Roads might pose even bigger threat to Southeast Asian forests, biodiversity than previously understood [05/22/2018]
- According to Alice Hughes, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Centre for Integrative Conservation, global analyses often underestimate levels of deforestation driven by road-building in the Indo-Malaysia region. This is because many of those analyses rely on a widely used global map of roads compiled by Open Street Maps (OSM) that misses as much as 99 percent of roads in parts of the region. - According to Hughes, this level of inaccuracy can have serious consequences: “Not only does it mean that any analysis based on global roads datasets will underestimate the level of fragmentation and overestimate the forest coverage of a region, but most forms of exploitation also occur within close proximity to a road.” - Increasing deforestation is not the only threat posed by opening new areas to roads. “These growing road networks provide accessibility for other forms of resource exploitation,” Hughes notes in the study. “Most notably this includes selective logging, and hunting, which in the Indo-Malay region also targets a vast suite of species as pets, medicine and meat.”
Greenpeace disowns paper giant over deforestation allegations [05/16/2018]
- Environmental NGO Greenpeace will end its engagement with the Indonesian conglomerate Sinar Mas Group and its pulp and paper arm, Asia Pulp & Paper (APP). - A new mapping analysis by the NGO showed 80 square kilometers of forests and peatlands has been cleared since 2013 in two concessions that are linked to the paper giant. - Greenpeace said this finding put APP’s commitment to end deforestation in jeopardy.
The destruction of nature in S. Sumatra has given rise to a criminal generation (commentary) [05/16/2018]
- Reports of criminal activity have increasingly trickled out of Indonesia’s South Sumatra province. - Could these incidents of violence, lawbreaking and general lack of respect for order be related to diminishing natural resources and destruction of the landscape? This article explores this idea. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author alone.
Typo derails landmark ruling against Indonesian palm oil firm guilty of burning peatland [05/15/2018]
- A district court in Indonesia has shielded an oil palm company from a Supreme Court ruling ordering it to pay $26.5 million in fines for burning peatlands in a high-biodiversity area, citing a typo in the original prosecution. - The verdict has stunned activists, who had hoped that the original guilty verdict would set a strong precedent for the judicial fight against environmental crimes. - The government is appealing the latest ruling, which, ironically, is fraught with typos that — under the same legal logic — would render it just as invalid as the original guilty verdict.
Scientists highlight 9 potentially new reef fish species off West Papua [05/14/2018]
- Scientists in Indonesia may have discovered nine new reef fish species in the waters off West Papua province. - The discovery highlights the importance of protecting the region’s marine ecosystem for its vast and rich biodiversity. - However, the researchers also found indications of blast fishing in the protected areas, and have called for sustainable management of the ecosystem.
Indonesia enlists plantation companies to ensure haze-free Asian Games [05/14/2018]
- Organizers of the Asian Games in August are wary of the major sporting event being hit by haze from brush and peat fires, an annual occurrence in Sumatra, where one of the host cities is located. - The government has called on pulpwood and oil palm companies with concessions in fire-prone areas to take steps to restore degraded peatlands and prevent fires during this year’s dry season, which runs from June through September. - The companies are legally obliged to restore areas of deep peat, and some are fast-tracking their other fire-prevention programs in light of the Asian Games.
Report blames coal-fired plant in Bali for pollution, loss of livelihoods [05/14/2018]
- A coal-fired power plant in Celukan Bawang village in Bali, Indonesia, was completed in 2015 to provide up to two-fifth of the resort island’s electricity and help jump-start the local economy. - An investigation by advocacy group Greenpeace has since revealed persistent opposition to the project by residents, who have voiced concerns over health and environmental issues, as well as land compensation. - In its report, Greenpeace calls on the district, provincial and national governments to regularly monitor the changes in the area and focus on development based on renewable energy sources. - The district environmental agency says its own tests show that air and water quality in the area remain within safe limits. It says it has required the plant operator to submit an environmental report every six months.
Sumatran habitat for tigers, orangutans gets a partial reprieve from development [05/10/2018]
- The Aceh provincial government has vowed to protect Gunung Leuser National Park, the core part of the Leuser Ecosystem in Sumatra, by canceling infrastructure projects in the park. - However, questions linger over the future of the remaining part of the wider ecosystem, where planned infrastructure projects remain unaffected by the latest pledge. - Activists have called on the provincial government to recognize the wider Leuser Ecosystem in Aceh’s spatial plans so that the region is excluded from any infrastructure development that could threaten the habitat of the many endangered species living there.
Debate ensues over British supermarket chain’s decision to ban palm oil [05/10/2018]
- Iceland Foods recently decided to remove palm oil from its own-label products. The move follows a vote by the European Parliament to ban the use of palm oil in European biofuels. - An aggressive lobbying campaign spearheaded by actors from Indonesia and Malaysia, the world’s top palm oil producers, have framed the ban as an attack on small farmers, although the industry is dominated by large companies. But Iceland’s move has also spurred debate among scientists and conservationists, some of whom say Iceland would do better to source palm oil that has been produced “sustainably.” - Iceland says it doesn’t believe there is enough “truly sustainable palm oil…currently available on the mass market” for that to be a practical solution. The credibility of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, the world’s largest association for ethical production of the commodity, for example, is widely seen as questionable, as it has repeatedly failed to enforce its standards. - Greenpeace described Iceland’s move as a “warning shot from a tiny UK company, that could start to grow bigger if palm oil producers and governments don’t tackle the scourge of deforestation.”
Indonesian activists protest China-funded dam in orangutan habitat [05/09/2018]
- The Chinese government plans to fund a massive hydroelectric power dam in the Batang Toru ecosystem in North Sumatra, Indonesia, where the newly described Tapanuli orangutan lives. - Activists staged a protest outside the Chinese Embassy in Jakarta on May 8, coinciding with a state visit by Premier Li Keqiang, to condemn Beijing’s involvement in the project. - In a letter submitted by the demonstrators to the embassy, they demanded China withdraw its support for the project due to the massive environmental threats posed by the endeavor.
Indonesia cites twisted bowel in death of Javan rhino [05/04/2018]
- Last month, rangers in Indonesia’s Ujung Kulon National Park found an adult male rhino dead on a beach. - A necropsy determined the rhino’s death was due to complications from a twisted bowel, putting to rest fears of poaching or contagion. - Despite the death, the Javan rhino population has shown stable growth with the birth of two calves earlier this year, putting the tally at minimum 68 individuals.
There is still a chance to save the Sumatran rhino (commentary) [05/03/2018]
- In 2017, rhino experts from around the world and government officials reached a consensus that saving the Sumatran rhino requires the capture and consolidation of remaining wild populations in intensively managed captive breeding facilities. - A female rhino has been identified for immediate capture in Indonesian Borneo. - In this commentary, WWF Wildlife Practice Leader Margaret Kinnaird and IUCN Species Survival Commission Chair Jon Paul Rodriguez say that local and international conservation groups are ready to support the Indonesian government’s efforts to save the Sumatran rhino through captive breeding and release into safe sites. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
‘Rarest’ ape’s path to survival blocked by roads, dams and agriculture [05/03/2018]
- According to a new study, the Tapanuli orangutan, one of only seven species of non-human great ape alive today, faces serious threats to its survival as infrastructure development and agriculture threaten more than one-quarter of its habitat. - In November, a team of scientists reported that a new species of orangutan living on the Indonesian island of Sumatra was distinct from Sumatran and Bornean orangutans. - They believe that fewer than 800 Tapanuli orangutans survive. - Conservationists and scientists warn that a proposed 510-megawatt hydroelectric dam could push the new species closer to extinction.
Failed rice fields may get new lease of life under Indonesian peat restoration project [05/03/2018]
- The Peatland Restoration Agency is looking at possibilities to develop agriculture on abandoned peat swamps from the failed Mega Rice Project in the mid-1990s. - The agency has identified 1,250 square kilometers of peat areas with agricultural potential. - The search is a part of the agency’s pilot project to test methods of developing agriculture without using fires.
What’s next for Indonesia’s stalled indigenous rights bill? [05/03/2018]
- The fate of a long-awaited bill on the rights of Indonesia’s indigenous peoples appeared to be in jeopardy last month when the home ministry, which had been tasked by the president with shepherding the bill’s passage into law, expressed the view that the bill was not necessary. - Though the ministry has since backtracked on its position following an outcry from indigenous rights advocates, it remains uncertain whether the bill will make it through the legislative process before the end of the current parliament term. - But even those pushing for the bill to be passed say it is far from perfect. Among the critiques is that it creates new hoops for indigenous communities to jump through on the path to securing tenure over their land and forests.
Coal mine diverts Sumatran river without a permit, leaving villagers short of clean water [05/02/2018]
- Since coal mining company PT Seluma Prima Coal set up operations in 2015, residents of Rangkiling Bakti village in Jambi, Sumatra say they have suffered from a lack of clean water as well as from landslides and flooding. - Although a permit to do so is still being processed, PT SPC and its partners have diverted the course of Sungumai River, which runs through their concession. - The company has drilled wells and promised other social initiatives, but area residents have continued to protest, calling for more compensation and for legal measures to be taken against the company.
Palm oil supplier to food giants clears forest, peatland in Indonesia, Greenpeace says [04/30/2018]
- The Yemen-based Hayel Saeed Anam Group, which sells palm oil to Mars, Nestlé, PepsiCo, and Unilever through subsidiaries, is responsible for clearing 40 square kilometers (15 square miles) of rainforest and peatland in Indonesia’s Papua province between 2015 and 2017, according to Greenpeace. - Staff from the environmental organization shot video revealing the extent of the destruction. - Greenpeace campaigners have raised concerns that Mars, Nestlé, PepsiCo and Unilever are not upholding their commitments to get rid of deforestation, peatland destruction and exploitation from their supply chains.
In Indonesia’s relentless infrastructure push, taint of corruption weighs on environment [04/30/2018]
- Investigators in Indonesia have arrested the mayor and former mayor of the city of Kendari for allegedly taking bribes in the awarding of a contract to build a land bridge to a new port set to open next year. - While the investigation is centered on corruption in the bidding process, activists have urged a thorough look into likely environmental violations, given that the project involves sea reclamation and forest-clearing. - The project continues, but has already claimed the livelihoods of the fishing community on whose tiny island the new container port is being built.
Environmental defenders fear backlash as defendant sues expert over testimony [04/26/2018]
- Basuki Wasis, an environmental expert whose testimony helped convict a provincial governor of abuse of power, now faces a lawsuit brought by the latter for alleged inaccuracies in his calculations of environmental damage. - The lawsuit against Basuki is similar to one he faced last year from a palm oil company that was fined for setting fires on its concession. The earlier lawsuit was dropped, but the company now appears to be targeting another expert witness who testified against it. - The litigation has sparked concerns among environmental experts and activists alike, who fear it will have a silencing effect and allow environmental crimes to go unpunished. - They also worry that without financial assessments of damages caused to the environment, prosecutors trying corruption cases in the natural resources sector will not be able to push for longer prison sentences and heavier fines.
Signoff on rhino sperm transfer between Indonesia, Malaysia expected mid-May: Official [04/26/2018]
- Indonesia has sent a memorandum of understanding to the Malaysian government regarding the transfer of sperm for use in a captive-breeding attempt, an official confirmed to Mongabay on April 26. - Hoping the sperm can be used to fertilize Malaysia’s last remaining female Sumatran rhino, conservationists have been awaiting permission for the transfer for years. - Herry Subagiadi, secretary to the conservation director at Indonesia’s Ministry of Environment and Forestry, says he expects Malaysia to sign the agreement in mid-May. - Sumatran rhinos are critically endangered, with just nine living in captivity in Indonesia and Malaysia, and as few as 30 surviving in the wild.
Two newborn Javan rhinos spotted on camera in Indonesian park [04/26/2018]
- Officials from Indonesia’s Ujung Kulon National Park announced Thursday that two new Javan rhino calves were born this year. - An adult male, estimated to be around 30 years old, was found dead in the park this week. Officials have found no indication the death was due to poaching, poison or acute infection. - Ujung Kulon is the sole remaining habitat of the species. With two births and one death, the official population estimate now stands at 68.
Study puts a figure to hidden cost of community-company conflict in palm oil industry [04/25/2018]
- Two studies have revealed the extraordinary costs of social conflicts between local communities and palm oil firms in Indonesia, the world’s biggest producer of the vegetable oil. - One study found that more than half of local household expenditure at present was going on things they would have obtained for free in the past, such as water and fruits, from the forests that were cleared to make way for palm plantations. - The other study highlighted the hidden burden of these same conflicts on the companies, amounting to millions of dollars in tangible and intangible costs, including reputational damage.
New species of superb bird-of-paradise has special dance moves [04/25/2018]
- Until recently, researchers thought that the island of New Guinea was home to a single species of the superb bird-of-paradise, the bird with the now-famous “smiley face” dance routine. - Now, researchers have confirmed yet another species of the superb bird-of-paradise in the Indonesian Bird’s Head or Vogelkop region of the island, called the Vogelkop superb bird-of-paradise. - The males of the two species have different dance moves and calls, and the females look different too, researchers have found.
Papuan chef Charles Toto serves up sustainability and environmental protection in a platter [04/24/2018]
- Charles Toto is the founder of the Jungle Chef Community, a network of enthusiasts from across the Indonesian region of Papua who promote sustainable living and environmental protection through local cuisine. - Toto came up with the idea after seeing foreign documentary makers and tour groups embarking on weeks-long treks in the Papuan wilderness with nothing more than instant and canned food. - Over the years, he has learned to make the best use of the ingredients served up by the forest and the sea, and has taken his unique mission to culinary shows across Indonesia and abroad. - But for Toto and his group, the opening up of Papua’s forests to palm oil and other commercial operators, aided by a government-backed infrastructure push, threatens the region’s natural wealth and heritage.
Indonesian oil palm smallholders sue state over subsidy to biofuel producers [04/24/2018]
- A union of palm oil smallholders is challenging the allocation of a billion-dollar fund that they say fails to help them rejuvenate their low-yielding oil palms and instead unfairly subsidizes large biofuel producers. - Only 1 percent of the fund went to the smallholder replanting program last year, while 89 percent went to the biodiesel subsidy. The government has promised to amend the split to 22:70 this year. - But the government has also defended the subsidy, saying it needs to artificially boost the price of crude palm oil, to make biodiesel competitive with the regular diesel sold in the country — which is also subsidized by the state.
Sumatran tiger blamed for killing two people is captured alive after marathon hunt [04/24/2018]
- Authorities in Indonesia have captured alive a critically endangered Sumatran tiger blamed for the deaths of two people in an oil palm plantation. - The tiger has been moved to a wildlife rehabilitation center, where it will undergo medical tests ahead of being released back into the wild. - The capture averts a repeat of a near-identical case in March, in which villagers killed and mutilated a tiger blamed for attacking two members of a hunting party. - The whole incident, which an official described as the longest ever search-and-rescue operation for a Sumatran tiger, has highlighted the importance of protecting wildlife habitats, which often are lost to plantations or human settlements, driving the animals into conflict with people.
Indonesia’s crackdown on illegal fishing is paying off, study finds [04/23/2018]
- Indonesia’s crackdown on illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in its waters is paying off for domestic fisheries and fish recovery, according to a new study. - But for Indonesia to continue to reap the benefits from its anti-IUU fishing policies, the country needs to ensure that domestic fishing efforts are also well-managed, the paper’s authors noted. - Indonesia’s success in tackling illegal fishing provides an example that can be implemented in other countries plagued by overfishing by foreign vessels, the researchers concluded.
Conservation Effectiveness series sparks action, dialogue [04/23/2018]
- Our in-depth series examined the effectiveness of six common conservation strategies: Forest certification, payments for ecosystem services, community-based forest management, terrestrial protected areas, marine protected areas, and environmental advocacy. - We also examined how four of the biggest groups that dominate today’s conservation landscape — The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Conservation International (CI), the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) — make decisions about which conservation strategy to employ. - Our series generated a lot of discussion and attracted a wide variety of feedback. - We hope to keep our databases of scientific studies and our infographics alive and relevant by developing a platform that allows researchers to update them by adding studies. We welcome ideas on this effort.
Save intact forests for humanity’s sake, urge experts [04/20/2018]
- The world’s largest forests can help solve some of the biggest problems facing humanity, but only if we move to safeguard them, argues a New York Times op-ed by Tom Lovejoy and John Reid. - Lovejoy and Reid make a case for protecting the planet’s last “intact forest landscapes” for the role they can play in addressing critical social and environmental challenges. - They argue that while the extent of intact forests have declined by 7 percent so far this century, there are “practical and affordable” options for protecting them. - “aving forests more than just a nice thing to do; it’s a survival skill we’re going to need over the next hundred years or more,” Reid told Mongabay in an interview.
Bid to protect indigenous Indonesians hit by ministry’s doubts over rights bill [04/20/2018]
- Indonesia’s Home Affairs Ministry has shocked indigenous-rights advocates with its assessment that a bill currently before parliament on indigenous peoples is “not a necessity” and will only give rise to more problems. - That stance goes against the long-held commitment of the administration of President Joko Widodo to recognize and protect the rights of the country’s myriad indigenous communities, including their rights to ancestral forests. - The ministry, however, has played down the uproar, saying discussions on the bill are still in their early stages and other ministries and government agencies have yet to weigh in on the matter.
Unified land-use map for Indonesia nears launch, but concerns over access remain [04/19/2018]
- A unified database integrating all of the land-use maps currently in use in Indonesia is set for an earlier-than-expected launch this August, as the government scrambles to collate outstanding data from various agencies and regions. - The one-map policy is seen as key to resolving a host of development and planning problems caused by overlapping and often contradictory maps wielded by different agencies, including the issue of plantations being permitted inside forest areas. - The government, however, says access to the database will be restricted, and is drafting regulations that will govern who gets to see it.
Indonesia to punish state firm over litany of failures behind Borneo oil spill [04/18/2018]
- An official investigation into an oil spill last month in Indonesian Borneo found a lack of warning systems that would have alerted state oil company Pertamina to the leak hours earlier. - The government has also found omissions in the company’s environmental impact assessment, and is preparing to impose a series of administrative sanctions as well as fines. - Police are carrying out a criminal investigation in parallel to determine who was responsible for the spill, amid reports that a foreign-flagged coal ship may have cause the pipeline damage leading to the leak.
It’s time to confront the collusion between the palm oil industry and politicians that is driving Indonesia’s deforestation crisis (commentary) [04/18/2018]
- An investigation released today by Mongabay and Earthsight’s The Gecko Project reveals the deep connections between the international palm oil industry and the corruption of Indonesian democracy. - Some of the biggest firms in the industry, that are supplying supermarkets in the EU and U.S., are buying palm oil from plantations linked to corrupt politicians. - Six million hectares of rainforest and carbon-rich peatlands remains in licenses issued in opaque circumstances. If the role of corruption is confronted, through action in Indonesia, by overseas consumer companies and the international community, much of this forest could be saved.
Ghosts in the Machine: The land deals behind the downfall of Indonesia’s top judge [04/18/2018]
- This is the second installment of Indonesia for Sale, an in-depth series on the corruption behind Indonesia’s deforestation and land rights crisis. - Indonesia for Sale is a collaboration between Mongabay and The Gecko Project, an investigative reporting initiative established by UK-based nonprofit Earthsight. - The series is the product of 16 months of reporting across the Southeast Asian country, interviewing fixers, middlemen, lawyers and plantation companies involved in land deals, and those most affected by them.
Small farmers not ready as Indonesia looks to impose its palm oil sustainability standard on all [04/13/2018]
- The Indonesian government plans to make its sustainable palm oil certification scheme, the ISPO, mandatory for small farmers by 2020. These farmers account for 40 percent of the total oil palm plantation area nationwide, but were exempted from the initial ISPO rollout. - A recent study shows that these smallholders are not ready to adopt the standard. They face a variety of challenges, largely stemming from the tenuous nature of their land ownership claims. - The Ministry of Agriculture fears that under the existing ISPO compliance regulation, many farmers will end up in prison for failing to comply by the deadline. The government is now drafting an updated ISPO regulation.
Coal company fined 2 billion rupiah for illegal waste dumping in Borneo [04/12/2018]
- Residents of villages along the Santan River in East Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo, have long complained they are suffering from pollution due to coal mining and burning in the area. - In December, coal company PT Indominco Mandiri was fined 2 billion rupiah ($145,000) after it was found guilty of illegally dumping hazardous waste from its power plant. - Activists say the verdict did not go far enough, calling for prison sentences for company officials and a revocation of the company’s license to operate. - Company representatives say they respect the court’s verdict, and note they have only been found guilty of illegal dumping, not polluting the waterway.
How a family of local elites is still pitching to control a district in Borneo [04/11/2018]
In the leadup to the release of the second installment of Indonesia for Sale, our series examining the corruption behind Indonesia’s deforestation and land-rights crisis, we are republishing the first article in the series, “The Palm Oil Fiefdom.” This is the seventh and final part of that article. The first part described a secret deal between the son of […]
Indonesian billionaire using ‘shadow companies’ to clear forest for palm oil, report alleges [04/11/2018]
- Two plantation companies linked to Anthoni Salim, Indonesia’s third-richest man, are deforesting a peat swamp in Borneo, according to new research by Aidenvironment. - In response to the findings, Citigroup said it was cancelling all lending agreements with IndoAgri, the Salim Group’s agribusiness arm. - The Salim Group was previously accused of being behind four companies at the forefront of illegal oil palm expansion in Indonesia’s Papua region, employing a complex network of shared directorships and offshore companies to obfuscate its responsibility. - “It is not just the Salim Group; most of the main palm oil groups have these ‘dark sides’ that continue to deforest,” said Selwyn Moran, founder of investigative blog awas MIFEE.
Activists fear for environmental protection under Indonesia’s revised Criminal Code [04/11/2018]
- Indonesian lawmakers aim to pass a long-awaited revision of the country’s Criminal Code this month, but already the draft has been widely criticized for rolling back personal freedoms and human rights. - Activists say it also threatens to gut existing legislation on environmental protection, effectively going easy on polluters and other environmental violators. - Problems identified include raising the bar for proving an environmental offense; more lenient sentencing prescriptions; and failing to hold the responsible parties accountable for environmental crimes.
Indonesia land swap, meant to protect peatlands, risks wider deforestation, NGOs say [04/09/2018]
- Under a government program, pulpwood and logging companies in Indonesia are eligible for a land swap if their existing concessions include at least 40 percent protected peatland. - However, a lack of transparency over how the substitute areas are selected has led to fears that up to half the land that could potentially be awarded may be natural forest, thereby speeding up deforestation in the name of protecting peatland. - There are also fears that granting eligible companies these substitute areas, which the government says will be on abandoned or undeveloped timber concessions, will reignite conflicts with local communities. - The government has promised to publish a map of the land swap areas, adding it wants to ensure the new lands don’t include natural forests and won’t spark conflicts with local communities.
How loopholes in Indonesia’s corruption law let environmental crime persist [04/09/2018]
In the leadup to the release of the second installment of Indonesia for Sale, our series examining the corruption behind Indonesia’s deforestation and land-rights crisis, we are republishing the first article in the series, “The Palm Oil Fiefdom.” This is the fifth part of that article. The first part described a secret deal between the son of Darwan Ali, […]
Indonesian conservation bill is weak on wildlife crime, critics say [04/06/2018]
- Lawmakers in Indonesia have submitted for review to President Joko Widodo’s administration a bill that would overhaul the country’s 28-year-old conservation law. - While environmental advocates have long pushed for updates to the law, the new draft has alarmed many with its various provisions that critics say represent a regression from the existing legislation. - Problem articles include a “self-defense” clause that would waive criminal charges for killing protected wildlife; a more nebulous definition of wildlife crime that some fear could make it harder to crack down on traffickers; and the opening up of conservation areas to geothermal exploration and other “strategic development” projects. - The ball is now in the court of the government, which is required to review the bill before sending it back to parliament for final passage. However, a minister says the government will “hold off” on its review, and suggests the existing conservation law is sufficient.
