest home was destroyed to make room for palm fruit oil plantations in West Borneo, the charred primate pictured above dared to abate his starvation by feeding on the fruit of the trees that replaced his former lush peat jungle.

In an attempt to smoke the animal out of the palm tree it had taken refuge in, villagers accidentally set the entire tree and the orangutan on fire. He plummeted out of the tree and into the care of International Animal Rescue (IAR).

Although originally expected to make a full recovery, IAR reported that the orangutan succumbed to his burns and overall malnourished state when he died last week.

While this specific incident is immensely tragic taken on its own, the orangutan species as a whole is under serious threat in large part because of the world’s demand for cheap palm fruit oil which is fueling the clear cutting and burning of Indonesia’s once-vast rain forests to establish palm plantations.

Orangutans can only be found naturally on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo and are divided into two species based on which island they live. Both species are listed on the IUCN Red List of the mostendangered species in the world. The Bornean orangutan is listed as “endangered,” and its Sumatran cousins bear the burden of being listed as “critically endangered,” and in immediate threat of extinction.

Estimates put the Borneo great apes at numbering about 54,000, and the Sumatran at about 6,600, giving orangutans a spot as one of the World’s Top 25 Most Endangered Primates, according to the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme.

These close human relatives are arguably the most intelligent of our ape cousins and use tools better than any other non-human primate. As they attempt to live out their lives in the same way they’ve been doing for millennia, their forest homes are being destroyed at a rate of about three football fields every day.

Just in the last 20 years, half of Indonesia’s rain forest has been obliterated, and, as Leila Salazar-Lopez of the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) told Voices for our Planet, the government has announced plans to convert an area of virgin forest about the size of Missouri into palm plantations by 2020.

This mass destruction is taking the lives of about 50 orangutans per week, Zoos Victoria in Australiaestimates. And demand for palm oil just keeps increasing. According to RAN, “demand for the oil surged by an average of 2.2 million metric tons worldwide each year between 2000 and 2009.”

While conservationists are projecting that we may see the extinction of these beautiful, long-red-haired apes in the next few decades, it doesn’t take a scientist to do the math. As long as we keep buying products containing palm fruit oil, orangutans will continue to be treated as agricultural pests and subjected to being burned alive in their own homes, shot as they forage for food, imprisoned for the exotic pet trade and tortured in captivity to do tricks for tourists.

Palm oil has become popular with industries from cosmetics to processed food to biodiesel because it is the cheapest of the vegetable oils to manufacture. And it is in everything. A quick scan of all of my favorite green products broke my heart. I was just as responsible for the burning of that orangutan as any of the villagers that set the fire.

My Earth Balance peanut butter and “buttery” spread said simply “Palm Fruit Oil.” My Seventh Generation dish soap and laundry detergents both listed “sodium lauryl sulfate” as one of the first ingredients.

A quick call the Earth Balance revealed that it sources most of its palm oil from Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) members. While this is a step above the majority of companies, is still does nothing to guarantee that orangutans are not being harassed or even killed.

The RSPO was created by NGOs and palm oil stakeholders in an effort to create a way for palm oil to be grown sustainably. The process is not perfect as there are few advantages to being certified.  But if more consumers begin demanding that companies source only RSPO certified palm oil, the system would advance.

One of the biggest challenges for consumers is the lack of appropriate labeling for palm oil. Found in more than 60 percent of manufactured goods, it can be listed under more than 200 different names.

The sodium lauryl sulfate in my Seventh Generation laundry detergent is most likely palm-oil sourced (they did not return my call for more information). It can be listed simply as “vegetable oil,” or other common ingredients that come at the price of Indonesia’s and Malaysia’s rain forests and their inhabitants (and all of us for that matter) are cetyl alcohol, linoleic acid or octyl palmitate. Check out this complete list. 

The destruction of these forests has made Indonesia the largest emitter of carbon dioxide after the United States and China as the reckless clearing of peat swamp forests releases huge amounts of the gas while leaving a trail of species at risk for extinction like our close relative the orangutan and the mysterious Sumatran tiger, rhino and elephant.

While we might figure out a way to survive a world filled with carbon dioxide gas and devoid of forests, we will have to figure out a way to enjoy it alone.

This is the BBC’s coverage of the orangutan burning.