South Korean company under fire for alleged deforestation in Papua oil palm concession [04/05/2018]
- A report by WRI shows ongoing deforestation in an oil palm concession in Papua, Indonesia, operated by a subsidiary of South Korea’s POSCO Daewoo. - The company has responded by saying its operations in Papua are legal and fully permitted. - Concerns over deforestation by POSCO Daewoo have prompted other companies to say they will not allow its palm oil into their supply chains. These include big-name brands such as Clorox, Colgate Palmolive, IKEA, L’Oreal, Mars and Unilever. - POSCO Daewoo has issued a temporary moratorium on land clearing in its Papua concession and hired a consultant to advise it on how to proceed with its operations there.
How the farmers of Seruyan rose up a against a palm oil fiefdom [04/05/2018]
In the leadup to the release of the second installment of Indonesia for Sale, our series examining the corruption behind Indonesia’s deforestation and land-rights crisis, we are republishing the first article in the series, “The Palm Oil Fiefdom.” This is the fourth part of that article. The first part described a secret deal between the son of Darwan Ali, […]
Deadly oil spill in eastern Borneo spreads to the open sea [04/05/2018]
- An oil spill that began on March 31 in Balikpapan Bay has spread out to the Strait of Makassar and now covers an area of 130 square kilometers (50 square miles) — larger than the city of Paris. - Indonesian state-owned oil company Pertamina has admitted responsibility after days of denials, but suggested the damage to its undersea pipeline was caused by a vessel passing through the area. - The disaster has claimed the lives of five fishermen, contaminated a mangrove forest, prompted thousands of health complaints, and been linked to the death of an endangered dolphin.
Indonesia investigates deadly oil spill in eastern Borneo [04/03/2018]
- An oil spill and ensuing fire in Balikpapan Bay in Indonesian Borneo over the weekend has been blamed for the deaths of at least four fishermen and an endangered Irrawaddy dolphin. - State oil firm Pertamina, which operates a refinery and undersea pipeline in the area, has denied any link to the oil, suggesting it came from a ship. - The environment ministry has deployed a team to investigate the source of the spill and survey the extent of the damage caused.
Indonesia’s dying timber concessions, invaded by oil palms, top deforestation table [04/03/2018]
- A study shows that selective-logging leases accounted for the highest rate of deforestation in three provinces studied from 2013 to 2016. - While the discovery came as a surprise, the researchers attributed part of that deforestation to the illegal encroachment of oil palm plantations into many of these timber concessions. Another factor is the cutting of more trees than permitted by logging operators. - Environmentalists warn the problem could get even worse if the government follows through on plans to lift a ban on exports of unprocessed logs, which has been in place since 1985 (with a brief hiatus from 1997 to 2001).
Study: Indonesia’s ambitious peat restoration initiative severely underfunded [03/30/2018]
- Indonesia will need an estimated $4.6 billion to restore some 20,000 square kilometers (7,720 square miles) of degraded peatland by its self-imposed deadline of 2020, a study suggests. - To date, however, funding for the project that began in 2016 amounts to less than $200 million, with the result that only 5 percent of the restoration target has been achieved. - The study authors say the Indonesian government faces a dilemma over whether to concentrate its resources in a smaller area or risk potentially ineffective restoration methods to cover the entire target area.
Indonesia may achieve renewables target, but still favors coal for power [03/29/2018]
- Indonesia is set to achieve its target for renewables portion in the national energy mix by 2025, but the country will still rely heavily on coal in the next 10 years, according to revisions in the national electricity plan. - The new plan also sees cuts to the country’s target to install additional electricity capacity across the archipelago by 2027 amid stagnant demand, slower-than-projected economic growth, and state utility PLN’s financial concerns over the glut of idle power in some parts of the nation. - Energy activists, however, argue that the trims are still not enough to solve PLN’s financial woes or to reduce Indonesia’s dependence on health- and environment-damaging coal.
In a land untouched by mines, indigenous holdouts fight a coal invasion [03/28/2018]
- Despite opposition from local officials and the absence of a required environmental impact assessment, a coal company was granted a permit to mine in Indonesian Borneo’s Central Hulu Sungai district. - The local Dayak people have vowed to fight the mine, and an environmental NGO is suing the central government for issuing the permit. - The permit was issued after changes to the law — said to simplify the process of issuing permits — allowed mining firm PT MCM to sidestep local officials.
How a series of shady deals turned a chunk of Borneo into a sea of oil palm [03/27/2018]
In the leadup to the release of the second installment of Indonesia for Sale, our series examining the corruption behind Indonesia’s deforestation and land-rights crisis, we are republishing the first article in the series, “The Palm Oil Fiefdom.” This is the fourth part of that article. The first part described a secret deal between the son of Darwan Ali, […]
Indonesian graftbusters put a price tag on environmental crime [03/27/2018]
- Indonesia’s anti-corruption agency, the KPK, has alleged huge losses incurred by the state as a result of illegal mining permits handed out by a provincial governor. The severity of the charge relies heavily on estimates of environmental damage. - The KPK sees the move as a breakthrough that could lead to heavier sentences and fines in corruption cases in Indonesia’s natural resources sector. - NGOs, however, say the agency is pulling its punches and should have cracked down harder, including seeking fines in the same amount as the alleged losses to the state. - In a twist in the case, the expert who helped derive the monetary figure for the environmental damages now faces a lawsuit from the defendant’s team, which claims he presented an inaccurate calculation.
In Jakarta, wildlife monitors find a hotspot for the illegal tortoise trade [03/26/2018]
- Indonesia’s capital has seen an increase in the sale of non-native species of tortoises and freshwater turtles that are prohibited for international commercial trade, according to a report by the wildlife-monitoring group TRAFFIC. - Growing demand for these species, coupled with Indonesia’s lax enforcement of customs regulation at international ports of entry and an outdated conservation act, have allowed the illicit international animal trade to grow, TRAFFIC said. - The group has called on the Indonesian government to improve the country’s conservation laws and regulations, and urged more stringent monitoring of the markets, pet stores and expos in Jakarta and across the country to document and assess the extent of any illegal trade.
How Indonesia’s Seruyan district became an epicenter of fires and haze [03/26/2018]
In the leadup to the release of the second installment of Indonesia for Sale, our series examining the corruption behind Indonesia’s deforestation and land-rights crisis, we are republishing the first article in the series, “The Palm Oil Fiefdom.” This is the third part of that article. The first part described a secret deal between the son of Darwan Ali, […]
How to build a Guardian: students learn about making technology work in the field [03/23/2018]
- Students in several science and tech schools in California are learning to design and build Guardians, acoustic monitoring devices to help protect rainforests from illegal logging while keeping a record of the sounds made by forest wildlife. - Led by the non-profit Rainforest Connection, the students are constructing the Guardians from old, recycled smartphones armed with solar power and Google’s open source machine learning framework, TensorFlow, which transforms them into field-tough listening tools. - The program also addresses the challenges of designing and developing technology for humid, rugged, remote field conditions typical of indigenous reserves and protected areas.
In Bali fish die-offs, researchers spot a human hand [03/22/2018]
- Mass fish die-offs are not uncommon in the volcanic lakes that dot Indonesia, including Bali’s Lake Batur, which sits in the crater of an active volcano. - While sulfur releases, steep temperature gradients and other natural phenomena are responsible for some of the bigger die-offs, researchers have identified the chemicals from excess fish feed as the main culprit for the more frequent die-offs caused by oxygen depletion. - Similar die-offs in other lakes around Indonesia have also been traced back to household and industrial waste, as well as agricultural runoff and fish farms. Researchers have warned that more than a dozen lakes could die out as soon as 2025 as a result of this chemical assault.
Company outed for fires in Indonesian palm lease still clearing forests in timber concession, NGO finds [03/22/2018]
- Agribusiness conglomerate Korindo has since 2017 implemented a moratorium on forest clearing in its oil palm concessions, after it was found to be burning forests in Indonesia’s Papua province. - A new report indicates that since then, the company may have degraded more than 30 square kilometers of pristine forest to build logging roads in one of its timber concessions — an area excluded from the self-imposed moratorium. - The NGO Mighty Earth has called on the company to extend both the forest clearing moratorium and a high carbon stock approach, which it employs on its oil palm concessions, to its timber operations.
How the son of a tailor rose to power in Indonesia’s palm oil heartland [03/22/2018]
In the leadup to the release of the second installment of Indonesia for Sale, our series examining the corruption behind Indonesia’s deforestation and land-rights crisis, we are republishing the first article in the series, “The Palm Oil Fiefdom.” This is the second part of that article. The first part described a secret deal between the son […]
How one of Indonesia’s biggest companies cut a secret deal to plant oil palm in Borneo [03/20/2018]
In the leadup to the release of the second installment of Indonesia for Sale, our series examining the corruption behind Indonesia’s deforestation and land-rights crisis, we are republishing the first article in the series, “The Palm Oil Fiefdom.” This is the first part of that article, which can be read in full here. (Baca juga dalam Bahasa […]
Indonesia launches bid to restore national park that’s home to tigers, elephants [03/19/2018]
- Tesso Nilo National Park in Sumatra is home to critically endangered tigers and elephants, but has been heavily deforested by illegal oil palm plantations and human settlements. - The government has introduced a program to gradually relocate the people living within the park’s borders, by encouraging them to shift away from oil palm farming to alternative and sustainable forms of livelihood. - If successful, the program could serve as a model for restoring other national parks across Indonesia, which face similar problems of human encroachment.
Better agricultural planning could prevent 88% of biodiversity loss, study finds [03/16/2018]
- Results of a new study reveal that nearly 90 percent of the biodiversity that scientists expect will be lost to future agricultural expansion could be saved if more effective land-use planning directed this expansion to areas with the fewest species. - It found that 10 countries possessed the lion’s share of this potential, and could by themselves reduce the expected loss of the world’s biodiversity by 33 percent. - However, there are caveats. The researchers write that most of these countries are among the “20 worst-ranked” in terms of environmental impacts and have governance and political issues that would impede effective land-use planning at a national level. And they say global land-use optimization aimed at protecting the natural resources of the world’s most biodiverse countries may come “at the expense of their own production opportunities and economic development.” - The researchers write that in order for the world’s most biodiverse countries to reach their full conservation potential while providing for their human communities, global land-use policy and research need to better integrate the governance, political and economic challenges present in these countries.
Save the Sumatran rhino ‘because we can’ (commentary) [03/16/2018]
- Mongabay sent contributing editor Jeremy Hance to Indonesia in 2017 to visit the last remaining Sumatran rhinos in the forests and protected sanctuaries where captive breeding is having some limited success. - Hance argues today in an opinion piece for the Sydney Morning Herald that we should save the Sumatran rhino, not only because losing biodiversity is bad for the health of humanity’s environment, but also “because we can.” - To keep these ‘lovably weird’ rhinos from extinction, the Indonesian government must act, he argues, because even if there’s 100 left, that size population is unlikely to be viable in the long term.
Indonesia races to catch tiger alive as villagers threaten to ‘kill the beast’ [03/15/2018]
- A conservation agency in Indonesia’s Sumatra Island has deployed two teams to capture alive a wild tiger that has reportedly killed two people at an oil palm plantation. - The incidents prompted villagers living near the plantation to threaten to kill the tiger themselves if it was not caught. - Authorities are keen to take the animal alive, following the killing of a tiger earlier this month under similar circumstances.
Five years after zero-deforestation vow, little sign of progress from Indonesian pulp giant [03/15/2018]
- Environmental watchdogs have criticized Indonesian paper behemoth Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) for not making good on the zero-deforestation pledge it made five years ago. - The NGOs have highlighted several key problems in the implementation of APP’s Forest Conservation Program, including virtually no progress in addressing longstanding land conflicts with local communities, and the glacial pace of peatland restoration. - APP has acknowledged some of the shortcomings in the implementation of its pledge, but says many of the outstanding issues and complex and that it remains committed to its goal.
Activists eye bigger roles for local officials, businesses in Indonesia’s orangutan protection plan [03/15/2018]
- The Indonesian government is drafting another 10-year guideline for orangutan conservation that aims to staunch the decline in the population of the critically endangered great ape. - This time around, orangutan experts want the federal government to lay out clearer guidelines for conservation roles to be played by local authorities and companies working in orangutan habitats. - Local authorities and companies are seen as key to protecting the animals’ increasingly fragmented habitat, but tend to favor short-term development and business plans that don’t serve long-term conservation goals.
Debates heat up as Indonesian palm oil moratorium is about to be signed [03/13/2018]
- Announced two years ago, a moratorium on new oil palm permits in Indonesia is about to be signed by President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo. - But a coalition of environmental NGOs has criticized the latest draft of the moratorium, saying it contains many loopholes. - The coalition has submitted a list of recommendations to the government, which has promised to follow up on their concerns.
Plastic not so fantastic for Bali’s iconic manta rays [03/09/2018]
- Two recent videos from a diving site in Bali known for its manta rays have garnered global attention for highlighting the dire state of plastic pollution in Indonesia’s waters. - While the local government and volunteers have made efforts to clean up the garbage, a lack of proper planning and poor awareness of waste disposal means huge volumes of trash continue to be dumped into the ocean daily. - Indonesia produces around 130,000 tons of plastic and solid waste every day, and is the second-largest plastic polluter in the world, behind China.
Tropical deforestation: the need for a strategy adjustment (commentary) [03/08/2018]
- Ecologist Dan Nepstad is the founder and executive director of the Earth Innovation Institute. - In this commentary, Nepstad makes the case for building stronger government support to end deforestation in tropical countries. - Without this support, it may not be possible to further curb tropical deforestation. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Public access to Indonesian plantation data still mired in bureaucracy [03/08/2018]
- Indonesia’s agrarian ministry continues to hold out on releasing oil palm plantation data to the public, a year after the Supreme Court ordered it to comply with a freedom-of-information ruling. - The ministry argues it is obliged to generate revenue from the release of such data, and that the lack of a payment mechanism prevents it from complying. - It also initially dodged a request for similar data filed by the national mapping agency, citing the same reason, but complied after the anti-corruption agency intervened.
Video: Arkani, the Dayak known as Jenggot Naga — Dragon Beard [03/08/2018]
- “The palm oil fiefdom” is an investigation by Mongabay and The Gecko Project, an initiative of the UK-based research house Earthsight. - The article reveals how Darwan Ali, the former head of Indonesia’s Seruyan district, presided over an elaborate scheme to use shell companies as vehicles to make money from major palm oil firms. - Short films produced in conjunction with the article feature some of those affected by Darwan’s licensing spree, including an indigenous man from Borneo named Arkani.
Video: Budiardi, labeled a ‘provocateur’ and jailed in a dispute with a palm oil company [03/06/2018]
- “The palm oil fiefdom” is an investigation by Mongabay and The Gecko Project, an initiative of the UK-based research house Earthsight. - The article reveals how Darwan Ali, the former head of Indonesia’s Seruyan district, presided over an elaborate scheme to use shell companies as vehicles to sell plantation licenses to major palm oil firms. - Short films produced in conjunction with the article feature some of those affected by Darwan’s licensing spree, including a Dayak man named Budiardi.
Villagers cite self-defense in tiger killing, but missing body parts point to the illegal wildlife trade [03/06/2018]
- Villagers in Indonesia have killed a critically endangered Sumatran tiger, after labeling it a menace to the village. - Conservation authorities, though, have found strong indications that the animal may have been killed for its body parts, which are highly prized in the illegal wildlife trade. - Habitat loss and poaching have already driven two other species of tiger in Indonesia to extinction, and conservationists warn the Sumatran tiger is being pushed along the same same path. - Warning: The article contains some disturbing images.
In eastern Indonesia, a forest tribe pushes back against miners and loggers [03/05/2018]
- The Forest Tobelo, an indigenous tribe in Indonesia’s North Maluku province, faces constant threat from illegal loggers and the expansion of mining leases. - More than one third of the province’s total area has been allocated for mining leases. - The community has chosen to fight back by drawing up its own maps of the land to which it has long laid claim, and by reporting illegal incursions into its forests.
Mangrove deforestation may be releasing more CO2 than Poland, study finds [03/02/2018]
- A new study calculates that, worldwide, mangroves were storing 4.19 billion metric tons of carbon in 2012, representing a 2 percent loss since 2000. It estimates that number had dropped further to 4.16 billion metric tons by 2017. - In total, the study estimates that this lost carbon translates to as much as 317 million tons of CO2 emissions per year, equivalent to the annual emissions of around 67.5 million passenger vehicles in the U.S. and more than the 2015 emissions of Poland. - The researchers found Indonesia harbors the lion’s share of the world’s mangroves – around 30 percent – while also experiencing the biggest proportion of its 2000-2012 mangrove carbon loss, with deforestation there accounting for more than 48 percent of the global total. Other parts of Southeast Asia, such as Myanmar, are also undergoing high rates of mangrove deforestation, making the entire region a hotspot of global mangrove carbon loss. - Previous research estimates that between 30 and 50 percent of the world’s mangroves have been lost over the past 50 years. Deforestation for shrimp, rice and palm oil are among the biggest drivers of mangrove decline.
Pepsi cuts off Indonesian palm oil supplier over labor, sustainability concerns [03/01/2018]
- PepsiCo has announced the suspension since January 2017 of its business ties with IndoAgri, one of Indonesia’s biggest palm oil producers, citing concerns over the company’s labor rights and sustainability practices. - IndoAgri has been criticized for alleged abuses of workers’ rights in some of its plantations in North Sumatra province. - PepsiCo has demanded that IndoAgri resolve these outstanding issues before its considers resuming their business partnership.
‘S.O.S.’ carved out of former plantation shines a light on palm oil-driven deforestation [03/01/2018]
- A dramatic S.O.S. sign has been carved out of a stand of oil palms on a former plantation in Sumatra, serving to highlight the destruction of Indonesia’s rainforests. - The work is part of a campaign by a Lithuanian artist, a conservation group and a cosmetics firm to raise awareness about palm oil-driven deforestation in Indonesia, the world’s biggest producer of the commodity. - Extensive deforestation has for decades threatened the lives of the island’s native wildlife and the people who depend on the forests for a living.
Javan rhino population holds steady amid ever-present peril [03/01/2018]
- The latest survey from the Indonesian government shows the population of the Javan rhino, one of the world’s most endangered large mammals, holding steady in its last remaining habitat. - While the findings indicate a healthy and breeding rhino population, wildlife experts warn of the dangers looming over the animal’s existence, including human encroachment into its habitat and the ever-present threat of a volcanic eruption and tsunami. - The Javan rhino is one of the last three Asian rhino species — alongside the Sumatran and Indian rhinos — all of which have been pushed to the brink of extinction.
On an island of plenty, a community tempered by waves braces for rising seas [02/27/2018]
- For generations, the indigenous Papuans on Indonesia’s Auki Island have depended on rich coastal ecosystem around them for sustenance and livelihoods. - But when an earthquake and a tsunami struck the area in 1996, they realized they needed to do more to protect these resources to sustain their way of life. - A decade later, they enshrined practices such as sustainable fishing in a local regulation, which to date has already shown positive results for the islanders and the environment. - But the threat of another disaster — rising sea levels as a result of global warming — looms over the community. This time, they’re preparing through mitigation programs, including protecting mangroves.
Indonesia braces for return of fire season as hotspots flare up [02/26/2018]
- Indonesia’s annual forest fire season has started, with reports of blazes in four peat-rich provinces, all of which have declared a state of emergency. - The stake is high for Indonesia to prevent the fires and resultant haze this year, as it prepares to host tens of thousands of athletes and visitors for the Asian Games. One of the host cities is in South Sumatra province, a perennial tinderbox. - The Indonesian government rolled out extensive measures to prevent fires in the wake of the 2015 blazes, focusing on restoring drained peatland, but questions remain over the effectiveness of those efforts.
Activists: Palm oil must not get wider access to EU under Indonesia trade talks [02/22/2018]
- The prospect of greater access for Indonesian palm oil to the 28-nation EU market is expected to dominate trade negotiations taking place this week. - Environmental activists from both Indonesia and Europe warn that granting this access could lead to even greater deforestation and more social conflicts in Indonesia, the world’s biggest producer of palm oil. - For its part, the Indonesian government is seeking to push back against EU measures to phase out palm oil for use in biofuels by 2021.
Scientists from Indonesia, Germany and the Netherlands win Indonesian Peat Prize [02/20/2018]
- A team of scientists from Indonesia, Germany and the Netherlands has won the Indonesian Peat Prize for coming up with a fast, accurate and cost-effective way to map Indonesia’s vast tropical peatlands. - The judges praise the winning methodology’s versatility, speediness and accuracy in mapping peatlands. - Indonesia will have two years to fully adapt the winning methodology into the new peat-mapping standard, although some government agencies are clamoring to start adopting the system immediately.
As Indonesia gears up for elections, activists brace for an environmental sell-off [02/19/2018]
- This year, Indonesia will hold elections for governors, district heads and mayors across 171 regions, many of them home to vast natural resources. - Environmental activists are worried that, as in previous election years, the campaigning this year will be rife with corruption, as candidates take kickbacks from plantation and mining operators in a quid pro quo for permits and other favors once in office. - A key factor in the issue is the greater autonomy that local leaders enjoy managing their lands and resources, to the extent that they can even skirt some of the controls imposed by the central government. - The central government has made assurances that its processes now are more transparent and accountable, making potential abuses at the local level less likely. Activists, though, are unconvinced, citing a longstanding lack of strong enforcement.
Four Indonesian farmers charged in killing of orangutan that was shot 130 times [02/18/2018]
- Police in Indonesia have arrested four farmers for allegedly shooting a Bornean orangutan whose body was found riddled with 130 air gun pellets. - The suspects claimed to have killed the animal because it had encroached onto their pineapple farm and ruined the crop. - The killing was the second such case reported this year in Indonesia, where orangutans are ostensibly protected under the conservation act. But lax enforcement means few perpetrators ever face justice for killing or trading in these great apes.
Borneo, ravaged by deforestation, loses nearly 150,000 orangutans in 16 years, study finds [02/15/2018]
- A new study calculates that the island of Borneo lost nearly 150,000 orangutans in the period between 1999 and 2015, largely as a result of deforestation and killing. There were an estimated 104,700 of the critically endangered apes left as of 2012. - The study also warns that another 45,000 orangutans are doomed by 2050 under the business-as-usual scenario, where forests are cleared for logging, palm oil, mining and pulpwood leases. Orangutans are also disappearing from intact forests, most likely being killed, the researchers say. - The researchers have called for more effective partnerships between governments, industries and local communities to ensure the Bornean orangutan’s survival. Public education and awareness will also be key.
‘Eye of Papua’ shines a light on environmental, indigenous issues in Indonesia’s last frontier [02/14/2018]
- For decades the Papua region in Indonesia has remained the country’s least-understood, least-developed and most-impoverished area, amid a lack of transparency fueled by a strong security presence. - Activists hope their new website, Mata Papua, or Eye of Papua, will fill the information void with reports, data and maps about indigenous welfare and the proliferation of mines, logging leases and plantations in one of the world’s last great spans of tropical forest. - Companies, with the encouragement of the government, are fast carving up Papua’s land, after having nearly depleted the forests of Sumatra and Indonesian Borneo.
Duterte orders navy to fire on foreign poachers in Philippine waters [02/14/2018]
- Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has called on the navy to open fire at foreign vessels suspected of poaching or extracting natural resources in the Southeast Asian nation’s exclusive waters. - Duterte made the decision to address concerns about territorial rights over Benham Rise, an undersea plateau off the country’s northeastern coast believed to be rich in oil, gas and fisheries. - A number of Southeast Asian nations, notably Indonesia, have recently taken a tough stance against marine poaching in the region, which is home to some of the world’s richest underwater ecosystems and threatened by overfishing.
Indonesian police bust Chinese nationals with 200 kg of turtle shells [02/12/2018]
- Police in eastern Indonesia have arrested two Chinese men for illegally being in possession of 200 kilos (440 pounds) of turtle shells, which they believe was headed to China. - All turtle species are protected under Indonesian law, and the possession or trade in their parts is punishable by up to five years in prison and $7,000 in fines. The estimated value of the seized shells was $13,200. - The bust highlights the continued role of the city of Makassar as the main gateway for traffickers moving wildlife products out of the biodiversity haven of Papua, where the suspects say they obtained the turtle shells.
Faith in the forest helps Indonesia’s Dayaks keep plantations, loggers at bay [02/08/2018]
- Indigenous Dayak tribes of Borneo have longstanding traditions of performing various rituals throughout the agricultural cycle. - These rituals keep communities united in protecting their forests, with which the Dayak maintain a reverential relationship — not just as a resource for food and livelihood, but also for spiritual fulfillment. - The rituals also help ensure that the bounty of harvests is shared among all members of the community, even those who have experienced a poor yield.
Orangutan shot 130 times in Indonesia, in second killing reported this year [02/07/2018]
- A second Bornean orangutan has been killed in Indonesia this year after being shot multiple times with an air gun. - An autopsy revealed 130 pellets in the animal’s body, most of them in its head. Authorities managed to recover 48 of them. - Wildlife conservation activists have called on the authorities to launch an investigation into the killing of the critically endangered ape.
Deforestation wanes in Indonesia’s Aceh and Leuser Ecosystem, but threats remain, NGO says [02/05/2018]
- Deforestation in Indonesia’s Aceh province last year fell 18 percent from 2016 — a trend activists attribute to better law enforcement and intensified campaigning about the importance of protecting the unique Leuser Ecosystem. - Another factor is a government moratorium on oil palm planters clearing peatlands, but this hasn’t stopped many such operators from acting with impunity. - Activists worry that future threats will come from road projects and planned hydropower and geothermal plants.
Indonesian palm, pulp companies commit to peatland restoration [02/02/2018]
- Some 125 palm oil and pulp companies have committed to restoring a combined 14,000 square kilometers (5,400 square miles) of degraded peatlands that fall within their leases over the next eight years. - The move is part of government-driven efforts to prevent a repeat of the massive land and forest fires that flared up in 2015, largely as a result of peatlands being drained for planting and rendered highly combustible. - At the heart of the rehabilitation work is the extensive blocking of drainage canals, which aims to restore moisture to the peat soil.
Indonesian rubber farmers charged in gruesome killing of Bornean orangutan [02/02/2018]
- Police in Indonesia have arrested two rubber farmers for allegedly shooting and beheading a Bornean orangutan whose body was discovered last month in a river. - The suspects claimed they killed the animal in self-defense, saying it attacked them after encroaching on their farm. - Wildlife conservation activists have lauded the police’s determination to catch the perpetrators and have called on the courts to be just as strict in trying them. - Warning: Some photos may be disturbing or graphic.
Powering cameras and empowering people [02/01/2018]
- Keeping equipment running in harsh field conditions can challenge any tech project, as can working successfully with volunteers. - Mongabay-Wildtech spoke with leaders of one project, wpsWatch, that deploys connected camera traps to monitor wildlife and people in reserves and employs volunteers to monitor image feeds from afar. - Powering equipment for field surveillance and “making it part of everyone’s day” enable the rapid image detection, communication, and response by ground patrols needed to successfully apprehend wildlife poachers using cameras and other sensors.
Is a plantation a forest? Indonesia says yes, as it touts a drop in deforestation [01/31/2018]
- Indonesia has reported a second straight year of declining deforestation, and credited more stringent land management policies for the trend. - However, the government’s insistence on counting pulpwood plantations as reforested areas has once again sparked controversy over how the very concept of a forest should be defined. - Researchers caution that the disparity between Indonesia’s methodology and the standard more commonly used elsewhere could make it difficult for the government to qualify for funding to mitigate carbon emissions from deforestation.
Sumatra’s ‘tiger descendants’ cling to their customs as coal mines encroach [01/30/2018]
- Sekalak village in southern Sumatra lies in one of the last remaining strongholds of the Sumatran tiger, a critically endangered species that the locals revere as both an ancestral spirit and the guardian of the forest. - This respect for the tiger has sustained a generations-long pledge to protect the local environment, including the wildlife and water resources. - However, the presence of a coal-mining operation in the area poses a threat to both the tigers and the villagers’ way of life: the mining road gives poachers greater access to once-secluded tiger habitat, and the mining waste is polluting the river on which the villagers depend.
Indonesia prepares to adopt standardized peat-mapping technology [01/29/2018]
- The winner of a competition announced in 2016 to come up with a fast, accurate and cost-effective method to map Indonesia’s vast tropical peatlands will be announced on Feb. 2. - The government currently lacks an authoritative map of its carbon-rich peat areas, which it urgently needs to enforce a policy of conserving existing peatlands and rehabilitating degraded areas. - The country’s peatlands are important as stores of greenhouse gases and habitats for endangered species; but their drainage and deforestation, mostly for oil palm plantations, has made Indonesia one of the world’s biggest carbon emitters and contributed to loss of wildlife habitat.
Indonesian ruling rings alarms over criminalization of environmental defenders [01/26/2018]
- A court in Indonesia has sentenced an anti-mine activist to 10 months in jail on a rarely used charge of promoting communism. - The ruling is just the latest in a series of controversial prosecutions of environmental activists and protesters based on draconian or obscure laws, which critics say is meant to silence dissent against politically connected developers. - The environment ministry says it wants fewer cases going to court, but activists say the biggest perpetrators of what they deem the criminalization of criticism are the police and district attorneys.
The ups and downs of marine protected areas: Examining the evidence [01/25/2018]
- To find out if marine protected areas achieve their environmental and socioeconomic goals, we read 42 scientific studies and talked to seven experts. - Overall, marine protected areas do appear to help marine animals recover within their boundaries. But a lot more rigorous research is needed. - The effects of marine protected areas on socioeconomic outcomes and fisheries are less clear. - This is part of a special Mongabay series on “Conservation Effectiveness.”
Biofuel boost threatens even greater deforestation in Indonesia, Malaysia: Study [01/25/2018]
- A new report projects the global demand for palm oil-based biofuel by 2030 will be six times higher than today if existing and proposed policies in Indonesia, China and the aviation industry hold. - That surge in demand could result in the clearing of 45,000 square kilometers (17,374 square miles) of forest in Indonesia and Malaysia, the world’s biggest palm oil producers, and the release of an additional 7 billion tons of CO2 emissions a year — higher than current annual emissions by the U.S. - That impact could be tempered to some degree by the European Union, which plans to phase out all use of palm oil in its biofuel over the next three years, citing environmental concerns.
Indonesia buckles to protests against seine fishing ban [01/25/2018]
- The Indonesian government has exempted fishermen operating off the north coast of Java from complying with a ban on the use of a particular type of dragnet known locally as cantrang. - As part of the program, the government is offering financial aid to fishermen to buy new equipment that reduces bycatch and poses less of a risk of damaging seabed ecosystems. - The government’s concession to the group of north Java fishermen falls in line with its own target of boosting fish catches to nearly 10 million tons this year.
Indonesia to strengthen environmental impact assessments through process review [01/24/2018]
- Indonesia’s Environment and Forestry Ministry wants to reform the structure of conducting environmental impact assessments, which are required to approve any development project that could cause harm to the environment. - These assessments, known as an AMDAL, have routinely come under scrutiny in the wake of land conflicts and disputes. - Environmental activists have welcomed the push for a review as long as it results in a more efficient and stringent process for developers to obtain an AMDAL.
Indonesia hints rhino sperm transfer to Malaysia may finally happen this year [01/24/2018]
- Indonesia has signaled it may send a much-needed sample of Sumatran rhino sperm to Malaysia for use in a captive-breeding program seen as the last means of saving the critically endangered species. - If it goes to plan, the program would boost the genetic diversity of the species, of which only 30 to 100 individuals are believed to remain in the wild. - The Sumatran rhino population has been decimated by poaching and habitat loss, but the biggest threat facing the species today is the small and fragmented nature of their populations, with an increased risk of inbreeding.
Legal recognition in the works for communities occupying Indonesia’s conservation areas [01/23/2018]
- The Indonesian government plans to formally recognize the occupation and use of land inside conservation areas, including national parks, by local and indigenous communities. - The program will grant these communities access to clearly defined areas within these conservation zones, in exchange for managing these areas responsibly and sustainably, and not expanding their encroachment. - However, the program could clash with a 2017 presidential regulation that emphasizes resettlement as a solution to human encroachment in conservation areas.
Crowdsourcing the fight against poaching, with the help of remote cameras [01/22/2018]
- A U.S. non-profit and a cadre of volunteers have teamed up with reserves in South Africa and Indonesia to combat wildlife poaching through a series of connected camera traps. - The group’s monitoring system, wpsWatch, can transmit visual, infrared, and thermal camera images as well as data from radar, motion detectors, and other field devices. - The volunteers monitor image feeds while rangers sleep and have become an effective part of the team, which has detected roughly 180 intrusions into the reserves, including rhino and bushmeat poachers.
Outrage and conspiracy claims as Indonesia, Malaysia react to EU ban on palm oil in biofuels [01/19/2018]
- Indonesian and Malaysian ministers have derided as unfair and misguided the European Parliament’s vote to approve the phase-out of palm oil from biofuels by 2021. - The vote Wednesday, over concerns about the environmental and social impacts of the palm oil industry, still needs to be ratified by the European Commission and member governments. - Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur have filed official notes of protest, claiming a protectionist conspiracy to promote other vegetable oil producers, but activists say the EU’s concerns, including about deforestation, are valid and the ban justified.
Decapitated orangutan found near palm plantations shot 17 times, autopsy finds [01/19/2018]
- Indonesian authorities have found 17 air gun pellets in the headless body of an orangutan found floating in a river in Borneo’s Central Kalimantan province earlier this week. - The body was found in an area close to five plantations, whose operators the government plans to question about the killing of the protected species. - Orangutans are often killed in human-animal conflicts, and wildlife activists have slammed the authorities for not doing enough to prosecute such cases. - Warning: Some photos may be disturbing or graphic.
Camera traps confirm existence of ‘world’s ugliest pig’ in the wild, warts and all [01/18/2018]
- Researchers have used camera traps on the island of Java, Indonesia to capture what they say is the first-ever footage of the Javan warty pig in the wild. - Sometimes referred to as “the world’s ugliest pig” because of the eponymous warts that grow on its face, the Javan warty pig (Sus verrucosus) has seen its numbers decline precipitously over the past few decades, leading to fears that it might be locally extinct in a number of locations and perhaps even on the brink of extinction as a species. - The Javan warty pig is listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List due to a drastic population decline, “estimated to be more than 50% over the last three generations (approximately 18 years).”
Orangutan found tortured and decapitated prompts Indonesia probe [01/16/2018]
- The discovery of a headless orangutan body bearing signs of extensive physical abuse has prompted an investigation by authorities in Central Kalimantan, in Indonesian Borneo. - Authorities, however, have drawn criticism for hastily burying the body before carrying out a necropsy, which could have helped determine the cause of death and aided in the investigation. - Orangutans face a range of threats in the wild, including loss of habitat as their forests are razed for plantations and mines, and hunting for the illegal pet trade. - Warning: Some photos may be disturbing or graphic.
Indonesian villages see virtually zero progress in program to manage peatlands [01/15/2018]
- Only one out of nearly 3,000 villages located in Indonesia’s peatlands has received a government permit to manage the forest under the administration’s “social forestry” program. - At the same time, 80 percent of peatlands in key areas of Sumatra and Kalimantan fall within plantation and mining concessions. - Activists have called on the government to speed up the process of granting permits to villages, arguing that they make better forest stewards than plantation operators. - The government has acknowledged the slow pace of progress and accordingly cut its target for the total area of forest reallocated to local communities to a third of the initial figure.
Indonesian parliament pushes for passage of palm oil legislation this year [01/12/2018]
- Indonesian legislators have prioritized deliberations of a bill regulating the country’s palm oil industry, hoping to have it passed this year. - The bill in its current form conflicts with the government’s own recently adopted measures to protect peatlands, a point that legislators have acknowledged must be addressed. - While its proponents say the bill is needed to protect the industry, citing a Western conspiracy against Indonesian palm oil, environmental activists say it will do little to address the ills attributed to the industry.
Indonesia’s Aceh extends moratorium on new mining sites [01/12/2018]
- The governor of Indonesia’s Aceh province has extended for another six months a moratorium on issuing new mining permits. - The government says it will use the extended moratorium period to review and improve the management of the province’s mining sector. - The freeze has been in place since 2014, and has been credited by activists with saving hundreds of thousands of hectares of forest in Aceh — home to critically endangered Sumatran orangutans, tigers, rhinos and elephants — from being cleared.
Poachers blamed as body of Sumatran elephant, missing tusks, found in protected forest [01/11/2018]
- Farmers in southern Sumatra found the body of a young male elephant inside a protected forest and missing its tusks. - No external injuries were found that could point to a cause of death, leading wildlife activists to suspect it was killed by poisoning, a common tactic used by poachers. - The discovery comes less than a month after a pregnant elephant was found poisoned to death in northern Sumatra — although in that case the tuskless female appeared more likely to have been killed for encroaching on farms than by poachers.
Indonesian ex-soldier among three jailed for illegal trade in Sumatran rhino, tiger parts [01/10/2018]
- A court in Indonesia has jailed three men for the illegal trade in endangered Sumatran rhino and tiger parts. - An ex-Army captain and a middleman were sentenced to two years for trying to trade in a rhino horn, while a similar sentence was handed down to a man convicted of trapping and killing a tiger and trying to sell it - While both the Sumatran rhino and Sumatran tiger are deemed critically endangered, or just a step away from being extinct in the wild, conservationists say enforcement of local laws meant to protect them remains lax.
Reliance on natural healing cultivates respect for nature in Indonesian village [01/09/2018]
- A small village in the Indonesia island of Sulawesi is keeping alive a tradition of healing based on remedies derived from locally grown herbs and other plants. - The importance of traditional medicine to the community means the villagers have long been diligent about protecting the forest in which the plants grow. - This has translated into hefty fines for unregulated logging or poaching of local wildlife, including the maleo, a bird found only in Sulawesi.
Study on economic loss from Indonesia’s peat policies criticized [01/08/2018]
- A recent study estimates that Indonesia’s various peat-protection policies could lead to $5.7 billion in economic losses. - Those losses arise mainly from the pulp and palm oil industries, which are now obliged to conserve and restore peatlands that fall within their concessions. - Researchers and officials have criticized the study, saying it fails to make a holistic accounting of the environmental, social, health and climate costs from the continued destruction of carbon-rich peat areas. - They warn the study’s findings could be used to undermine policies aimed at preventing a repeat of the 2015 fires that cost Indonesia an estimated $16 billion from economic disruption.
Meet Indonesia’s new honeyeater species from Rote Island [01/05/2018]
- A new bird species from Indonesia has been described by a group of scientists after it was first observed in 1990, a paper said. - The bird, which belongs to the honeyeater family, has been named after Indonesia’s first lady, Iriana Joko Widodo, as a way to promote the protection of the species. - The researchers said the newly described species’ population was primarily threatened by deforestation to clear land for residential and agricultural use.
Rainforests: the year in review 2017 [01/04/2018]
- 2017 was a rough year for tropical rainforests, but there were some bright spots. - This is Mongabay’s annual year-in-review on what happened in the world of tropical rainforests. - Here we summarize some of the more notable developments and trends for tropical forests in 2017.
Indonesia in 2017: A fighting chance for peat protection, but an infrastructure beatdown for indigenous communities [01/04/2018]
- 2017 brought a mix of good and bad news from Indonesia, pertaining primarily to its forest-protection efforts, its recognition of indigenous rights and its balancing of infrastructure needs with local livelihoods. - Policies issued in the wake of the devastating 2015 forest fires led to a significant decrease in hotspots and burned area in 2017, but face opposition from industry, parliament and even government officials. - The government is hopeful it can halve the number of annual hotspots by 2019 from business-as-usual levels, even as the weather agency warns of drier conditions this year. - Efforts to recognize indigenous people’s rights continued at a glacial pace, and frequently clashed with the government’s ambitious infrastructure-building push.
In early push into Papua, palm oil firms set stage for massive forest plunder [01/03/2018]
- Large-scale deforestation and a high number of hotspots indicate that the arrival of the oil palm industry in Indonesia’s Papua region is wreaking the same kind of destruction wrought on forests in Sumatra and Kalimantan. - A new report calls the scale of the problem alarming, with the potential for even greater losses as only a small fraction of the forests issued for oil palm plantations has been cleared. - The palm oil industry’s push into the region, after nearly depleting forests in Sumatra and Kalimantan, has been helped by government programs to boost investment in Papua.
In a Papuan district, tribes push to revive a legacy of sustainability [01/02/2018]
- Two tribes in the foothills of the Cyclops Mountains in eastern Indonesia have ratified a village regulation that aims to formalize their age-old traditions of sustainable forestry, farming and fishing. - Though practiced for generations, the traditions have increasingly been abandoned in favor of higher-yield — but destructive — practices such as indiscriminate logging and blast fishing. - The new regulation stipulates customary fines on top of those imposed under national legislation, which the tribes say the government must do more to enforce.
Indonesia unveils plan to halve forest fires by 2019 [12/29/2017]
- The Indonesian government has launched a plan to cut down land and forest fire hotspots by nearly half, in part by protecting peat forests. - The program, which calls for $2.73 billion in funding, aims to ensure that 121,000 square kilometers of land, a fifth of it peat forest, will be fire-free by 2019. - The move comes as the government anticipates drier weather conditions than usual next year in perennial hotspot regions like West Kalimantan.
Top 10 HAPPY environmental stories of 2017 [12/28/2017]
- Throughout 2017, scientists discovered new populations of rare wildlife, and rediscovered some species that were previously thought to be extinct. - Some countries created large marine protected areas, while a few others granted land rights to indigenous communities. - In 2017, we also saw the ever-increasing potential of technology to improve conservation monitoring and efforts.
In rural Indonesia, women spearhead the fight to protect nature [12/27/2017]
- This past July, some 50 environmental defenders, most of them women, from across Indonesia’s rural areas gathered for a discussion at an Islamic boarding school in West Java. - The event highlighted women’s increasingly leading role in the grassroots movement to protect the country’s indigenous cultures, its natural resources and its long-held, but now threatened, traditional wisdoms and customs that champion sustainable development. - Researchers say these women are at the leading edge of a new wave to defend and protect their homeland.
Roads, dams and railways: Ten infrastructure stories from Southeast Asia in 2017 [12/27/2017]
- Southeast Asia is one of the epicenters of a global “tsunami” of infrastructure development. - As the countries in the region work to elevate their economic standing, concerns from scientists and NGOs highlight the potential pitfalls in the form of environmental degradation and destruction that roads, dams and other infrastructure can bring in tow. - Mongabay had reporters covering the region in 2017. Here are 10 of their stories.
Paper giant and its ‘suppliers’ are essentially one and the same, investigation finds [12/26/2017]
- A new investigation reveals intimate connections between Asia Pulp & Paper, which is Indonesia’s largest paper producer, and 25 of the plantation companies that supply it with pulpwood. - The firm has always claimed the suppliers are “independent” entities, separate from Asia Pulp & Paper itself. But the investigation suggests that that they are all part of the same conglomerate. - The supplier companies are often linked to deforestation, haze-causing fires, and conflict with indigenous communities.
Paper giant RAPP bows to peat-protection order after Indonesia court defeat [12/22/2017]
- A court has invalidated a bid by Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper (RAPP) to overturn a government order obliging it to conserve peatlands that fall within its concessions. - The ruling means the company will have to submit revised work plans to the government, in which peat areas that it had previously earmarked for development would be conserved and rewetted to prevent fires. - The government has also mulled the possibility of auditing RAPP and parent company APRIL to get a clearer picture of their operations on the ground.
Experts to China: cooperate or South China Sea fisheries may collapse [12/21/2017]
- More than half the fishing vessels in the world operate in the South China Sea, where sovereign rights have been an object of fierce contention among bordering countries. - Scientists have been warning that the sea is fast becoming the site of an environmental disaster, the impending collapse of one of the world’s most productive fisheries. - Now a group of experts that includes geopolitical strategists as well as marine biologists is calling on the disputing parties to come together to manage and protect the sea’s fish stocks and marine environment. - Effective management hinges on China’s active participation, but it remains unclear whether that country, now the dominant power in the sea with a big appetite for seafood, will cooperate.
Indonesia seeks to slap money-laundering label on illegal fishing [12/20/2017]
- Indonesia wants to include illegal fishing in a U.N. convention on transnational crime, in order to bring anti-money-laundering tools to bear on the problem. - The government is intent on ending poaching and unsustainable fishing, and has already made waves for its public policy of seizing and scuttling illegal foreign fishing boats operating in its waters. - Indonesian waters represent one of the world’s largest capture fisheries.
For indigenous kids in Indonesian Borneo, an early start to forest stewardship [12/19/2017]
- A Dayak indigenous tribe in Indonesian Borneo has been campaigning for years to protect its forest, its main source of food and sustenance. - A competition by an NGO hopes to impress upon the village’s children the importance of the forest to the community, through an understanding of where its food comes from. - After fending off plantation and mining interests, the villagers have won recognition for their land rights from the district administration and are now awaiting acknowledgement from Jakarta.
Recognition of Mentawai tribes marks Indonesia’s latest piecemeal concession to indigenous groups [12/15/2017]
- The Mentawai district legislature last month passed a regulation that recognizes the region’s indigenous communities. - The regulation is the latest in a series of district-level policy moves in the wake of a landmark 2013 Constitutional Court ruling that ended state control over customary lands. - The move has been hailed as a positive development by advocates for indigenous empowerment, although the pace of progress at the national level remains sluggish.
DNA analysis shows Sumatran rhinos peaked during last Ice Age, never recovered [12/14/2017]
- Genome analysis shows that the Sumatran rhino has been on the path toward extinction for almost 12,000 years, as the end of the last Ice Age cut off much of its former territory, a new report says. - Habitat loss from deforestation and overhunting further devastated the species’ population, and it has never recovered. - Scientists continue to make the case for captive breeding as the best effort to boost the rhino population and stave off extinction.
Locals fear for their lives over planned dam in Indonesia’s Leuser Ecosystem [12/14/2017]
- Plans to build a hydroelectric power plant in northern Sumatra call for the flooding of large swath of the Leuser Ecosystem, an ecological hotspot home to critically endangered tigers, rhinos and orangutans. - For residents, the fear is that the dam, to be built in a geologically unstable area, will collapse. - Local communities reliant on fishing also worry that the damming of rivers to fill the reservoir will hurt their livelihoods.
For Papuan villagers practicing conservation, a bid to formalize the familiar [12/14/2017]
- Indigenous Papuans of Saubeba village last month gave their support for a government-backed program to designate Tambrauw district, rich in biodiversity, a conservation zone. - The villagers already practice sustainable management of the district’s lush forests and its resources, on which their lives depend. - The discussion also sought to find solutions for land conflicts that often put legally vulnerable ethnic groups in peril as Tambrauw district pushes for the passage of an indigenous rights bill. - One anticipated outcome of all this is the prospect of developing an ecotourism industry centered on the region’s natural riches, including its birds-of-paradise.
Saving Sumatran orchids from deforestation, one plant at a time [12/12/2017]
- Conversion of forest for agriculture is an ever-present threat in Sumatra, even in protected areas like Kerinci Seblat National Park. Palm oil, acacia, rubber and other plantation crops pressure the park from the outside, while poaching endangers the fauna within. - Scientists estimate there are between 25,000 and 30,000 species of orchid in the world, with many yet to be discovered. Around 1,000 species are listed as threatened by the IUCN. Sumatra is one of the world’s orchid hot spots. - Conservationist Pungky Nanda Pratama is trying to save at-risk orchids by transplanting them from threatened areas in and around Kerinci Seblat to a nursery where he is aiming propagate them and re-plant them in nearby protected areas. - Pratama is also hoping to start an educational center where people can learn about Sumatra’s native plants.
Study: RSPO certification prunes deforestation in Indonesia — but not by much [12/12/2017]
- Oil palm plantations certified as sustainable by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil had less deforestation than non-certified plantations, according to a new analysis. - Certification’s effect on the incidence of fires and the clearing of forest from peatlands was not statistically significant. - The research demonstrates that while certification does reduce deforestation, it has not protected very much standing forest from being cut down.
Global tropical peatland center to be established in Indonesia [12/12/2017]
- A tropical peatland center will be established in Indonesia’s city of Bogor soon. - The Indonesian government will discuss the detail of the establishment next year. - Indonesia said other countries could learn much from its experiences in managing peatlands and dealing with recurring peat fires.
Climate scientists see silver lining in Bali volcano’s ash cloud [12/11/2017]
- Scientists are monitoring the emission of sulfur dioxide from the ongoing eruption of Indonesia’s Mount Agung to better understand the climate-cooling effects of the particulate’s dispersal in the stratosphere. - They hope that by artificially recreating the phenomenon, they can block the amount of sunlight reaching the Earth’s surface, and thereby “geoengineer” a cooler climate. - However, progress in geoengineering is tempered by worries that the prospect of an easy solution could leave policymakers even more reluctant to make meaningful efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
Papua New Guinea gets its largest-ever conservation area [12/08/2017]
- On November 29, government officials declared the establishment of the Managalas Conservation Area. It is Papua New Guinea’s largest conservation area, encompassing 3,600 square kilometers of rainforest. - Local communities, with the support of governments and non-profit organizations, have been working towards its incorporation as a protected area for 32 years. - Managalas Conservation Area will be protected from large-scale agricultural and logging operations while allowing the communities that live there to use forest resources and grow crops in a sustainable manner. - But stakeholders say mining is not officially excluded from the Conservation Arena’s management plan, and are worried about future encroachment by mining companies.
Labor abuses persist in RSPO-certified palm plantations, report finds [12/08/2017]
- A new report exposes labor abuses on three plantations owned by Indofood, a subsidiary of the Salim Group conglomerate. - The report reveals how workers are routinely exposed to hazardous pesticides, paid less than the minimum wage, illegally kept in a temporary work status to fill core jobs, and deterred from forming independent labor unions. - Each of the three plantations has been certified as “sustainable” by the RSPO, which bans labor abuses by its members, but is often criticized for failing to enforce its own standards. - Advocates have been pushing for the RSPO to improve its handling of labor issues.
The world’s newest great ape, revealed a month ago, is already nearly extinct: IUCN [12/07/2017]
- This week, the world’s newest great ape Tapanuli orangutan was officially categorized as “Critically Endangered” by the IUCN as the species lost over 80 percent of its global population over generations due to habitat loss. - The classification of the orangutan came in conjunction with the conservation union releasing its latest Red List of “Threatened” Species which added thousands of animal and plant species. - The list is a mixed bag of good and bad news for conservation.
In rural Indonesia, a village learns to embrace its forest through sustainability [12/06/2017]
- In August, the village of Taba Padang in southwest Sumatra was recognized by the Indonesian government for practicing the best community-based forestry management this year. - Less than a decade ago, however, many of its residents were being arrested for planting in a nearby forest, deemed off-limits because of its protected status. - In 2010, newly elected village chief Yoyon embarked on a years-long process to obtain state approval to allow the farmers to manage nearly 10 square kilometers of land in the forest. - In exchange, the farmers are prohibited from creating plantations, must agree to protect the animals that live there, and must guard the land against fire.
Activists seek protection for Indonesia’s karst amid building boom pressure [12/05/2017]
- Activists in Indonesia demand the government to issue a new regulation aimed at better protecting the country’s karsts, the unique rocky landscapes that are home to species found nowhere else on Earth. - The current regulation governing the management of this limestone topography fails to frame karst preservation in terms of its role as an ecosystem supporting a diverse range of animal and plant life. - Activists argue that efforts to regulate the protection of the landscape have received opposition from influential powers that depend on the mineral deposits that make up the karst.
Deforestation in Sumatra carves up tiger habitats into ever smaller patches [12/05/2017]
- Twelve years of deforestation in Sumatra have broken the habitats of its native big cat into smaller fragments, a new study says. - Only two of the remaining tiger forest landscapes in Sumatra are believed to have populations that are viable for the long term, both of which are under threat from planned road projects. - The researchers are calling for a complete halt to the destruction of tiger-occupied forests in Sumatra and the poaching of the nearly extinct predator.
Orangutans process plants into medicine, study finds [12/04/2017]
- Scientists have observed Bornean orangutans chewing on the leaves of the Dracaena cantleyi plant, producing a soapy lather they then spread onto their skin. - A new study finds D. cantleyi has anti-inflammatory properties, suggesting the orangutans are using it to self-medicate. - Indigenous communities also use D. cantleyi as a pain reliever. - The researchers say their study provides the first scientific evidence of deliberate, external self-medication in great apes.
Pulp and paper giant sues Indonesian government over peat protection obligation [12/03/2017]
- A company owned by the billionaire Tanoto family of Indonesia is seeking to overturn a government decision to invalidate its plans to operate on peatlands. - The parties are clashing over new rules issued by the Indonesian government in the wake of the 2015 fire and haze crisis. - The government recently rezoned some areas within the company’s concession for conservation, but the company argues it should be allowed to keep operating on them for now.
Petition for Indonesian government to save Sumatran rhino garners global support [12/01/2017]
- More than 100,000 people have signed an online petition to Indonesian President Joko Widodo to do more to save the critically endangered Sumatran rhino from extinction. - The petition was launched several days after a Mongabay series looked into the current state of the species, which may number as few as 30 individuals in the wild. - The series also identified the Indonesian government as hampering much-needed efforts to stave off the disappearance of the Sumatran rhino from poaching and habitat loss.
Indonesians race to save their disappearing lakes, before it’s too late [11/30/2017]
- Seventeen lakes in the Southeast Asian nation are in “critical” condition. One of them, Lake Limboto in northern Sulawesi, is shrinking rapidly and could disappear by 2025. - Recently, government officials and researchers from across Indonesia gathered on Lake Limboto’s shores, declaring that a national agency should be established to handle the issue. In December they will meet again, hoping to attract the attention of President Joko Widodo. - One of the most pressing problems at Limboto is the lake’s shrinking increases the risk of flooding in nearby Gorontalo city.
‘Extreme concern’: Report gives glimpse into scale of Kalimantan bird trade [11/30/2017]
- More than 25,000 birds from nearly 150 species, including those on the brink of extinction, were found for sale at hundreds of shops across Indonesian Borneo, according to a recent report. - The report is said to be the first to provide data on the trade in Kalimantan, which is increasingly being targeted by trappers and traders who have decimated bird populations in Java and Sumatra. - The researchers are calling for more surveys on bird populations in the wild and stronger law enforcement to protect endangered species.
Tropical deforestation is getting bigger, study finds [11/29/2017]
- An analysis of satellite data reveals the proportion of tropical deforestation comprised of medium, large and very large clearings increased between 2001 and 2012. - These larger clearing sizes are generally attributed to industrial agriculture like palm oil production. - South America and Southeast Asia had the biggest increases, with the exception of Brazil where large-scale clearing took a downturn during the study period. - The researchers say this downturn was the result of successful deforestation reduction policies, which may offer potential solutions to other countries with high rates of large-scale clearing.
Indonesian conservation bill stirs debate over geothermal rigs, private guards [11/28/2017]
- A proposed revision of Indonesia’s 1990 Conservation Law provides a mechanism for companies to obtain a waiver for geothermal drilling in forest areas zoned for conservation, currently off-limits to the industry. - Lawmakers are considering a proposal from companies that their security guards be allowed to arrest trespassers in their plantation and mining concessions. - The law would include heavier penalties for wildlife traffickers.
Indonesia to kick off 10-year plan to save critically endangered helmeted hornbill [11/28/2017]
- The Indonesian government is currently drafting a 10-year master plan to protect the endangered helmeted hornbill (Rhinoplax vigil), set to be launched in 2018. - The program will comprise five action plans: research and monitoring; policies and law enforcement; partnerships; raising public awareness; and funding. - The helmeted hornbill has been driven to the brink of extinction by poaching for its distinctive scarlet casqued beak, which is pound-for-pound three times as valuable as elephant ivory.
In search of the fireface: The precarious, scandalous lives of the slow lorises of Java [11/26/2017]
- Cute and fuzzy but also vicious and venomous, Javan slow lorises have been driven to the brink of extinction by habitat destruction and the illegal pet trade. - The Little Fireface Project in West Java is the first long-term research project focusing on the critically endangered primate. - In addition to making strides toward understanding how to care for and reintroduce lorises to the wild, the project has revealed new details about the species’ complex, and often reality-show-worthy social behavior.
RSPO tops among certification schemes, though all must improve: report [11/22/2017]
- A new report from the Forest Peoples Programme ranks certification schemes for biofuels and edible oils. - The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil topped the NGO’s rankings, although it too has significant problems. - “It seems that about half of RSPO members’ palm oil sold in Europe, mostly for biofuels, is…not RSPO-certified. For those concerned about human rights and social justice, this is very troubling,” FPP campaigner Marcus Colchester said.
Indonesian mosques to take up the mantle of fighting climate change [11/21/2017]
- Indonesia will establish 1,000 “eco-mosques,” the country’s vice president announced at this month’s UN climate summit in Bonn. - The Southeast Asian nation is home to some 260 million people. Nearly 90 percent of them identify as Muslim, according to 2010 census data. - Indonesia also has some of the greatest expanses of rainforests, peatlands and mangroves — carbon-rich environments that are rapidly disappearing as industry expands.
As Indonesia pushes flagship land reform program, farmers remain wary [11/21/2017]
- Under a flagship agrarian reform program, the Indonesian government aims to give indigenous and other rural communities greater control over 127,000 square kilometers of land. - President Joko Widodo earlier this month handed out 35-year land leases to farmers across Java as part of the social forestry program. - The farmers, however, are concerned about the sustainability of the program, citing worries about getting bank loans, as well as a lack of maps and planning.
Government revokes 406 mining permits in Indonesia’s East Kalimantan [11/16/2017]
- Local authorities have revoked 406 coal-mining permits in East Kalimantan province, with another 403 permits to be revoked in the future. - East Kalimantan is the heart of Indonesia’s coal-mining industry, with over half of the province’s land area allocated for mining concessions. - The revocation is a part of a nationwide effort to stamp out irregularities in the the country’s mining sector, which has long been plagued by corruption, legal violations, and environmental and social damage.
4 sperm whales dead after mass stranding in Sumatra [11/14/2017]
- A pod of 10 sperm whales beached earlier this week in shallow waters in western Indonesia. - Despite attempts by authorities and residents to push the animals back out into deeper water, four of the whales died after being stranded overnight. - Experts are looking into what caused the whales to swim so close to shore.
Indonesia coal power push neglects rural households, chokes urban ones [11/14/2017]
- The Indonesian government’s push to generate an additional 35 GW of electricity capacity by 2019 relies heavily on building new coal-fired power plants. - Observers say the program focuses too much on the already saturated Java-Bali grid, while ignoring millions of households in more remote areas. - The preference for generating power from coal could also threaten the health of up to 30 million people living in areas slated for power plant construction, a recent study from Greenpeace says.
Indonesian agribusiness giant APRIL outed in Paradise Papers [11/13/2017]
- Leaked corporate records reveal the offshore dealings of APRIL, one of Indonesia’s largest pulp and paper companies. - APRIL is one of 12 Asian forest-products giants that appear in the Paradise Papers. - APRIL is owned by the super-rich Tanoto family.
Indonesian president recognizes land rights of nine more indigenous groups [11/12/2017]
- Indonesian President Joko Widodo last month gave several indigenous communities back the land rights to the forests they have called home for generations. - The total amount of customary forests relinquished to local groups under this initiative remains far short of what the government has promised, and looks unlikely to be fulfilled before the next presidential election in 2019. - At a recent conference in Jakarta, a senior government official said the president would sign a decree to help more communities secure rights.
Indonesia tries to learn from Brazil’s success in REDD+ [11/10/2017]
- Indonesia and Brazil both have billion-dollar REDD+ agreements with Norway to reduce deforestation and cut carbon emissions in exchange for funding. - While Brazil has succeeded, Indonesia has not, and has even seen deforestation rates climb, surpassing those in Brazil. - Fundamental differences in the way the two countries deal with forest issues, particularly in law enforcement and land reform, help explain their different outcomes. - The Indonesian government hopes to breathe new life into its flagging REDD+ program by emulating the Brazilian model, and speed up the disbursal of funds from Norway by next year.
The fate of the Sumatran rhino is in the Indonesian government’s hands [11/10/2017]
- As the Sumatran rhino edges closer to extinction, aggressive interventions have stalled. Even ongoing efforts like ranger protection have been undercut by lack of government support. - As of May, conservation groups are united in their calls to ramp up captive-breeding efforts in Indonesia, but the government has not yet responded. - Frustrated conservationists cite bureaucracy, risk aversion, opaque and arbitrary decisions, and territorial squabbling as barriers to progress — but remain hopeful the government will act in time.
Is anyone going to save the Sumatran rhino? [11/09/2017]
- As the Sumatran rhino’s population dwindled, conservationists were locked in a debate about whether resources should be directed toward captive breeding or protecting wild populations. - With captive breeding efforts showing success, and wild populations becoming non-viable, the pendulum has swung in favor of captive breeding. - Experts agree that action is needed now more than ever, but any steps rely on support from the Indonesian government.
Where, oh where, are the rhinos of Bukit Barisan Selatan? [11/08/2017]
- Some claim a small but viable population of about a dozen rhinos persists deep within the forests of Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park on Sumatra’s southwestern coast. - Camera traps haven’t captured a single rhino there since 2014, spurring doubts there are any rhinos remaining at all. - The disputed numbers lead to questions about what should happen to any rhinos that might remain in the park — and to the rangers assigned to protect them.
Worst-case scenario: There could be only 30 wild Sumatran rhinos left [11/07/2017]
- In 1986, scientists estimated there could be as many as 800 Sumatran rhinos left. That fell to 400 in 1996, then 275 in 2008. - Today the official estimate is 100 rhinos, but almost all experts believe that figure is overly optimistic. - Adding up the minimum estimate for each of the four known wild populations yields a total of just 30 wild Sumatran rhinos left on earth, plus another nine in captivity.
Indigenous forests could be a key to averting climate catastrophe [11/06/2017]
- A new study finds the world’s tropical forests may no longer be carbon sinks, with a net loss of 425 million tons of carbon from 2003 to 2014. Also, 1.1 billion metric tons of carbon is emitted globally from forested areas and land use annually — 4.4 billion metric tons are absorbed by standing forests on managed lands, but 5.5 billion metric tons are released via deforestation and degradation. - As a result, curbing deforestation and degradation is now seen by scientists as a vital strategy for nations to meet the carbon reduction goals set in Paris in 2015, and of averting a catastrophic 2 degree Celsius rise in temperatures by the end of the century. - Other new research finds that indigenous and traditional community management of forests could offer a key to curbing emissions, and give the world time to transition to a green energy economy. In a separate study, Amazon deforestation rates were found to be five times greater outside indigenous territories and conservation units than inside. - “We are a proven solution to the long-term protection of forests, whose survival is vital for reaching our [planetary] climate change goals,” said an envoy of a global indigenous delegation in attendance at COP23 in Bonn, Germany. The delegation wants the world’s nations to protect indigenous forests from an invasion by global extraction industries.
Indonesia races against time to save new orangutan species [11/06/2017]
- With an estimated population of less than 800, the newly described Tapanuli orangutan is already at risk of extinction due to habitat destruction and fragmentation. - The Indonesian government will come up with a strategy to protect the orangutan, including the establishment of protected forest areas and wildlife sanctuaries. - The government will also review a plan to build a hydroelectric plant in an area with the highest known density of Tapanuli orangutans.
Indonesian NGOs lawyer up against environmental crimes [11/06/2017]
- NGOs in North Sumatra have joined forces to set up a network of legal experts in environmental law. - The region has long suffered from environment-related crimes that often are handled poorly by the authorities. - The team will push for stronger enforcement of environmental law and justice in the province.
How unhealthy is the haze from Indonesia’s annual peat fires? [11/03/2017]
- Indonesia’s vast peat swamp zones have been widely drained and dried for agriculture, rendering them highly flammable, and they often burn on a massive scale, blanketing the country and its neighbors in smoke. - A recent survey on perceptions of the fires showed that while different groups have varying levels of concern about forest loss or carbon emissions, everyone agrees that protecting public health is a top priority. - However, the first step to solving a problem is to agree on how critical the issue is.
Does community-based forest management work in the tropics? [11/02/2017]
- To find out if community-based forest management is effective, we read 30 studies that best represent the available evidence.
(See the interactive infographic below.) - Overall, community-based forest management does not appear to make a forest’s condition worse — and may even make it better. - The evidence on socio-economic benefits is mixed, but what research there is suggests that community-based forest management sometimes aggravates existing inequities within communities. - This story is part of a special Mongabay series on “Conservation Effectiveness”.
A new species of orangutan from Indonesia (analysis) [11/02/2017]
- Scientists have described a third species of orangutan. - The Tapanuli orangutan (Pongo tapanuliensis) is found in the Tapanuli region of Indonesia’s North Sumatra province. - The species is already considered at risk of extinction. - This guest post is an analysis by researchers, including authors of the paper that describes the new primate species.
The Eighth Great Ape: New orangutan species discovered in Sumatra [11/02/2017]
- A study indicates what was once assumed to be an isolated population of the Sumatran orangutan is in fact a distinct species. - The Batang Toru orangutan differs from the Sumatran orangutan in morphology, behavior and genetics. Genomic analysis suggests it diverged from other orangutan species 3.4 million years ago. - There are fewer than 800 Batang Toru orangutans in existence, making it the rarest of all the great apes. - It is highly threatened by habitat loss. The study says a hydropower plant planned for the area could affect 8 percent of the species’ remaining forest habitat.
Indonesian Supreme Court strikes down regulation on peat protection [11/02/2017]
- Indonesia’s Supreme Court has quashed a ministerial regulation obliging forestry companies to relinquish and protect carbon-rich concessions in protected peat areas. - The regulation was part of a package of new rules meant to prevent a recurrence of the annual fires that burn across Indonesia’s vast peat swamp zones. - Businesses, labor unions and politicians had expressed concern over the regulation, saying that it would result in loss of productivity and massive layoffs. - The government says the court ruling will not hamper the nation’s efforts to protect its peatlands.
Audio: Impacts of gas drilling on wildlife in Peru and a Goldman Prize winner on mercury contamination [11/01/2017]
- On today’s episode: a look at the impacts of drilling for natural gas on birds and amphibians through bioacoustics, and a Goldman Prize winner discusses her ongoing campaign to rid mercury contamination from the environment. - Our first guest on this episode of the Mongabay Newscast is Jessica Deichmann, a research scientist with the Center for Conservation and Sustainability at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. Deichmann led a study that used acoustic monitoring, among other methods, to examine the impacts on wildlife of a gas drilling platform in the forests of southeastern Peru. - Next, we talk with 2009 Goldman Environmental Prize winner Yuyun Ismawati, an environmental engineer from Indonesia who currently lives in the UK. As the founder of an NGO called BaliFokus and a steering committee member of IPEN, a non-profit based in Sweden that works to improve chemicals policies and practices around the world, Ismawati has made it her life’s mission to stop the use of mercury in activities like gold mining that cause the toxin to leach into the environment and thereby threaten human health and wildlife.
Indonesians plant trees to nurse seagrass back to health in Wakatobi [10/31/2017]
- Long understudied and misunderstood, seagrass is now being recognized for its importance around the world as a carbon sink but also as an essential part of people’s daily lives. - But it is also being lost at an incredibly fast rate, equal to the loss of rainforests, according to researchers. - On an island in Indonesia’s Wakatobi National Park, communities are planting trees and educating local people to save seagrass, for present and future generations.
A roar for nature in Indonesia: Q&A with the poet behind ‘Indigenous Species’ [10/30/2017]
- “Indigenous Species” is a book-length poem that highlights environmental crimes and violations of indigenous peoples’ rights in Indonesia. - The literary work has been performed at international events since 2013 and was published last December. - Mongabay caught up with poet Khairani Barokka to discuss her book, activism and environmental issues in literature.
Sumatran region heats up as forests disappear [10/29/2017]
- Average temperatures in the Indonesian province of Jambi have risen amid clearing of vast swaths of forest, a new study show. - Areas that have been clear-cut, mostly for oil palm plantations, can be up to 10 degrees Celsius hotter than forested areas. - The warming could make water more scarce and wildfires more common in the province.
Indonesia’s big development push in Papua: Q&A with program overseer Judith J. Dipodiputro [10/27/2017]
- Papua and West Papua provinces are among President Joko Widodo’s top focus in his ambitious infrastructure development program for Indonesia’s remote and under-developed regions. - Not everyone supports the program, however, due to the environmental impact it poses and the cost to local communities. - Mongabay speaks with Judith J. Dipodiputro, who heads a special presidential working group for Papua and West Papua, about progress, challenges and solutions in both provinces. - Dipodiputro believes infrastructure development is crucial for realizing equal rights for Papuans.
RAPP to retire some plantation land in Sumatra amid government pressure [10/27/2017]
- A subsidiary of paper giant APRIL has agreed in principle to retire a large part of its plantations in eastern Sumatra for conservation purposes, following government orders. - The company initially refused to comply with what it saw as an illegal order, and warned of a 50 percent reduction in supply from its concessions. - In giving up part of its concessions, RAPP is demanding to be compensated with new land — something the government has agreed to do in stages.
Economic headwinds buffet once-resilient Sumatran forest-farms [10/23/2017]
- Farmers in Indonesia’s Krui region have long cultivated valuable damar resin trees among typical crops such as coconuts and rice. - These agroforests have for more than a century served as an economic bulwark for local communities against the encroachment of palm oil and timber operations. - Since 2000, however, a fifth of the region’s damar agroforests have been razed for sawmills and oil palm plantations, with land grabs and low resin prices driving the decline.
Helmeted hornbill, on verge of extinction, finds respite in new zone outside of known range [10/23/2017]
- A recent survey has found a high concentration of near-extinct helmeted hornbills in a conservation area in western Borneo. - This “hornbill paradise” is currently not included in the IUCN range map for this particular species. - Conservationists have called for the map to be updated, for more research in the area, and for stronger law enforcement to protect the distinctive bird.
Audio: Indonesian rainforests for sale and bat calls of the Amazon [10/18/2017]
- This episode of the Mongabay Newscast takes a look at the first installment of our new investigative series, “Indonesia for Sale,” and features the sounds of Amazonian bats. - Mongabay’s Indonesia-based editor Phil Jacobson joins the Newscast to tell us all about “Indonesia for Sale” and the first piece in the series, “The palm oil fiefdom.” - We also speak with Adrià López-Baucells, a PhD student in bat ecology who has conducted acoustic studies of bats in the central Amazon for the past several years. In this Field Notes segment, López-Baucells plays some of the recordings he used to study the effects of Amazon forest fragmentation on bat foraging behavior.
Jakarta reclamation project allowed to resume, but opposition remains [10/18/2017]
- Indonesia’s central government has allowed work to resume on a project to build 17 artificial islands off the coast of Jakarta. - The project, which proponents say will help address the city’s land subsidence and overcrowding problems, was suspended last year over environmental concerns and a corruption scandal. - Opponents of the project include environmental activists, traditional fishermen and Jakarta’s newly inaugurated governor.
When a rhino calls in the forest, this guy hears it: Q&A with a Javan rhino researcher [10/16/2017]
- Javan rhinos are so cryptic and elusive that they are difficult to study, despite the entire species being confined to a single site. - Camera traps are giving researchers new insights into the species’ behaviors and environmental needs. - Steve Wilson, a doctoral student working on a dissertation about Javan rhinos, explains some of these new findings — and how novel research methods might help guide conservation strategies.
Indonesia to miss carbon emissions target under existing climate policies: study [10/16/2017]
- Unless Indonesia takes more drastic measures, it will miss the emission reduction target it has set for itself. - Current policies are a decent starting point, but they could be strengthened to meet or even surpass the emissions-reduction target. - The best thing Indonesia can do is strengthen forest licensing moratorium, which has done little to curb deforestation in off-limits areas.
Photo of ‘resurrected’ extinct Indonesian tiger is actually leopard, scientists say [10/15/2017]
- A recent photograph of a big cat by park rangers in Java sparked suggestions that it could be the Javan tiger, which was officially declared extinct in 2003. - Scientists, however, have concluded that the animal in the picture is a Javan leopard. - The sighting of the critically endangered leopard subspecies has renewed calls to protect it from also going extinct.
Grasberg mine’s riches still a distant glitter for Papuan communities [10/13/2017]
- Through its local subsidiary, US-based Freeport-McMoRan operates the world’s largest and most profitable gold mine in Indonesia’s Papua province. - Changes to Indonesia’s mining laws earlier this year raised hopes that Papua’s indigenous people might finally get a stake in the mine. - With negotiations between the government and the company snagging on key issues, activists say these hopes may be premature.
Island-hopping toxic toad threatens iconic Komodo dragon [10/11/2017]
- The islands of Wallacea, which include parts of Indonesia, are home to many species that exist nowhere else in the world. - The Asian common toad (Duttaphrynus melanostictus) has spread across the islands under the conservation radar while conservationists struggle to cope with a similar invasion in Madagascar. - If the advance of the toad across Wallacea is not stopped, scientists worry it could have devastating consequences for the world’s largest lizard, the Komodo dragon.
Trump’s global resorts put profit first, environment last, critics say [10/11/2017]
- Donald Trump’s negative environmental record in Scotland and elsewhere has conservationists concerned in Bali, where Trump firms are developing a major resort and golf facility known as Trump International Hotel & Tower Bali. - Another resort under development, the Trump International Hotel & Tower Lido, a 700-hectare facility including a six-star luxury resort, theme park, country club, spa, villas, condos and 18-hole golf course threatens the nearby Gunung Gede Pangrango National Park, one of Java’s last virgin tropical forests. - Mongabay looked into Trump’s claims that he is an environmentalist, winning “many, many environmental awards.” We were able to locate just two — one a local New York award, and another granted by a golf business association. The Trump Organization did not respond to requests to list Mr. Trump’s awards. - Trump’s environmental record as president, and as a businessman, is abysmal, say critics. His attempt to defund the U.S. Energy Star program, they say, is typical of a compulsion to protect his self interest: Energy Star has given poor ratings to nearly all Trump’s hotels, which experts note has possibly impacted his bottom line.
The Palm Oil Fiefdom [10/10/2017]
- This is the first installment of Indonesia for Sale, an in-depth series on the corruption behind Indonesia’s deforestation and land rights crisis. - Indonesia for Sale is a collaboration between Mongabay and The Gecko Project, an investigative reporting initiative established by UK-based nonprofit Earthsight. - This article is the product of nine months’ reporting across the Southeast Asian country, interviewing fixers, middlemen, lawyers and companies involved in land deals, and those most affected by them.
Indonesia for Sale: in-depth series on corruption, palm oil and rainforests launches [10/10/2017]
- The investigative series Indonesia for Sale, launching this week, shines new light on the corruption behind Indonesia’s deforestation and land rights crisis. - In-depth stories, to be released over the coming months, will expose the role of collusion between palm oil firms and politicians in subverting Indonesia’s democracy. They will be published in English and Indonesian. - The series is the product of nine months’ reporting across the country, interviewing fixers, middlemen, lawyers and companies involved in land deals, and those most affected by them. - Indonesia for Sale is a collaboration between Mongabay and The Gecko Project, an investigative reporting initiative established by UK-based nonprofit Earthsight.
Experts seek ways to mitigate environmental impacts of infrastructure boom in Asia Pacific [10/09/2017]
- More than 22 million kilometers of new roads are projected to be built in highly biodiverse tropical and developing countries by 2050. - Direct habitat loss, illegal logging, increased poaching and encroachment and animal road kill are some of the environmental risks associated with road development. - Last week, a conference of experts, officials and activists from the Asia-Pacific region discussed ways to maximize the socio-economic benefits of infrastructure development while mitigating the environmental risks.
Antigraft agency charges district chief over permits to mine nickel in Indonesia [10/05/2017]
- North Konawe bupati Aswad Sulaeman was named a corruption suspect this week. - He allegedly took bribes totaling nearly a million dollars from companies he gave mining permits to. - North Konawe is a district in Southeast Sulawesi province, home to one of the world’s largest nickel deposits. The governor is also being investigated for corruption linked to the issuance of mining licenses.
‘Queen of Coal’ named corruption suspect in Indonesia [10/05/2017]
- Rita Widyasari was named suspect by Indonesia’s antigraft body earlier this month. - She was alleged to accept a a 6 billion rupiah ($442,000) bribe from plantation businessman Hari Susanto Gun. - The head of Kutai Kartanegara district in East Kalimantan is often dubbed the “queen of coal” given the number of mining permits she has issued.
Activists spy silver lining as officials warn of financial clouds over coal-fueled grid [10/04/2017]
- Indonesia’s state-owned power utility PLN has recently reported a slowdown in annual sales, suggesting that electricity demand is not rising as expected. - With slow sales, rising costs and financial obligations elevating PLN’s risk, senior government officials have called on the company to scale back plans to expand the country’s electricity infrastructure. - Green activists view this as an opportunity to renew calls to halt building of planned coal-fired power plants and switch to renewable energy.
Second Irrawaddy dolphin death in Borneo linked to fishing nets [10/03/2017]
- A second rare Irrawaddy dolphin has washed up dead on a beach in eastern Borneo this year. - Injuries believed to have been inflicted by a fishing net are the most likely cause of death, a biologist says. - An NGO has called on authorities to educate fishermen about minimizing bycatch and to map out dolphin migratory paths and habitats in the area.
A rhino called hope [10/03/2017]
- Only 50-100 Sumatran rhinos are believed to remain. Seven live at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary in Indonesia. - One of the sanctuary’s residents, Harapan, was transferred from the Cincinnati Zoo two years ago. - Harapan’s caretakers say he is in good health, is settling into the facility and will soon be introduced to one the center’s female rhinos in hopes of siring offspring.
Mining project in Leuser Ecosystem no longer has a valid permit [09/29/2017]
- The mining permit of a company engaged in a long-running conflict with Aceh villagers has expired. - Because the company failed to file paperwork on time, the Indonesian government has rejected the company’s request to extend the permit. - Without a permit, the company cannot legally continue to operate in its concession.
China sends first pandas to Indonesia under captive-breeding agreement [09/29/2017]
- Two giant pandas from China arrived in Indonesia on a mission to increase the species’ population. - The couple, a male and a female, will live in a special enclosure at a zoo outside Jakarta for the next decade. - Zoo officials are open to trying every possible breeding technique to help the bears reproduce.
Camera trap records nearly extinct cuckoo in Sumatra [09/27/2017]
- A camera trap captured the Sumatran ground cuckoo in a national park. - The discovery of the avian species indicated that the park might be one of its last refuges. - The park agency said it would investigate the finding to make a conservation strategy for the cuckoo.
Lawsuits test local governments’ ability to clean up Indonesia’s coal mining sector [09/27/2017]
- A government commission in 2014 found that thousands of mining permits did not meet Indonesia’s legal standards. - Some local governments have moved to shut down violating companies. In one province, South Sumatra, companies are fighting back in court. - So far, 10 companies have sued to get their permits reinstated. Five have succeeded.
Two Indonesian soldiers found to be smuggling dozens of porcupines [09/25/2017]
- The Indonesian conservation agency caught a pair of army officers trying to smuggle dozens of porcupines across provincial borders in Sumatra. - The animal’s stomach produces a stone used in traditional Chinese medicine. - The soldiers were questioned by civilian authorities, and then turned over to the military.
Can the Javan rhino be saved before disaster strikes? [09/22/2017]
- The Javan rhinoceros has been reduced to a single population of around 60 individuals in an area prone to natural disasters. - Although the entire species now lives in a single national park, Javan rhinos are difficult to study and researchers are still working to understand the behavior of both individual animals and the population as a whole - Work to expand the existing habitat is underway, but experts agree establishing a second population is critical for the species’ survival.
Does forest certification really work? [09/21/2017]
- Based on a review of 40 studies of variable quality, we found that certified tropical forests can overall be better for the environment than forests managed conventionally. - But there wasn’t enough evidence to say if certified tropical forests are better than, the same as, or worse than conventionally managed tropical forests when it comes to people. - We also found that profits and other economic benefits can be hard to come by for certified logging companies working in tropical forests. - This is part of a special Mongabay series on “Conservation Effectiveness”.
Four new toads discovered in Sumatra [09/21/2017]
- Scientists discovered four new species of toads who, unlike their cousins, live isolated in the highlands of Sumatra. - The four toads are distinguishable from one another by their skin patterns, limb shapes and voices. - In the wake of the discovery, one of the researchers called on the Indonesian government to strengthen the monitoring of harvesting quotas for toad exports so that scientists can keep track of its population in the wild.
Fossil discovery in Indonesia reveals ‘lost world’ of beasts [09/19/2017]
- On the Indonesian island of Sumba, scientists unearthed the bones of tiny elephants, giant rats and other extinct creatures. - They also found Komodo dragon fossils, confirming the lizard’s existence outside the islets off of nearby Flores island. - Sumba remains little researched. The scientists hope more can be done.
First orangutan birth in Aceh reserve ‘gives hope’ for survival of species [09/19/2017]
- The first baby orangutan was born at the Pinus Jantho Nature Reserve in Sumatra. - The other release site in Sumatra, Bukit Tigapuluh National Park, saw a similar birth last year, the first at either site. - Both Jantho and Bukit Tigapuluh hold an entirely new population of orangutans being established in the Sumatran wilds.
Indonesia abuzz over possible finding of extinct tiger [09/19/2017]
- Park rangers in Java photographed a big cat that resembled the Javan tiger which was officially declared extinct in 2003. - The finding prompted authorities and NGO in Indonesia to deploy an investigation team to gather more evidence. - Meanwhile, some experts argued that the animal was most likely the Javan leopard.
Oil palm firms advance into Leuser rainforest, defying Aceh governor’s orders [09/18/2017]
- The government of Indonesia’s Aceh province has banned land clearance for oil palm development inside the Leuser Ecosystem. - However, deforestation is still ongoing as some companies ignore the moratorium. - During the first seven months of 2017, Leuser lost 3,941 hectares of forest cover, an area almost three times as large as Los Angeles International Airport, watchdogs say.
Does social forestry always decrease deforestation and poverty? (commentary) [09/17/2017]
- Many governmental and non-governmental organizations see community forestry in Indonesia as a new approach to reducing environmental degradation and increasing social welfare. Despite a decade of experimentation with the concept, very little is known, however, about actual impacts. - Studies by the Monitoring and Evaluation of Social Forestry program (MEPS) reveal that Village Forest (Hutan Desa) areas reduce deforestation in forests allocated for watershed protection and limited timber extraction - In forest allocated to normal timber production and conversion, Hutan Desa areas, however, have higher deforestation than comparable forests not managed by communities. Community forestry can achieve positive outcomes, but not everywhere. The government needs to take this insight on board to help in allocating licenses and investments for this scheme. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author.
Protest against hydropower plant in Sumatra ends with injuries [09/14/2017]
- On Aug. 24, indigenous people in North Sumatra staged a protest against the development of a planned 510-megawatt hydroelectric dam which threatens to evict them from their ancestral land. - The protest turned sour after a woman was knocked over during a scuffle between protestors and people claiming to be representatives of the project’s developer, PT North Sumatra Hydro Energy. - The project also threatens to damage the ecosystem of the Batang Toru forest, home to Critically Endangered Sumatran tigers and orangutans.
Samsung won’t partner with Korindo following outrage over forest destruction in Indonesia [09/14/2017]
- Under fire from watchdogs and consumers of its smartphones, Samsung said it would not pursue a joint venture with Korindo, itself the target of an NGO campaign for destroying rainforests in Indonesia. - Korindo was previously outed in a Mighty Earth report for using fire to clear dense forests in Indonesia’s Tanah Papua region, home to birds-of-paradise and tree kangaroos. - Papua is the last frontier for oil palm plantation firms like Korindo, and they move east in search of land on which to expand.
Palm oil giant FGV will ‘endeavor to rehabilitate’ peatlands it trashed in Borneo [09/13/2017]
- About a year ago, Felda Global Ventures promised to stop clearing rainforests and peatlands to make way for its oil palm estates. - This year, though watchdogs reported that the company had continued to clear over 1,000 hectares of forest and peat in Indonesian Borneo, violating not only its green pledge but also its obligations as a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), as well as a new government regulation. - Last month, FGV renewed its commitment and said it would try to rehabilitate the peatlands it planted since August 2016.
Javan rhinos face human incursions into their last remaining habitat [09/11/2017]
- Only around 60 Javan rhinoceroses are believed to remain, all of them in Indonesia’s Ujung Kulon National Park. - Authorities have caught dozens of people hunting, gathering forest products and planting crops in the park, including the recent arrest of 13 people in core rhino habitat. - Despite the challenges, the population is believed to be stable and calves continue to be born.
The financial case against coal power in Indonesia [09/06/2017]
- A recent report by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) warns that Indonesia’s coal-based electricity strategy risks wasting $76 billion over the next 25 years. - IEEFA is among a small group of non-profits focusing on the economics of fossil fuels, rather than emphasizing environment and public health concerns. - Indonesia, a major coal producer, relies heavily on large, fossil-fueled power plants for electricity, but there are some signs that policymakers are increasingly open to developing small-scale and renewable options.
80% of Bornean orangutans live outside protected areas [09/05/2017]
- The finding is part of a new report led by the Indonesian government. - The study confirms that orangutan populations have plunged over the past decade. - It recommends several strategies for protecting the primates, including working with plantation companies to preserve forests within lands they have been licensed to develop.
‘Ecological disaster’: controversial bridge puts East Kalimantan’s green commitment to the test [08/30/2017]
- Work is currently underway on a bridge and access road that will connect the fast-growing city of Balikpapan with its rural outskirts. - The project is part of a broader government program to transform Indonesian Borneo into an economic powerhouse. - Conservationists have opposed the project since it was launched in 2008, fearing it will disrupt marine life, cut a crucial wildlife corridor and spark land speculation and encroachment along a protected forest.
Few answers for Indonesians who wonder what chemicals are dumped in their water [08/29/2017]
- A new report from the World Resources Institute details a three-year investigation into how accessible information about pollution in local waterways is to residents in Indonesia, Thailand and Mongolia. - While the Indonesian government has established laws to protect the right to information, enforcement is weak and both residents and government officials are confused about how to get and provide needed information about water. - The WRI believes Indonesia is capable of providing the needed information to residents and is working toward doing so.
Rhino horn confiscated, three alleged traffickers arrested in Sumatra [08/28/2017]
- Indonesian authorities arrested three alleged wildlife traffickers and seized a rhino horn in Medan, North Sumatra on Aug. 13. - Officials believe the horn comes from a Sumatran rhino, one of the world’s rarest and most endangered mammal species. - The arrest followed a June 12 raid in a neighboring province that also resulted in the confiscation of a Sumatran rhino horn. Authorities have not yet determined whether there is a connection between the two incidents.
Samsung under fire for partnership with forest-burning Korindo [08/25/2017]
- Ahead of the launch of its new cell phone, Samsung was handed a petition with tens of thousands of signatures asking it to end its joint venture with Korindo, a conglomerate that has cleared thousands of hectares of rainforest in Indonesia’s Tanah Papua region. - Samsung has partnered with Korindo in the logistics sector. It has a direct stake in the oil palm sector via its partnership with Ganda Group, another Indonesian palm oil company. - After Mighty, the NGO that set up the petition, exposed Korindo’s practices in a report last year, the company said it would stop clearing forest until sustainability assessments could be undertaken.
These 3 companies owe Indonesia millions of dollars for damaging the environment. Why haven’t they paid? [08/23/2017]
- The Indonesian government has been trying to collect penalties from three companies found guilty of damaging the environment. - One of the companies is PT Kallista Alam, an oil palm plantation firm convicted of cut-and-burning rainforest in the Leuser Ecosystem. - Another is PT Merbau Pelalawan Lestari, a timber plantation firm that was ordered to pay more than a billion dollars for illegal logging. - The government plans to establish a task force for the express purpose of collecting the penalties.
Protests over geothermal development heat up in Central Java [08/22/2017]
- The people of Karangtengah Village in Central Java learned in January one of their key sources of freshwater had been contaminated by debris from the development of a planned $1 billion geothermal energy plant at a nearby volcano. - Indonesia, which is estimated to have the largest geothermal capacity in the world, is eager to tap into the renewable energy source. - The government says work will continue despite mounting demands from locals to stop the project over claims it has contaminated rivers, cleared forests and damaged the local tourism industry.
Indonesia’s decision to share vessel tracking data ‘ill-advised,’ some say [08/21/2017]
- In June, Indonesia became the first country to share its Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) data, which tracks location and activities of commercial fishing boats, with Global Fishing Watch which uses tools like satellite imagery to monitor environmental issues. - While the move is praised by conservationists for its potential to deter illegal fishing, some observers argue that publishing the data will backfire on the location of Indonesia’s best fisheries. - Supporters of the policy refute the claims saying that it will help Indonesian authorities intercept any sign of violations on the country’s oceans, and boost compliance among fishing businesses in sustainable marine and fisheries.
Indonesian coal firms shut down for violations fight back in court, with mixed results [08/15/2017]
- Indonesian authorities have revoked or not renewed more than 2,100 mining licenses that fail to meet legal standards. - In South Sumatra province, where 77 licenses were canceled, 10 coal mining firms have sued local officials for taking away their permits. - So far, one lawsuit has succeeded, while four other companies have failed to get their licenses reinstated. - The legal challenges in South Sumatra underscore the difficulties officials face as they try to clean up Indonesia’s mining sector.
Protecting a forest in the land of the Indonesian deer-pig [08/15/2017]
- In a village in the northern part of Indonesia’s giant Sulawesi island, hunters pursue rare animals that are protected by the law. - A local affiliate of NGO BirdLife International is working with locals to preserve the Popayato-Paguat forest block — and the dozens of endemic species within. - The NGO is facilitating an ecosystem restoration project in the forest block.
Land-swap rule among Indonesian President Jokowi’s latest peat reforms [08/11/2017]
- To prevent another round of devastating wildfires, Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s administration has issued a series of policies governing the management of peatlands — carbon-rich swamps that have been widely drained and dried by the nation’s agribusinesses, rendering them highly flammable. - The administration hopes a new land-swap scheme will help it claw back peat from big oil palm and timber planters, providing a means to supply the firms with additional land elsewhere in the country. - Business associations complain about the new policy, saying it’s not feasible for a company in Sumatra to move its operations all the way to Papua. - Environmental pressure groups, meanwhile, call the regulation an unfair boon for large firms, providing a rapacious industry with more land than the vast amounts it already controls.
Plastic Fantastic? Indonesia plans to turn waste into road tar [08/10/2017]
- After laying a 700-meter plastic-tar road at a university campus in Bali, Indonesian officials announced plans to use the material on roads in Jakarta and other cities. - So-called plastic roads, which incorporate melted plastic into road tar, are promoted as a novel waste-disposal method that also produces cheaper and more durable roads than conventional materials. - Some environmentalists are concerned about the potential for plastic roads to leach hazardous chemicals and shed micro-plastics into the ecosystem.
First real test for Jokowi on haze as annual fires return to Indonesia [08/08/2017]
- Land and forest fires have broken out in pockets of Indonesia since mid-July. - Last year the country caught a break, when a longer-than-normal wet season brought on by La Niña helped mitigate the fire threat. - This year, hotspots have started appearing in regions with no history of major land and forest fires, like East Nusa Tenggara and Aceh. - The government has responded by declaring an emergency status as well as deploying firefighters.
Road projects threaten Sumatra’s last great rainforests [08/07/2017]
- Local officials currently have plans to build roads in Mount Leuser, Bukit Barisan Selatan and Kerinci Seblat National Parks in Indonesia’s Sumatra Island. - Conservationists fear these plans could accelerate habitat loss and degradation in this highly biodiverse forest complex, which is home to many endangered species. - Proponents of road development cite the need for increased economic opportunities for local people and evacuation routes in case of natural disasters.
Why the Suy’uk are fact-checking their Dayak origin myth [08/04/2017]
- The Suy’uk are one of Indonesia’s hundreds of indigenous groups. They live in western Borneo. - Like many communities, the Suy’uk are mapping their lands in the wake of a landmark decision by Indonesia’s highest court that took indigenous peoples’ forests out of state control. - The government has dragged its feet in implementing the ruling, but mapping is seen as a prerequisite before indigenous groups can claim their rights.
Five promising stories for Global Tiger Day [07/28/2017]
- Since the last Global Tiger Day in 2016, researchers have discovered tiger populations in unexpected areas, such as forested corridors along riverbanks and in areas that recently served as theaters of war. - Several countries have worked to protect the tigers that live within their borders, including the creation of a massive national park and taking steps to end tiger farming. - Camera trap surveys continue to prove invaluable to wildlife researchers in tracking down tigers and other species that can range over huge areas.
Sumatran rhino horn, pangolin parts seized in Aceh wildlife trafficking bust [07/27/2017]
- Police in Aceh detained a male villager who had allegedly been trading wildlife parts for about a year. - Authorities confiscated a Sumatran rhino horn, a deer head and bags filled with pangolin tongues and scales. - The alleged trafficker faces five years imprisonment and a fine of up to $7,500.
Working with communities to fight fires in Way Kambas National Park [07/26/2017]
- Way Kambas National Park in southern Sumatra supports populations of Critically Endangered Sumatran rhinos, tigers and elephants, along with hundreds of other species. - In 1997, forest fires hit 70 percent of the park, killing many animals and hampering regeneration in previously logged areas. - Local authorities and conservation groups are now working with residents to prevent and fight fires, with notable success.
Mounting outcry over Indonesian palm oil bill as legislators press on [07/21/2017]
- The bill cements the right of oil palm planters to operate on peat soil, at a time when President Joko Widodo is trying to enforce new peat protections to stop another outbreak of devastating fires and haze. - The bill has also been criticized for outlining a variety of tax breaks and duty relief schemes for palm oil investors, although those provisions have been dialed back — but not completely eliminated — in the latest draft. - The bill’s main champion in the House of Representatives is the Golkar Party’s Firman Soebagyo. He says it will help farmers and protect Indonesian palm oil from foreign intervention. - Responding to mounting public criticism, some cabinet members recently asked the House to abandon the bill, but Soebagyo, who is leading the deliberations, says they will continue.
Inflated quotas for captive-bred wildlife in Indonesia may aid traffickers: report [07/18/2017]
- Indonesia’s captive breeding plan is meant to enable the legal wildlife trade while protecting the country’s natural riches, including its incredible biodiversity. - But “unrealistically high” quotas for the maximum production of certain species in the plan are likely being taken advantage of by wildlife traffickers, according to a new study. - The Indonesian environment ministry official in charge of setting the quotas says his department has audited the country’s breeding centers to ensure their professionalism and quality.
As Indonesia’s Leuser Ecosystem faces multiple threats, local resistance grows [07/17/2017]
- Sumatra’s Leuser Ecosystem covers 2.6 million hectares and is home to some 105 mammal and 382 bird species, many found nowhere else on earth. - The ecosystem is part of a World Heritage Site that has been listed as “In Danger” since 2011 — a designation that was renewed earlier this month. - The local government’s plans for the ecosystem include large hydroelectric dams. Deforestation and encroachment for palm oil and pulp and paper production are also major problems for the Leuser. - Local NGOs and community groups are speaking out against large-scale projects in the ecosystem, citing threats to the area’s human residents as well as to wildlife.
Transforming business as usual in Indonesia: an interview with Aida Greenbury [07/17/2017]
- Aida Greenbury is the former Chief Sustainability Officer at Asia Pulp & Paper, a forestry giant with extensive operations in Indonesia. - Greenbury was the lead internal architect for APP’s 2013 forest conservation policy, which is today one of the most ambitious zero deforestation commitments in the plantation sector. - Greenbury left APP in May and is today working on collaborative initiatives to protect and restore ecosystems.
Shipping companies face criminal charges after coal barges damage reef in Indonesian marine park [07/12/2017]
- In two separate incidents this winter, five coal-carrying vessels ran aground on reefs in Central Java’s Karimunjava National Park. - The boats were given permission to take shelter in the area during storms, but broke loose from their moorings, damaging 1,400 square meters of coral. - Officials are pressing charges of gross negligence and seeking financial compensation. - These incidents preceded a March case in which a cruise ship ran aground on a reef in Raja Ampat in eastern Indonesia.
Abdon Nababan, former head of Indonesia’s indigenous peoples alliance, to run for North Sumatra governor [07/12/2017]
- Nababan announced his candidacy in a Facebook post today. - He recently ended his tenure as leader of the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago. - The current governor is unelected, having risen to the position after his running mate was arrested for corruption. - Graft is an epidemic in Indonesia, serving the interests of mining, logging and plantation firms at the expense of indigenous groups.
Indonesia sues Thai energy giant PTT for $2B over 2009 oil spill [07/11/2017]
- The lawsuit follows a meeting in March between Luhut Pandjaitan, Indonesia’s coordinating maritime minister, and Julie Bishop, Australia’s foreign minister. - It also comes on the heels of a class-action suit brought by 15,000 Indonesian seaweed farmers against the firm in Australian court. - The company maintains it has seen no evidence of damage from the spill in Indonesian waters. - NGOs are calling on all sides to form a joint task force to establish once and for whether such damage occurred.
Sand mining, land reclamation meet fierce resistance in Makassar [07/10/2017]
- The South Sulawesi government plans a massive land-reclamation project, known as Centre Point Indonesia, that will create five artificial islands off the coast of the provincial capital, Makassar. - The project is estimated to require around 22 million cubic meters of sand and gravel, which will be mined on- and offshore in nearby districts. - Local fishing communities have rejected — and attempted to physically prevent — sand mining, which they fear will destroy their livelihoods. - The project also faces a lawsuit alleging work commenced without required documentation — including a permit from the fisheries ministry and a valid Environmental Impact Assessment.
Indonesia blocks major artery in haze-causing Mega Rice canal network [07/09/2017]
- The Ministry of Public Works and Housing is narrowing and installing dams in one of the largest canals built as part of the failed Mega Rice Project in the mid-1990s. - Authorities are negotiating with local residents who rely on some of the canals for transportation through the peat swamps of Central Kalimantan. - Officials say that to really solve the problem of dried out and flammable peat, not just the largest canals but the smaller ones too will have to be blocked.
Coal undermines Indonesia’s food production: report [07/06/2017]
- Analyzing government spatial planning maps, researchers for the Waterkeeper Alliance and the Mining Advocacy Network found that 19 percent of Indonesia’s rice-growing land falls within exploration or mining concessions for coal. - The study calculated that coal mining already costs the country 1.7 million tons of potential rice production, and another 6 million tons of current production are under threat. - Loss of agricultural productivity is due to land-use change and contamination of water used for irrigation.
Merabu’s efforts to keep the carbon in its trees [07/05/2017]
- Merabu residents harvest a variety of non-timber forest products. - “The forest is our storehouse,” one resident explains. “We have a village forest and a backup forest.” - One observer says the village could dispose of its plastic better.
Indonesia is running out of places to put rescued animals [07/03/2017]
- The head of the state conservation agency in North Sumatra says both of her rescue centers are over capacity. She is having to send animals to zoos. - The glut is due to an increase of people handing over protected species to the government, in line with efforts by authorities and NGOs to raise awareness of the law. - Dedicated facilities exist to receive some species, but for others, authorities have had to improvise.
Photos: Where once were mangroves, Javan villages struggle to beat back the sea [07/03/2017]
- Mangunharjo, Bedono, Sawah Luhur — these are just some of the communities where clear-cutting mangrove forests has caused environmental disaster. - Mangroves are removed to make way for shrimp and fish farms. But without the forests’ protection, coastal communities become dangerously vulnerable to erosion and flooding. - In some places, residents have planted new mangroves, and managed to reclaim their home from the sea. But not everywhere.
Harry Potter may have sparked illegal owl trade in Indonesia [07/03/2017]
- Owls were rarely recorded in the country’s bird markets in the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s, but this trend appears to have changed in the late 2000s. - Surveys of 20 bird markets in Java and Bali conducted between 2012 and 2016 revealed that owls are now widely traded, with at least 12,000 Scops owls being sold in Indonesia’s bird markets each year. - Most of these owls are caught from the wild, making the trade largely illegal.
Phone app lists ‘Good Fish’ and ‘Bad Fish’ to reduce impacts of cyanide fishing [06/30/2017]
- Cyanide fishing is often quicker and easier than other methods but is highly destructive to coral reef habitat, is used to catch up to 90 percent of saltwater fish that are imported into the United States. - Most of the fish imported into the United States come from countries where cyanide fishing is prevalent and enforcement of fishing regulation is limited. - For the Fishes’ ‘Tank Watch” app lists fish that are captive-bred vs wild caught and makes the information readily available to potential buyers of marine life. - As efforts to strengthen enforcement improve fisheries management, consumers can use these lists to decide if the fish that they are looking to purchase are suitable for their personal aquariums.
Surprisingly, Indonesia’s most famous dive site is also a playground for whales and dolphins (commentary) [06/27/2017]
- Raja Ampat — an island chain in Indonesia’s West Papua province — is world renowned for its beautiful and unique marine biodiversity. But its marine mammals have not received as much attention. - Half of the 31 whale and dolphin species found in all of Indonesia — 16 different types — have been regularly observed there. - However, a designated long-term study of the behavior of whales and dolphins there has yet to be conducted. We don’t know much about them; more to the point, we don’t know how to effectively protect them. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
2 new reptiles discovered in Sumatra [06/27/2017]
- A newly discovered snake in Takengon, in the highlands of Aceh province, was named for one of Indonesia’s few herpetologists. - The snake is non-venomous, but it mimics the characteristics of its venomous cousins as a survival technique. - The other creature, a lizard, inhabits the forests along central Sumatra’s western coast.
Papua governor takes birds-of-paradise off the market [06/26/2017]
- Papua Governor Lukas Enembe declaring the new policy earlier this month. - The birds are threatened by hunting as well as the ongoing destruction of their forest habitat as agribusiness expands in the region. - Indigenous communities can still use bird parts in their traditional ceremonies.
Footprints in the forest: The future of the Sumatran rhino [06/23/2017]
- Fewer than 100 Sumatran rhinos (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) remain in the wild, a number many biologists say is too low to ensure the survival of the species. - Several organizations have begun to build momentum toward a single program that pools resources and know-how in Malaysia and Indonesia, the last places in Southeast Asia where captive and wild rhinos still live. - Advocates for intensive efforts to breed animals in captivity fear that an emphasis on the protection of the remaining wild animals may divert attention and funding away from such projects. - They worry that if they don’t act now, the Sumatran rhino may pass a point of no return from which it cannot recover.
Restoration of shattered coral reef at Raja Ampat on hold [06/22/2017]
- Indonesia has laid out its plan for restoring the damaged reef at Raja Ampat, struck by a cruise ship earlier this year. - The plan cannot proceed until compensation talks with small ship cruise liner Noble Caledonia’s insurer have concluded. - The privately held tour operator has pledged to cooperate with Indonesia “towards a fair and realistic settlement.” - A scientist who assessed the damage said compensation should be higher than normal because of the area’s extreme marine biodiversity, some of the world’s richest.
Five new species in world’s largest tree genus found on Sulawesi [06/21/2017]
- Syzygium is a genus of flowering trees and shrubs in the myrtle family that contains more than 1,500 species. - Only 14 of those were previously known to occur on Sulawesi, the world’s eleventh-largest island, however. By comparison, Borneo, Sulawesi’s larger neighbor to the west, is home to around 200 Syzygium species. - Due to the rate of tropical forest destruction across Indonesia, according to the researchers who discovered the new Syzygium species, three of the five newly described species on Sulawesi qualify for an endangered listing on the IUCN Red List.
Indonesian coal mining firm gets its license reinstated despite a history of violations [06/19/2017]
- The governor of Indonesia’s South Sumatra province revoked PT Batubara Lahat’s coal mining license after the company was found to owe the government more than $2 million. - On June 8, an administrative court overturned the governor’s decision. - Nationwide, more than 2,100 mining licenses have been revoked or not been renewed following investigations into their legality, resulting in multiple lawsuits. - Activists fear this verdict could have wider repercussions.
Borneo’s ‘biocultural holocaust’: an interview with author Alex Shoumatoff [06/19/2017]
- Over the past half century, we’ve laid waste to the rainforests of Borneo thanks to humanity’s demand for food, fuel, and fiber. - The Wasting of Borneo, a new book by Alex Shoumatoff, chronicles some of Borneo’s staggering losses - Shoumatoff is a former writer and editor for The New Yorker, Outside, Condé Nast Traveler, and Vanity Fair who Donald Trump once called “the greatest writer in America”.
Groundwater may play key role in forest fires [06/16/2017]
- Researchers compared groundwater dynamics to fire incidence in Borneo. - During prolonged dry spells, groundwater levels can get so low that capillary action cannot take place, creating a condition called “hydrological drought.” - The researchers found that when a fire occurs, almost 10 times more land is burned in a hydrological drought year than in a non-drought year. - They write that their findings may help better predict fire occurrence and extent during El Niño events, and may provide a tool to help plan and adapt to climate change.
If we wish to save the Javan rhinoceros, we must work to know it (commentary) [06/15/2017]
- The Javan rhino survives in a single population of roughly 60 individuals in Indonesia’s Ujung Kulon National Park. - Despite successful efforts to protect the park’s rhinos from poachers, the species remains at risk due to multiple threats including lack of genetic diversity, disease and natural disasters. - Designing effective conservation strategies requires filling crucial gaps in knowledge about the population’s size, status and behavior. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Mangrove loss threatens migratory shorebird route in North Sumatra [06/15/2017]
- A new study examines the impact of agricultural expansion on an important shorebird habitat in North Sumatra. - Mangrove cover in the Indonesian province has dropped 85 percent in the last 14 years. - The study’s authors want the government to issue a regulation to protect shorebirds specifically.
Lobby groups drop lawsuit against Indonesian environment law [06/15/2017]
- Industry associations representing palm oil and timber companies had challenged four articles in the 2007 Environment Law and the 1999 Forestry Law. - The lobby groups had taken issue with a rule making it easier for the government to sue firms for fires that occur on their land. - The associations also wanted the Constitutional Court to ban slash-and-burn agriculture for everyone, small farmers included. - This week, the groups announced they were withdrawing the suit but said they still intended to seek “improvement” of the laws.
Papuan clan leader laments influx of migrants to sacred Cyclops Mountains [06/14/2017]
- Highlanders from remote parts of Papua are migrating to urban centers in the province. - The Cyclops Mountains near the provincial capital Jayapura has seen a major influx of migrants. - Local indigenous groups see the mountains as sacred and call on the government to do a better job of protecting them.
Norway bans government purchasing of palm oil biofuel [06/13/2017]
- The growth of the palm oil industry has been blamed for a host of damaging environmental impacts, such as deforestation and carbon emissions. - Research indicates that biofuel made with palm oil may be even worse for the climate than fossil fuels. - The Norwegian parliament responded to these impacts by voting in a regulation to its Public Procurement Act to stop using biofuel palm oil-based biofuel. The resolution further stipulates that the “regulatory amendment shall enter into force as soon as possible.” - Conservationists laud the move, but say more countries need to follow suit. They recommend the EU’s biofuel policy be updated to reflect concerns about palm oil.
Guatemala provides an example of community forest management for Indonesia [06/12/2017]
- In Guatemala’s Maya Biosphere Reserve, 9 community forestry concessions have been managing over 350,000 hectares of forest for more than 15 years. The communities aim to manage the concessions sustainably, earning income from timber and non-timber forest products and tourism. - Indigenous communities in Indonesia are currently in the process of mapping, titling and restoring their customary forests after Indonesian president Joko Widodo pledged to grant 12.7 million hectares for community concessions by 2019. - Representatives travelled to Guatemala to learn how this has been done by communities in the Maya Biosphere Reserve. - The Indonesian representatives hope to use the model of Guatemalan forest communities as a starting point for their own concession management.
‘Give us back our land’: paper giants struggle to resolve conflicts with communities in Sumatra [06/09/2017]
- Plantation firms like Asia Pulp & Paper and Toba Pulp Lestari have a long history of land grabbing, often dating back to the New Order military dictatorship. More recently, they have pledged to eliminate the practice from their supply chains. - Many of the conflicts remain unaddressed. The companies say they are working hard to resolve them. - A new online platform launched by the Rainforest Action Network shows that communities are still suffering the impacts of having their traditional forests and lands seized to make way for plantations.
FSC to investigate Korean conglomerate’s palm oil operations in Indonesia [06/07/2017]
- The group submitted the complaint to the FSC on May 15, 2017, together with evidence that Mighty Earth said showed the Korindo Group has, since 2013, cleared more than 30,000 hectares (over 74,000 acres) of rainforest for palm oil production in the Indonesian provinces of Papua and North Maluku. - “The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) has formally accepted a Policy for Association (PfA) complaint submitted by Mighty Earth against Korindo Group (Korindo) for ‘Significant conversion of forests to plantations or non-forest use’,” the certification body confirmed in a statement released today. - In its Policy for the Association of Organizations with FSC (PfA), the certification body lists a number of “unacceptable forest-related activities” in which companies cannot directly or indirectly engage — essentially giving the FSC a means of protecting its reputation and “ability to deliver on its mission” should a company with certified operations be found to be responsible for unsustainable practices in some of its other operations.
Indonesia’s plantation lobby challenges environmental law [06/07/2017]
- The Indonesian Palm Oil Association (GAPKI) and the Indonesian Association of Forestry Concessionaires (APHI) lodged a judicial review with the Constitutional Court last month. - They want the court to edit the 1999 Forestry Law and the 2009 Environment Law so that companies are not strictly liable for fires that occur in their concessions. - They also want to the court to extend the ban on using fire to clear land to small farmers.
Fire a rising threat to Sulawesi’s black macaques [06/02/2017]
- Almost half of the black macaques on Sulawesi island live in the Tangkoko Batuangus Nature Reserve, which is still home to ancient forest. - Hunting of the macaques has declined, and the local population is showing signs of a rebound. - But fires set by local people to clear land for planting is seen as a major threat to the species.
Pressure builds on palm oil firm Goodhope after RSPO sanction [05/31/2017]
- The RSPO ordered Goodhope to freeze its operations in Indonesia earlier this month amid allegations of land grabbing and forest destruction. - Goodhope said recently that it needed more time than the RSPO had given it to bring its operations into compliance with the roundtable’s standards. - The company says it is working with credible auditors to conduct new assessments of its concessions, after the RSPO deemed previous audits the firm had commissioned as lacking in credibility.
Governor halts work on coal railway being built without permits in Indonesian Borneo [05/30/2017]
- During a field visit to Katingan Regency in Central Kalimantan, Mongabay-Indonesia observed that developers of a coal-transport rail line had already cleared forest land and constructed around two kilometers of track. - Government sources confirmed the developer did not have the necessary permits to begin work on the project. - On May 23, the Central Kalimantan governor announced that work on the project had been suspended, although he did not signal any intent to initiate law-enforcement actions against the developer.
Who owns Indonesia’s deadly abandoned coal mines? [05/25/2017]
- More than 630 open-pit coal mines have been left behind by mining companies in East Kalimantan. These holes have claimed the lives of at least 27 people, mostly children - Indonesian law requires companies to fill in their mining pits, and prohibits mining within 500 meters of houses. However, these regulations are frequently violated. - Mongabay-Indonesia spent months investigating the true scope of the problem, and the individuals responsible for these violations.
Indonesian governor asks president to let timber firms drain peat in his province [05/20/2017]
- West Kalimantan Governor Cornelis asked President Joko Widodo to let some timber plantation companies drain peatlands, even though Jakarta banned the practice last year. - In a letter to the president dated Apr. 25, Cornelis makes an economic argument for allowing the companies to proceed as usual. - Cornelis is a member of an international consortium of governors dedicated to fighting climate change; Greenpeace said his request to the president amounted to a “double standard.” - His request came just days after Jakarta sanctioned a timber firm in his province for building an illegal canal through the Sungai Putri peat swamp forest.
Wilmar appeals RSPO ruling that it grabbed indigenous lands in Sumatra [05/17/2017]
- Palm oil giant Wilmar has been involved in a land conflict with the Kapa people of West Sumatra for years. - Earlier this year, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil ruled in favor of a complaint filed against Wilmar. Wilmar said it accepted the ruling. - Now Wilmar is appealing the ruling on procedural grounds. The company says it wasn’t properly consulted during the process. - The Forest Peoples Programme, an NGO helping the Kapa through the process, says the company is stalling, “which we see as a tactic to delay having to address outstanding human rights violations.”
Facing oversupply, Indonesia scales back its coal-based electricity plan [05/11/2017]
- In 2014, Indonesian President Joko Widodo announced plans to generate an additional 35,000 megawatts of electricity by 2019, much of it to be fueled by coal. - Last month, energy minister Ignasius Jonan said only 15,000 additional megawatts will be required by 2019. - Jonan cited lower-than-expected economic growth, leading to lower energy demand.
Palm oil firm pledges to stop deforesting after RSPO freezes its operations in Papua [05/11/2017]
- Goodhope Asia Holdings, an arm of Sri Lanka’s Carson Cumberbatch, is the latest palm oil company to promise to purge its operations of deforestation, peatland conversion and human rights abuses. - Announcing such a commitment and implementing it are two different matters. Despite the growing prevalence of such pledges, no major user or processor of palm oil can say it has actually eliminated deforestation from its supply chain. - Goodhope subsidiary PT Nabire Baru presides over what one watchdog called “possibly the most controversial plantation in Papua.”
Extremely rare bay cat filmed in Borneo [05/09/2017]
- Researchers photographed the bay cat while conducting a wildlife survey in the Rungan Landscape in Central Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo. - The forests in this landscape include peat swamps and heath, a habitat type in which bay cats have not previously been recorded, scientists say. - The team has not released the exact location of the potentially new population of bay cats because the forest where the cat was filmed is not legally protected.
Coal miners owe the Indonesian government hundreds of millions of dollars [05/08/2017]
- After policies of decentralization gave regional governments more control over the mining sector, the number of permits issued exploded. - A countrywide investigation into Indonesia’s mining sector revealed that 2,522 mining permits do not fulfill clean and clear standards. - Investigations have revealed the government is owed $380 million in mining royalties. - Collecting remaining arrears proves challenging, as basic details about mining companies in arrears, including where offices are located – or if they exist at all – remain missing from government permit data.
RSPO freezes palm oil company’s operations in Papua [05/07/2017]
- The RSPO ordered Goodhope Asia Holdings to stop work in seven of its concessions in Indonesia, citing “poor quality” audits commissioned by the company to ensure it follows RSPO rules. - High Conservation Value assessments for all seven of the concessions were conducted by a team of Bogor Agricultural University lecturers led by Nyoto Santoso. The assessments are being treated as suspect by the RSPO. - While Goodhope opposes the measures, they have been lauded by environmental NGOs as a positive step.
Scientists mull risks of freeing rare albino orangutan in Borneo [05/05/2017]
- Caregivers are nursing the animal back to health at a rescue center in Central Kalimantan. - Biologists worry that releasing it into the wild will introduce its genetic defect into the population at large. - No data exists on the prevalence of albinoism among orangutans.
Balinese rituals fuel spike in trafficking of endangered sea turtles [05/04/2017]
- Indonesia is home to six of the world’s seven sea turtle species. International rules prevent any of them from being traded internationally, and the domestic trade is heavily controlled. - After Bali’s high priests issued a strict regulation in 2005 on the use of turtles in ceremonies, consumption of their meat dropped dramatically. - But a recent series of busts seem to indicate a significant surge in turtle smuggling to the island. - For now, Indonesian authorities’ main strategy appears to be education.
Two new species of tarsier, rumored to be inspiration for Yoda, announced on Star Wars Day [05/04/2017]
- Nocturnal creatures that weigh in at a maximum of about 120 grams (or 4.3 ounces) when fully grown, tarsiers can nevertheless easily leap as far as three meters (about 10 feet) or more in a single bound thanks to their super-elongated legs — the longest legs relative to arm length of any primate species. - The two new tarsier species, described in an article published in the journal Primate Conservation today, were found on the northern peninsula of Sulawesi, an Indonesian island. - With these new members of the tarsier family, there are now 11 species known to reside on Sulawesi and nearby islands. It was believed there were just one or two tarsier species in the region as recently as the 1990s.
Preserving orangutan culture an ingredient for successful conservation [05/02/2017]
- Scientists once thought that all animal behavior was instinctual, but now know that many animals — particularly social animals — are able to think and to learn, and to display culturally learned behaviors. - Orangutans are one animal in which occurrences of culture have been fairly well proven, with orangutan groups at different study sites displaying variant behaviors that have neither environmental nor genetic origins, meaning they can only be cultural in nature. - Among these cultural behaviors are basic tool making and use for food harvesting, purposeful vocalizations, and variations in nest building materials and methods. Scientists fear habitat loss and crashing populations could cause this cultural heritage to vanish. - The loss of varied cultural behaviors could potentially make orangutans less adaptable to changes in their environment at a time when, under extreme pressure from human development, these great apes need all the resources they can muster.
A return to mixed roots in a Sumatran forest [05/02/2017]
- The indigenous Rejang are rediscovering multicropping after years spent focusing on coffee monoculture. - The Rejang generally abandoned polyculture after the national government established a national park on their lands. - Multicropping helps them make money year-round instead of just when it’s time for the coffee harvest.
An interactive map connects landowners and forest change in one of the world’s most biodiverse places [04/28/2017]
- The Atlas of Deforestation and Industrial Plantations in Borneo documents the loss of rainforest over 40 years from oil palm and pulpwood plantations in one of Earth’s most biodiverse places. - By connecting landowners and deforestation patterns publicly available, the atlas adds transparency to wood and oil palm supply chains. - Allowing users to see how human impacts have reshaped Borneo is essential amid competing demands for cheap oil and conserved forest.
Indigenous communities resisting dams in Indonesia claim they face repression, rights abuses [04/27/2017]
- Developers plan to build a hydropower dam in Seko, a remote sub-district in North Luwu, Sulawesi that is home to several indigenous communities. - Some residents support the project, but many others have resisted since developers arrived in 2014, launching road blockades and protests. - Thirteen residents have been imprisoned for involvement in an August 2016 demonstration in which protestors dismantled tents used by company workers and took drilling samples. - Villagers allege people opposed to the dam have been arrested with force, have had to flee their homes, and that even school children have been beaten.
Indonesian court revokes environmental license for the Cirebon coal plant expansion [04/25/2017]
- An Indonesian administrative court ruled that expansion plans for the Cirebon coal-fired power plant in West Java are in violation of the local spatial planning law. - The court ordered the project’s environmental license be revoked, without which development should not be able to continue. - The verdict came one day after a consortium of lenders, led by the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC), committed to providing $1.74 billion in project financing. - Local and international environment activists have protested the expansion plans for years, and the project is currently the subject of a civil suit.
Mapping indigenous lands in Indonesia’s tallest mountains [04/21/2017]
- Local NGOs in the Baliem Valley of Indonesia’s Papua province are working with indigenous peoples to map their customary territories. - Over the past two decades, one foundation has mapped 19 of the 27 customary territories in Papua’s Jayawijaya district. - Some communities who were initially suspicious of the program have decided to trust it.
Indonesian tiger smugglers escape with light sentences in Sumatra [04/20/2017]
- The two men were each sentenced to eight months imprisonment in Jambi province. - Conservationists said the prosecutor should have demanded a harsher punishment. - The maximum sentence under the 1990 Conservation Law is five years behind bars, and activists are pushing for that to be revised upward, too. - Last year several tiger part smugglers were sentenced to three years imprisonment and fined 50 million rupiah.
RSPO accused of letting palm oil firm proceed with dodgy audits in Papua [04/14/2017]
- The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil is the world’s largest association for ethical production of the commodity, found in everything from chocolate to makeup and laundry detergent. - The RSPO’s credibility rests on the quality of its system for ensuring its member companies actually adhere to its standards. - Two years after the RSPO finally acknowledged deficiencies in its certification system, observers say the organization has done little to follow up on its commitment to address the issue.
Rainforest conservation may be aimed at the wrong places, study finds [04/13/2017]
- Climate-based conservation policies often focus on forests with large carbon stores – but what this means for biodiversity protection has been unclear. - Previous research found a link between tree diversity and carbon storage on the small-scale, with tropical forests that have more tree species possessing larger stores of carbon. But this correlation had not been tested for larger areas. - Researchers examined thousands of trees at hundreds of sites in the tropical forests of South America, Africa, and Southeast Asia. Their results indicate that on the one-hectare scale, tree diversity is low and carbon storage is quite high in Africa, while the opposite is the case in South America. In Southeast Asia, both carbon stocks and tree diversity appear to be high. - The researchers say their results indicate carbon-focused conservation policies may be missing highly biodiverse ecosystems, and recommend a more fine-tuned approach for prioritizing areas for conservation.
New genus created for arboreal toads in Indonesia [04/13/2017]
- The proposed genus was created to fit two new species of toad. - The name of the genus, Sigalegalephrynus, was inspired by the toads’ resemblance to a wooden puppet from North Sumatra. - The toads appear to have mating calls that are unlike those of other amphibians in the Sunda Shelf.
In remote Indonesian villages, indigenous communities fight a hydropower dam [03/30/2017]
- Seko, in the North Luwu subdistrict of South Sulawesi, is home to Pohoneang, Hoyyane and Amballong indegenous communities. - Surveys have begun for a planned 480-megawatt hydroelectric dam, part of a broader plan to build 1,154-megawatts of hydropower in the region.The dam has become the center of a bitter fight that has divided families and communities. - On March 27, a district court sentenced 13 Seko residents to seven months in prison in connection with an August 2016 action against the dam. - This is the first in a series of two articles on the situation in Seko.
Almost 1M hectares ‘missing’ from land holdings of major palm oil companies [03/29/2017]
- Palm oil is a major driver of tropical deforestation. The report was produced by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), which looked at information publicly disclosed by 50 of the most major palm oil production companies. - Its findings indicate that while most companies disclose the area of planted land they manage, many fail to reveal the size, location, and use of many other areas in their portfolio, defying corporate accountability and concealing potential social and environmental risks. - A supply chain expert says failures to disclose information don’t necessarily signal ill will on the part of the companies. Instead, it may be the result of unclear expectations, definitions, and protocols for reporting. - The Round Table for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), the world’s leading palm oil certification body, is reportedly working to improve the reporting process of its member companies.
Thousands of anti-coal activists march in Jakarta, deliver complaints to anti-graft agency [03/29/2017]
- Around 2,000 people, including convoys from communities affected by coal mining and coal-fired power plants, marched in Jakarta on March 23. - A delegation from the protest was received by Indonesia’s Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), where they presented reports on cases of alleged corruption. - Demonstrators also rallied in solidarity with farmers from Kendeng, West Java, who have encased their feet in cement and are staging a sit-in to protest the construction of a cement factory in the Kendeng karst mountain area.
The military family that kept a pet orangutan in Indonesia [03/29/2017]
- Wildlife traffickers are chipping away at the dwindling populations of Sumatran and Bornean orangutans. Deforestation lends poachers an assist, rendering the primates homeless and easier to catch. - Keeping an orangutan pet is illegal in Indonesia, but not once has a citizen been prosecuted for it. The owners tend to be influential figures — police officers, soldiers, politicians. - Krismon was separated from his mother as an infant in the late 1990s. Only last year was he finally recovered from the military family he was living with. - The ape will spend the rest of his life behind metal bars — unless a plan to construct an orangutan haven comes to fruition in North Sumatra.
Paying for healthcare with trees: win-win for orangutans and communities [03/28/2017]
- In 2016, the Bornean orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus) was declared Critically Endangered by the IUCN. Orangutan habitat is fast disappearing due to deforestation caused by industrial agriculture, forest fires, slash and burn agriculture, and logging. - One of the most important remaining P. pygmaeus populations, with roughly 2,000 individuals, is in Indonesia’s Gunung Palung National Park. Alam Sehat Lestari (Healthy Nature Everlasting, or ASRI) is partnering with U.S. NGO Health in Harmony and effectively reducing illegal logging in the park via a unique healthcare offering. - When communities were asked what was needed to stop them from logging conserved forest, the people answered: affordable healthcare and organic farming. Expensive medical costs were forcing people to log to pay medical bills, while unsustainable agricultural practices depleted the soil, necessitating the use of costly fertilizers. - The two NGOs opened an affordable health clinic, and later a hospital, offering discounted medical service to communities that stop logging. Forest guardians, recruited in every village, encourage people to curb deforestation. They also monitor illegal activity and reforestation, while offering training in organic farming methods. And the program works!
A Sumatran king’s 1,400-year-old vision for sustainable landscape planning [03/27/2017]
- Indonesia’s South Sumatra is an epicenter of the annual peat fires that ravage the archipelago country. - The province has become a staging ground for projects like KELOLA Sendang, which is intended to promote sustainable landscape management in an important tiger habitat. - More than a millennium ago, the ruler of the Srivijaya kingdom put forth his own vision for sustainable prosperity — one of which today’s policymakers could take heed.
Damage to Raja Ampat 12 times higher than previously thought [03/25/2017]
- Raja Ampat is home to one of the most spectacular coral reefs in the world. - The cruise ship that hit the reef on March 4 damaged 18,882 square meters of coral reef, the Indonesian government said this week. - A preliminary estimate had identified only 1,600 square meters of damaged reef.
Downstream from a coal mine, villages in Indonesian Borneo suffer from water pollution [03/23/2017]
- East Kalimantan, in Indonesian Borneo, hosts rare expanses of biologically rich tropical rainforest. It also has rich deposits of coal — according to Greenpeace data, around 75 percent of the province has been assigned for coal mining. - PT Indominco Mandiri, a subsidiary of Thai conglomerate Banpu, operates a 25,000-hectare (~62,000-acre) mining concession in East Kalimantan. - Activists and residents say this mining operation has rendered the water of the Santan River unusable for drinking, irrigation or aquaculture.
Jokowi reiterates commitment to indigenous rights [03/23/2017]
- Instead of attending the fifth congress of the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago last week in Sumatra as planned, Jokowi invited representatives of the organization to meet in Jakarta on Wednesday. - He told them he would push parliament to pass a law on indigenous rights and said he would form a task force to support the movement. - The administration is planning to recognize the rights of 18 more communities to the forests they call home, an area spanning a total of 590,000 hectares, the president said.
First woman to lead world’s largest indigenous peoples alliance [03/20/2017]
- Rukka Sombolinggi’s selection as next secretary general of the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago brought to a close the organization’s fifth congress on Sunday. - Sombolinggi is a Torajan woman from Sulawesi island with a long history in the indigenous rights movement. - AMAN’s next congress will be held in Papua in 2022.
Indonesia’s indigenous peoples will have to keep waiting for a promised task force on their rights [03/18/2017]
- President Joko Widodo’s administration announced some new initiatives at this week’s indigenous peoples congress in Sumatra, but not the task force on their rights participants had been hoping for. - The president’s chief of staff said it was more efficient for the Ministry of Environment and Forestry to address the matter directly. - Attention now turns to who will be selected to lead the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago for the next five years. A decision will be made on Sunday.
Jokowi cancels appearance at rare indigenous peoples congress [03/16/2017]
- This week marks the fifth congress of the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago. The event takes place once every five years. - Indonesian President Joko Widodo had been scheduled to deliver a speech. He would have been the nation’s first top official to attend. - Last last year, Jokowi recognized the rights of nine communities to the forests they call home. The development was welcomed by indigenous groups even as they called for him to replicate it on a far larger scale. - “This congress is a deadline for Jokowi to keep his promises. Otherwise there will be a political decision.”
Indonesia’s clean coal dreams [03/15/2017]
- Indonesia’s government has touted clean coal technology as the saving grace for its reliance on this carbon-heavy fuel, but this technology is in its infancy and may not grow quickly enough. - The term “clean coal” is used to refer to a wide range of technologies that decrease environmental impacts; only the least effective of these technologies are within Indonesia’s reach. - If developed countries foster these technologies to the point of commercial viability, Indonesia will have a better chance of using them.
Alarms raised as timber firm said to pierce one of Indonesia’s last orangutan strongholds [03/14/2017]
- PT Mohairson Pawan Khatulistiwa is allegedly digging a canal through deep peat soil in violation of the law. - Studies show the area is one of the most important orangutan habitats on the island of Borneo, whose tropical forests are being rapidly destroyed as plantations and mines expand. - The company’s ownership is unclear, but recent comments by a local politician suggest links to Chinese ownership.
“Predator Mobbing:” Watch gibbons, monkeys team up to fight off leopard [03/13/2017]
- A field team with the Borneo Nature Foundation (BNF) was in the Sabangau Forest of Central Kalimantan in Indonesian Borneo studying wild Maroon Langur monkeys (Presbytis rubicunda) as part of a long-term behavioral research project when they witnessed the rare phenomenon, known as “predator mobbing,” first-hand. - The monkeys responded after a group of Endangered Bornean White-bearded Gibbons (Hylobates albibarbis) started making alarm calls upon discovering a Sunda Clouded Leopard (Neofelis diardi) hiding in their midst. - The two primate species then proceeded to continuously issue warning calls for over two-and-a-half hours in the direction of tangled lianas in the forest canopy in which the leopard was hiding — a cooperative, multi-species interaction that is incredibly unusual for researchers to observe in the wild.
Aceh governor-elect: ‘I myself will cancel’ controversial geothermal project in Sumatran rainforest [03/11/2017]
- Last month, Irwandi Yusuf beat incumbent Zaini Abdullah in the race for governor of Indonesia’s westernmost Aceh province. - Yusuf, whom some called Aceh’s “green governor” when he previously held its top office, said before the election that he would review Abdullah’s less environmentally friendly policies. - It remains to be seen how Yusuf will handle the dispute over a provincial land-use plan passed by Abdullah’s administration. The plan makes no mention of the Leuser Ecosystem, and therefore leaves its rainforests vulnerable to plantation and mining companies. Environmentalists say it is illegal and are challenging it in court.
Indonesian Supreme Court orders Jokowi administration to hand over palm oil permit data [03/10/2017]
- Forest Watch Indonesia has been trying to force the Ministry of Land and Spatial Planning to release in full the maps of oil palm companies’ concessions, known as HGUs. - The Supreme Court’s decision hands the NGO a victory in its freedom of information request, launched in 2015. - Once it receives the hard copies of the documents, FWI will scan and upload them on its website.
Cruise ship wrecks one of Indonesia’s best coral reefs at Raja Ampat [03/09/2017]
- The ship ran aground on an uncharted shoal off the coast of New Guinea after it was caught in low tide. - An official evaluation team is assessing the damage. One investigator told Mongabay the company should pay $1.28 million-$1.92 million in compensation. - The company responsible, UK-based tour operator Noble Caledonia, said it deeply regretted the incident and that it was cooperating with authorities.
Greenpeace to take Indonesian forestry ministry to Supreme Court over environmental data [03/09/2017]
- Greenpeace wants the ministry to release seven different geospatial maps of Indonesia in the shapefile format. - The ministry is willing to publish PDF and JPEG versions of the maps, but it says shapefiles can’t be reliably authenticated and could therefore be altered by third parties. - Greenpeace contends the shapefiles could quite simply be digitally signed.
Industry-backed plantation museum opens in Indonesia [03/09/2017]
- The museum was inaugurated by the North Sumatra provincial government last December. - The idea came from the CEO of Bakrie Sumatera Plantations, a major oil palm grower. - It is Indonesia’s first plantation museum.
An indigenous group reforests its corner of coastal New Guinea [03/07/2017]
- Residents of Yepem on the Indonesian half of New Guinea island are undertaking a reforestation project with the local government. - Respect for nature is a fundamental part of the worldview of the local Asmat people. - Locals’ biggest problem is a lack of clean water.
Japanese, Singaporean banks finance controversial Indonesian coal plant [03/06/2017]
- The financial close for the Tanjung Jati B coal-fired power plant expansion was announced on Feb. 27 by the Japan Bank for International Cooperation. Funding will be provided by eight Japanese and Singaporean banks. - The $3.36 billion loan will finance the construction of two new 1,000 megawatt units at the plant, which is located in Central Java. - The project has been the target of years of protests from both international and local activists, and two French banks backed out of the co-financing deal.
HSBC to stop financing deforestation-linked palm oil firms [03/03/2017]
- A recent Greenpeace report accused the bank of marshalling $16.3 billion in financing for six firms since 2012 that have illegally cleared forests, planted oil palm on carbon-rich peat soil and grabbed community lands. - The investigation prompted scores of people to join a campaign to change the bank’s policies, including thousands of HSBC’s own customers. - The bank’s new policy requires HSBC customers to commit to protecting natural forest and peatland by June 30, and provide independent verification of their own NDPE commitments by Dec. 31, 2018.
The two sides of Indonesia’s Baluran National Park [03/02/2017]
- A recent commentary piece by Dr. Erik Meijaard provides a comprehensive view of the current situation and conservation actions undertaken in Baluran National Park as compared to time he spent there in the 1990’s - However, as so often happens with this beautiful park, the focus remained on the well-known part that has earned it the nickname ‘Africa of Java,’ the area surrounding the Bekol savannah in the southeastern reaches of the park. - If one were to slice the park horizontally in two, right through mount Baluran, and compare the northern and southern parts, a sharp contrast would become visible, a contrast of mooing and ringing bells. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
A Bornean village conserves a forest the government listed for cutting [03/02/2017]
- Residents of Bawan village in Indonesia Borneo applied for a permit to manage their land as a “village forest,” a form of community forestry being pushed by President Joko Widodo’s administration. - The national government had designated the area as “production forest,” meaning it could be sold to a plantation or mining company, but residents chose instead to protect the land. - “I consider Bawan’s village forest a champion project,” said Lilik Sugiarti, a USAID representative who helped to bring it about.
Will changes to Indonesia’s mining law hurt or help the environment? [03/01/2017]
- In January, Indonesia relaxed regulations on the export of unprocessed ores, but also required some mining companies to change their operating licenses — most notably U.S.-based Freeport-McMoRan. - The 2017 regulation amends a 2014 ban on unprocessed mineral exports. That ban aimed to build a domestic smelting industry but effectively shut down many small mining operations, an unintentional boon for the environment. - Indonesia’s long-term mining and mineral processing ambitions could cause serious environmental damage. Better enforcement of environmental law would have a bigger impact than export restrictions, experts say.
Environmental costs, benefits and possibilities: Q&A with anthropologist Eben Kirksey [02/28/2017]
- The environmental humanities pull together the tools of the anthropologist and the biologist. - Anthropologist Eben Kirksey has studied the impact of mining, logging and infrastructure development on the Mee people of West Papua, Indonesia, revealing the inequalities that often underpins who benefits and who suffers as a result of natural resource extraction. - Kirksey reports that West Papuans are nurturing a new form of nationalism that might help bring some equality to environmental change.
Kalaodi, Tidore’s eco-village in Indonesia’s spice capital [02/28/2017]
- In 1972, Indonesia’s central government mapped Kalaodi, a village of 454 people, into a protected forest. - Locals were upset because the protected status robbed them of the ability to continue their centuries-old tradition of cultivating spice groves. - Today, Kalaodi residents are taking the first steps towards restituting past government oversteps.
Survival of nearly 10,000 orangutans in Borneo oil palm estates at stake [02/27/2017]
- 10,000 orangutans remain in areas currently allocated to oil palm. These animals can only survive if environmental practices in plantations adhere to standards such as those prescribed by RSPO. - Orangutan rescues should only be allowed when no other solutions exist; otherwise they will aggravate problems of deforestation and orangutan killing. - Further scrutiny of companies and other groups that are at the forefront of these improvements is needed, but increasingly campaigners should focus on the laggards and rogues that cause the greatest environmental damage. - This a commentary – the views expressed are those of the authors.
What happens when the soy and palm oil boom ends? [02/21/2017]
- Over the past 30 years demand and production of oils crops like oil palm and soybeans has boomed across the tropics. - This rapid expansion has in some places taken a heavy toll on native, wildlife-rich ecosystems. - Derek Byerlee, co-author of a new book titled The Tropical Oil Crop Revolution, spoke with Mongabay about the tropical oil crop sector and what’s to come for the industry.
Protected areas found to be ‘significant’ sources of carbon emissions [02/17/2017]
- The researchers found 2,018 protected areas across the tropics store nearly 15 percent of all tropical forest carbon. This is because protected areas tend to have denser, older forest – thus, higher carbon stocks. - Their study uncovered that, on average, nearly 0.2 percent of protected area forest cover was razed per year between 2000 and 2012. - Less than nine percent of the reserves that the researchers sampled contributed 80 percent of the total carbon emissions between 2000 and 2012, putting this small subset of reserves on par with the UK’s entire transportation sector. - The researchers say their findings could help prioritize conservation attention.
Wilmar grabbed indigenous lands in Sumatra, RSPO finds [02/16/2017]
- The Kapa are a Minangkabau people in Indonesia’s West Sumatra province. - The community accused Wilmar International, the world’s largest palm oil company, of planting oil palm in their territory without their permission. - Wilmar is a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, meaning that it must respect the right of communities to veto development projects on their land. - The RSPO recently decided that Wilmar had violated the Kapa’s right to “free, prior and informed consent.”
A Thai oil firm, Indonesian seaweed farmers and Australian regulators. What happened after the Montara oil spill? [02/14/2017]
- The 2009 Montara oil spill was the worst such offshore disaster in Australian history. The company behind it acknowledges “mistakes were made that should never be repeated.” - But while the firm has paid a penalty to the Australian government, it has yet to compensate Indonesia, which says it too suffered from the spill. - Now, thousands of seaweed farmers are suing the Thai-owned oil and gas giant, seeking compensation in Australian court. The Indonesian government has also launched a lawsuit. - The dispute highlights the complexity of regulating transnational corporations operating in maritime borderlands like the Timor Sea, a relatively narrow body of water rich in oil and gas reserves and surrounded by multiple countries.
Revisiting Java’s little Africa: Indonesia’s safari potential [02/13/2017]
- Baluran National Park is a reserve in eastern Java, Indonesia. - Baluran may be the closest one can get to the equivalent of India’s or eastern and southern Africa’s experience of open savannas teeming with wildlife in Indonesia. - This post is a commentary — the views expressed are those of the author.
Indonesia’s last stand for a coal industry in peril [02/13/2017]
- Environmental advocacy has significantly diminished the coal industry in many countries, and pressure is now focused on places like Indonesia where coal remains relatively strong. - Indonesia is one of the world’s biggest exporters of thermal coal, and its two main customers, China and India, are the world’s biggest importers. As China and India scale back on coal use, Indonesia is trying to boost its domestic coal industry. - Analysts say financing a domestic boost in coal will be hard, in part because foreign financiers are being pressured by environmental groups to pull out.
Camera traps reveal undiscovered leopard population in Javan forest [02/10/2017]
- Government camera traps spotted three individuals in the Cikepuh Wildlife Reserve, along the southern coast of Indonesia’s main central island of Java. - The environment ministry says 11 leopards are thought to exist in the sanctuary. - The Javan leopard is listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN.
Greenpeace slams paper giant over loophole in fire-prevention policy [02/10/2017]
- APRIL is Indonesia’s second-largest paper firm. It sources pulpwood from a vast network of suppliers in the archipelago country. - It has come to light that APRIL’s fire-prevention policy exempts short-term suppliers. These compose a major portion of its supply base. - Some suppliers defined as “short term” by APRIL have actually been supplying the company for years, according to Greenpeace.
Fish magnet boom creates headaches in Indonesia’s war on overfishing [02/09/2017]
- Recent comments by Indonesian fisheries minister Susi Pudjiastuti indicate the government will crack down on fish aggregating devices, which have proliferated in the Southeast Asian nation’s waters. - Experts agree the issue deserves more attention from Jakarta but urge President Joko Widodo’s administration to consider the impact a purge of the devices will have on small fishers. - Minister Pudjiastuti has said that many of the devices are owned by large companies.
Indonesian government moves further from community forestry target [02/08/2017]
- From 2015 to 2017, the government’s annual budget for implementing a program to give local communities greater rights over the land they rely on has dropped by nearly half. - The government’s annual targets for allocating land under the program have similarly been lowered, although President Joko Widodo’s administration continues to say it can meet the overall target of 12.7 million hectares — nearly the size of Greece — by 2019. - A new Ministry of Environment and Forestry regulation is hoped to speed up the process for rezoning land under the various community forestry schemes, and the member of the relevant parliamentary commission says his side is seeking donor funding to support it.
These Indonesian villages are powered by locally sourced sustainable energy [02/07/2017]
- An estimated 1.6 million poor households in Indonesia are not connected to the electricity grid. - Indonesia’s national energy plan, which targets 35,000 megawatts of new generating capacity, relies primarily on coal and other fossil fuels. - In rural, off-grid areas, the government has shown more support for renewable energy generation, but progress remains slow. - In the meantime, villages like Reno on Flores Island have built their own small-scale renewable energy sources.
Will there really be enough sustainable palm oil for the whole market? [02/07/2017]
- A report by non-profit CDP suggests companies may have a false confidence in their ability to find enough sustainable palm oil to meet their commitments. - Certified sustainable palm oil was in short supply last summer and prices spiked when two major producers were suspended by the industry’s main certification association, revealing vulnerabilities in the supply. - Better planning to secure future supply includes working more intensively with suppliers, says CDP.
How ‘jobless men managing the sea’ restored a mangrove forest in Java [02/03/2017]
- In the 1980s and early 90s, fish farming thrived in Brebes, on the north coast of Indonesia’s main central island of Java. - The industry’s steady growth saw local residents chop down mangrove stands to make way for aquaculture ponds. But the development brought unintended consequences. - In response, a group of local residents embarked on an ambitious tree-planting campaign.
In response to pollution complaints, a coal plant in Indonesia offered soap and mops [02/01/2017]
- Since construction began on the Pacitan coal-fired power plant, locals have complained of diminished fish stocks, damaged infrastructure, pollution and unfulfilled promises. - These complaints have resulted in a series of meetings between community leaders and plant management. After the most recent meeting, the plant tried to appease villagers by delivering cleaning supplies the villagers could use to remove coal dust from their own homes. - The company says its interactions with villagers are guided by principles of corporate social responsibility. It also maintains that its operations have not affected water quality. - This is the final article in a series on Pacitan originally published on Mongabay’s Indonesian-language site.
Introducing Mongabay news alerts [02/01/2017]
- Now Mongabay readers can keep up-to-date on the latest conservation and environmental science developments by subscribing to our free topic-based news alerts. - The alerts enable a user to sign up for daily or weekly notifications via email on topics they select. - Our current topic list includes dozens of topics and locations.
The cousins from Indonesia who revived an ancient spring [02/01/2017]
- A major reforestation effort is underway in the eastern part of Indonesia’s Flores island. - It began when residents Markus Hayon and Damianus Pelada set out to restore an area around an ancestral spring that had all but dried up after an earthquake in the 1980s. - The cousins proceeded to plant thousands of trees — though not without some challenges along the way.
Efforts to conserve sea turtles disrupted by coal plant in East Java [01/31/2017]
- Fuel for the Pacitan coal-fired power plant is brought by sea-going barges, which pass through turtle breeding areas. - Conservation areas near the power plant provide nesting sites for green, hawksbill and olive ridley sea turtles. Local conservationists say the presence of coal barges — and several spills — reduces the number of hatchlings. - Villagers say the river near the power plant is now empty of the fish and shrimp that once formed a regular part of the local diet. - This article is the second in a series on Pacitan originally posted on Mongabay’s Indonesian-language site.
A possible undiscovered orangutan population in Borneo? [01/31/2017]
- With funding from National Geographic we are retracing the footsteps of Henry Cushier Raven, a specimen collector who travelled extensively in East Kalimantan, Indonesia between 1912 and 1914. - We want to know which species Raven found and whether we can still find these species today. - In April 2016, we already covered the Berau and East Kutai parts of Raven’s journey. This is the story of his Mahakam travels. - The story is published in four parts. This is the final part.
Pacitan villagers say coal plant reduced livelihoods, brought little new employment [01/30/2017]
- The 630-megawatt Pacitan coal-fired power plant began construction in 2007 and came online in 2013. - Local fisherman say their catch has fallen dramatically since the project was launched, forcing them to fish much further offshore and causing conflict with the plant. - People whose livelihoods have suffered say they have not received sufficient compensation, and that the plant offers little in the way of alternate employment for locals. - This is the first article in a series on Pacitan originally published on Mongabay’s Indonesian-language site.
27 critically endangered Javan slow lorises rescued from online traders in Indonesia [01/27/2017]
- The Javan slow loris (Nycticebus javanicus) is listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, and is considered one of the most endangered primate species in the world due mainly to habitat loss and the illegal wildlife trade. - Mortality rates of confiscated lorises is typically quite high, according to Christine Rattel, a program advisor at International Animal Rescue Indonesia, because traders load them into small, cramped crates, which can cause wounds, stress, and more serious medical problems that can result in death. - Perpetrators of wildlife crime can be prosecuted under Indonesia’s Natural Protection Law and face up to five years in prison as well as fines of 100 million Indonesian Rupiah (about $7,400).
World Bank loans support high-carbon development in Indonesia: report [01/26/2017]
- A report by the nonprofit Bank Information Center analyzed the World Bank’s Development Policy Finance (DPF) operations in four countries: Indonesia, Peru, Egypt and Mozambique - The Bank’s climate policies state that DPFs should be used to support countries in meeting their global climate change commitments. - In Indonesia, DPF-backed programs were found to support the development of coal-fired power plants and roads in sensitive forest areas. Similar patterns were found in the other countries studied. - The study addresses policy financing, not direct World Bank funding of individual projects.
Politician’s son named a suspect over illegal land clearing in Leuser Ecosystem [01/26/2017]
- Last October, authorities found three men and an excavator digging a canal through the Singkil Swamp Wildlife Reserve. They appeared to be preparing the land for oil palm cultivation. - This week, the police announced that the son of the head of a local parliament is a suspect in the case. - The reserve lies within the Leuser Ecosystem, the only place where elephants, tigers, rhinos and orangutans still coexist in the wild.
Want to be a responsible palm oil firm? Follow these reporting guidelines [01/25/2017]
- Ceres, Oxfam, Rainforest Alliance and WWF are among the groups behind the guidelines. - Some of the guidelines describe how companies should map and name their suppliers, disclosing the locations of their own operations as well as those of the firms they buy from. - How companies can ensure they aren’t grabbing community lands are another focus of the guidelines.
Green groups want paper giant to stop using drained peat in Indonesia [01/23/2017]
- Indonesia’s vast peat swamp zones have been widely drained and dried for agriculture. The practice underlies the devastating annual fires that in 2015 burned an area the size of Vermont and sickened half a million people. - Asia Pulp & Paper is Indonesia’s largest paper company. About a quarter of its vast holdings consist of peat. - The government has banned any new development on peatlands. NGOs want the company to go farther, rewetting and restoring all of the peat in its concessions, even that which has already been planted with acacia.
Then and now: 100 years of wildlife loss and deforestation in Borneo [01/21/2017]
- With funding from National Geographic we are retracing the footsteps of Henry Cushier Raven, a specimen collector who travelled extensively in East Kalimantan, Indonesia between 1912 and 1914. - We want to know which species Raven found and whether we can still find these species today. - In April 2016, we already covered the Berau and East Kutai parts of Raven’s journey. This is the story of his Mahakam travels. - The story is published in four parts. This is part III.
Scientists ‘impressed and delighted’ by animals found in remnant forests [01/20/2017]
- A new study finds promising conservation value in forest corridors along rivers in Sumatra’s plantation-dominated landscape. - But government regulations require areas of forest that border rivers — called “riparian” forests – be left standing to safeguard water quality for downstream communities. - In the first study of its kind conducted in the tropics, researchers set camera traps in riparian forests through tree plantations near Tesso Nilo National Park. They found a significant mammal presence, including tapirs, tigers, bears, pangolins, and elephants. - The researchers say their findings indicate Sumatra’s forest remnants could help keep wildlife populations afloat in areas with lots of habitat loss. However, they caution that these corridors are threatened by lax regulation enforcement, and can only work in tandem with larger forested areas.
Saving the Sumatran rhino requires changing the status quo [01/20/2017]
- With a small, fragmented population, the Sumatran rhino is currently on the path to extinction. - Despite dedicated efforts by conservationists, existing policies — population surveys, anti-poaching efforts and a small breeding program — have been unable to reverse this trend. - Attorney and nonprofit consultant W. Aaron Vandiver argues that we now face a binary choice between maintaining the status quo until the species goes extinct, or embracing the expense and “risk” required to carry out an ambitious plan to capture and manage the surviving population. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
HSBC financing tied to deforestation, rights violations for palm oil in Indonesia [01/18/2017]
- HSBC has helped several palm oil companies accused of community rights violations and illegal deforestation pull together billions in credit and bonds, according to research by Greenpeace. - The bank has policies that require its customers to achieve RSPO certification by 2018 and prohibiting the bank from ‘knowingly’ engaging with companies that don’t respect sustainability laws and regulations. - Greenpeace contends that HSBC, as one of the world’s largest banks, should commit to a ‘No deforestation, no peat, no exploitation’ policy and should hold its customers accountable to the same standard.
Indonesian government challenges another green group over freedom of information request [01/17/2017]
- Indonesian NGOs are making increasing use of the country’s freedom of information law to gain access to data pertaining to the management of the country’s natural resources. - In one ongoing case, Forest Watch Indonesia is trying to force the Ministry of Land and Spatial Planning to release in full the maps of oil palm companies’ concessions, known as HGUs. - The ministry argues that releasing the names of the companies that hold the concessions is a violation of the firms’ privacy.
Southeast Asia’s coal boom could cause 70,000 deaths per year by 2030, report says [01/16/2017]
- A Harvard University-led research study analyzed the health impacts of existing and planned coal-fired power plants in Southeast Asia, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan. - The researchers found that air pollution from coal-fired power plants in the area of study currently causes around 20,000 premature deaths per year. - If all planned coal projects are constructed, that figure could rise to 70,000 deaths per year by 2030. - Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Myanmar would be most affected.
How local elites earn money from burning land in Indonesia [01/16/2017]
- Members of political parties and local figures are organizing farmers to burn land for sale to a variety of large and small buyers, a new study shows. - These elites pocket most of the profits from this destructive and illegal activity. Village officials who administer land documents and the workers who carry out the burning also receive a cut. - For the fires to stop, the study says, these actors must be disempowered through law and policy.
A trip on Borneo’s Mahakam River in search of forgotten wildlife [01/15/2017]
- With funding from National Geographic we are retracing the footsteps of Henry Cushier Raven, a specimen collector who travelled extensively in East Kalimantan, Indonesia between 1912 and 1914. - We want to know which species Raven found and whether we can still find these species today. - In April 2016, we already covered the Berau and East Kutai parts of Raven’s journey. This is the story of his Mahakam travels. - The story is published in four parts. This is part II.
How one conservationist is sparking a ‘young revolution’ in Indonesia [01/13/2017]
- Pungky Nanda Pratama and his team at the NGO Animals Indonesia teach environmental education to five elementary schools in the surrounding villages. - The aim is to counter some of the destructive practices that threaten the health of Kerinci Seblat National Park — the largest park on the island of Sumatra, with the highest population of tigers. - To the children, ‘older brother Pungky’ is the fun teacher who shows them the pointy-nosed turtles on the riverbank and the flying dragons in the trees. To Pungky, these children hold the future of the forest in their hands. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Korean company bans forest clearing for Indonesian palm oil concessions [01/12/2017]
- Korindo came under scrutiny last year when U.S.-based environmental group Mighty Earth published a damning report on their practice of burning to clear land. - The report “Burning Paradise” was published on September 1, 2016 and alleged that Korindo had caused 30,000 hectares of deforestation and an estimated 894 fire hotspots since 2013. - The illegal, yet commonly-used practice of companies burning land to clear it, leads to an annual haze from forest and peatland fires.
Following in Raven’s Footsteps: 100 years of wildlife loss on Borneo [01/06/2017]
- With funding from the National Geographic Society we are retracing the footsteps of Henry Cushier Raven, a specimen collector who travelled extensively in East Kalimantan, Indonesia between 1912 and 1914. - We want to know which species Raven found and whether we can still find these species today. - In April 2016, we already covered the Berau and East Kutai parts of Raven’s journey. This is the story of his Mahakam travels. - The story is published in four parts. This is part 1.
An ‘infrastructure tsunami’ for Asia: Q&A with researcher William Laurance [01/06/2017]
- The world is in the grips of an infrastructure development boom, which threatens to cause enormous damage to vital ecosystems. - The “global roadmap” project led by William Laurance aims to show where roadbuilding can have the greatest benefits or the greatest harm. - Now, researchers are trying to map at a much finer scale in crucial zones in Indonesia, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea.
What to expect for rainforests in 2017 [01/04/2017]
- Will deforestation continue to rise in Brazil? - Will Indonesia continue on a path toward forestry reform? - What effect will Donald Trump have on rainforest conservation?
French bank backs out of financing Indonesian coal plant [01/04/2017]
- The developers of Tanjung Jati B, a 2,640 megawatt coal-fired power station in Central Java, plan to add an additional 2,000 megawatts of capacity. - In order to meet climate-change commitments, Société Générale, a French bank that had planned to help finance the plant’s expansion, pledged to cease funding coal-related projects. - Attention has now turned to the project’s remaining financiers, France’s Crédit Agricole and the Japan Bank for International Cooperation.
Local NGOs: Ecosystem services, not orangutans, key to saving Leuser [01/04/2017]
- Sumatra’s Leuser ecosystem covers 2.6 million hectares, encompasses two mountain ranges, three lakes, nine river systems and three national parks. It boasts 10,000 species of plant and 200 species of mammal — dozens found nowhere else on earth. Of the 6,000 orangutans left in Sumatra, 90 percent live in Leuser. - But the region has been under siege by the government of Aceh, which has repeatedly tried to sell off concessions to oil palm companies that encroach on the borders of conserved lands. - While international environmental NGOs have focused on saving Leuser’s orangutans, local NGOs have had far more success focusing on the US $23 billion in ecosystem services provided by the preserve — including flood prevention, water supply, agro-ecology, tourism, fire prevention, carbon sequestration, and more. - Many rural Sumatrans see orangutans not as important endangered species to be protected, but rather as garden and farm pests. Local organizers like Rudi Putra and T.M. Zulfikar are building a homegrown Sumatran conservation movement that relies heavily on litigation over the potential loss of Leuser’s ecosystem services.
Jokowi grants first-ever indigenous land rights to 9 communities [01/04/2017]
- Indonesia is one of the most diverse countries in the world, with hundreds of distinct ethic groups and languages. - The archipelago nation’s constitution recognizes its indigenous peoples, but the government has ignored their rights for most of the country’s 71-year existence. - In a landmark 2013 ruling, Indonesia’s Constitutional Court removed indigenous peoples’ customary forests from state control. This is the Jokowi administration’s first act of follow up to the decision. - The action by Jokowi comes at a time when Indonesia’s main indigenous peoples organization is considering withdrawing its support for the president, the only candidate the organization has ever endorsed.
The year in tropical rainforests: 2016 [12/31/2016]
- After 2015’s radical advancements in transparency around tropical forests between improved forest cover monitoring systems and corporate policies on commodity sourcing, progress slowed in 2016 with no major updates on tropical forest cover, resistance from several governments in releasing forest data, and some notable backtracking on zero deforestation commitments. - But even without the pan-tropical updates, we know that deforestation increased sharply in the Brazilian Amazon, which accounts for the world’s largest area of tropical forest. - Low commodity prices may have bought some relief for forests.
Illegal logging shows little sign of slowing [12/30/2016]
- The report was produced by a dozens of scientists and is the most comprehensive analysis of illegal logging to date. - It finds organized crime and a lack of land tenure for local communities to be big drivers of illicit timber extraction in tropical countries around the world. - Research indicates around a third of all tropical timber traded globally may come from illegal forest conversion. - Those affiliated with the report underline the need for more cooperation between countries and sectors, as well as the development of effective policies, in the fight against illegal logging.
Top 10 HAPPY environmental stories of 2016 [12/28/2016]
- Some animal species showed signs of recovery after years of decline. - In 2016, the world became serious about protecting our oceans by establishing some of the largest marine protected areas ever. - Countries moved towards ending domestic ivory trade, and researchers discovered the world’s tallest tree.
Consumer pressure to ditch deforestation begins to reach Indonesia’s oil palm plantation giants [12/27/2016]
- Four of Indonesia’s top 10 oil palm growers have improved sustainability practices due to pressure from buyers since June 2015. - But not all have changed their ways. At least one grower has found new customers that haven’t promised to eliminate practices like deforestation from their supply chains. - Several major palm oil users with strong sustainability policies continue to buy from the worst of these 10 growers.
Indonesia’s rich list stacked with palm oil billionaires [12/26/2016]
- Billionaires aren’t the only ones who have profited from Indonesia’s palm oil industry. - But a high proportion of the nation’s wealthiest citizens owe their fortunes at least in part to the production of the commodity. - It makes sense — Indonesia’s is the world’s top palm oil producer, and it is also one of the most unequal societies.
As accusations fly, paper giant appears to stand by its replanting of burned peat in Sumatra [12/22/2016]
- After the 2015 fire and haze crisis, the Indonesian government barred plantation firms from replanting the peatlands that had burned in their concessions. Instead, the companies were ordered to restore the dried-out peat soil to prevent future fires. - Some agribusinesses, however, are said to be resurrecting their drainage-dependent acacia and oil palm estates in violation of the directive from President Jokowi’s administration. One of them is Asia Pulp & Paper, an arm of the Sinar Mas conglomerate. - APP declined to comment substantively for this article, except to imply that everything it does is in accordance with the rules. But a director in the Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry explained that the company had been authorized to replant burned peat with acacia trees because, he said, it would serve to mitigate certain fire risks. - NGOs surveyed by Mongabay rejected the contention that planting peat with drainage-dependent acacia constitutes a valid means of peatland restoration, although some were more understanding of the government’s position than others.
Lessons from the $2 billion coal mining lawsuit against Indonesia [12/20/2016]
- An international arbitration panel ruled that Indonesia was not liable for damages sought by Churchill Mining, whose mining license was revoked by local officials. - The tribunal determined that 34 documents relating to Churchill’s mining concession in Kalimantan were forged, pointing to Churchill’s local partner as the most likely culprit. - Indonesia prevailed in court, but the verdict is an indictment of corruption and poor management by Indonesian officials as well as mining companies.
Study maps 187 land conflicts as palm oil expands in Kalimantan [12/20/2016]
- Nearly half of the 187 villages were found to be strongly opposed to oil palm companies. Such a sentiment was highly correlated with communities that depend on forest products for their livelihoods. - In areas that have already undergone or are undergoing forest transformation to oil palm or timber plantations, there were more specific conflicts among local communities and palm oil companies, such as land boundary disputes, perceived lack of consultation, illegal actions by the company, and lack of compensation and broken promises to the affected communities. - Studies like this that count and map the number of natural resource-related conflicts in Kalimantan are highly needed and currently lacking in reliable data.
All I want for Christmas… a wildlife researcher’s holiday wish list [12/20/2016]
- They are some of the world’s most unique, beautiful (though sometimes, really ugly), little known, but always seriously threatened species. They’re among the many Almost Famous Asian Animals conservationists are trying to save, and which Mongabay has featured in 2016. - The examples included here are Asia’s urbane fishing cat, Vietnam’s heavily trafficked pangolin, Central Asia’s at risk wild yaks and saiga, and Indonesia’s Painted terrapin. All of these, and many more, could benefit from a holiday financial boost. - Mostly these creatures need the same things: research and breeding facilities; educational workshops; and really cool, high tech, high ticket, radio collars and tracking devices. These items come with price tags ranging from a few hundred bucks, to thousands, to tens of thousands of dollars.
Indonesia’s forestry ministry takes Greenpeace to court over freedom of information request [12/19/2016]
- Reformist President Joko Widodo has called for a more transparent approach to governance in the resource-rich Southeast Asian nation, and activists agree that his administration has been more open than those of his predecessors. - At the same time, the administration has withheld from the public key data and documents related to the country’s forestry, agribusiness and mining sectors. - Some civil society groups are seeking access to the shapefile format of certain data, which allows for much more sophisticated analysis than do the .jpeg and .pdf files the state is willing to part with. - In October, Indonesia’s freedom of information commission ruled in favor of a case brought by Greenpeace, asking the forestry ministry to publish a number of geospatial maps in shapefile format. The ministry’s lawyers are challenging the decision, arguing that the shapefiles could be manipulated by third parties.
Green groups raise red flags over Jokowi’s widely acclaimed haze law [12/09/2016]
- Indonesian President Joko Widodo last week codified a much-praised moratorium on peatland development into law. - Though widely reported as a permanent ban on clearing and draining the archipelago’s carbon-rich peat swamps, the prohibition will only last until the government finishes mapping and zoning the nation’s peatlands, although stronger protections have been put in place. - Norway praised the policy’s legalization, announcing it would release $25 million to support the sustainable management of Indonesia’s peatlands. - Some environmental groups tell Mongabay that the regulation pays insufficient heed to the scientific evidence of what is required to prevent the wholesale collapse of peatland ecosystems.
Expedition finds serious damage to Southeast Sulawesi’s marine ecosystem [12/08/2016]
- A WWF-led expedition in Southeast Sulawesi found severely reduced hard-coral cover in nine out of 38 sampling sites. - Researchers point to sediment created by the province’s nickel mining industry as one of the primary drivers of reef destruction. - An outbreak of coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish is also contributing to the problem.
Watch video of baby slow loris born to mother rescued from wildlife traffickers [12/07/2016]
- Poachers had shot the pregnant loris with an airgun, and pellets were still lodged behind her right eye and in her back when the IAR medical team assessed her. - The loris, named Canon, gave birth to her baby four days after being taken into IAR. - Canon seems to be taking good care of her baby, IAR said, and both mother and baby are doing well. - Two other pregnant lorises gave birth prematurely and their babies didn’t survive, IAR said.
Indonesia shifts emissions-reduction burden from energy to forestry sector [11/30/2016]
- Ahead of the UN climate summit in Paris last year, Indonesia pledged to reduce its emissions growth by 29 percent over business-as-usual levels by 2030, or by 41 percent with adequate international aid. - Previously, the government had announced that the lion’s share for meeting the commitment would fall on the coal-dependent energy sector. - Ahead of the latest climate summit in Morocco, however, Indonesia announced a shift in the breakdown that would see the forestry sector carry the heaviest load.
Indonesian court shuts down legal challenge to Aceh land-use plan [11/29/2016]
- The Central Jakarta District Court ruled against a class-action lawsuit filed by nine plaintiffs from Indonesia’s westernmost Aceh province. - The lawsuit had asked the court to force the Aceh government to include the nationally protected Leuser Ecosystem in its allegedly illegal land-use plan. - The Aceh government has characterized Leuser’s protected status as an imposition on its right to develop and argued that it can zone the province how it likes, without Jakarta’s approval. - The plaintiffs said they would appeal.
Conservation in oil palm is possible (commentary) [11/25/2016]
- The oil palm sector is often blamed as one of the biggest threats in tropical conservation. Much of the critique of the sector is justified. - Whereas most oil palm concessions are associated with the destruction of orangutan habitat, at least one company, PT KAL in West Kalimantan, stands out for protecting some 150 orangutans in its concession. - Important lessons are to be learned from this case. - This post is a commentary — the views expressed are those of the author.
The Javan rhino: protected and threatened by a volcano [11/23/2016]
- Around sixty Javan rhinos are known to survive, all in Ujung Kulon National Park in western Java. - The park lies across a narrow strait from Anak Krakatua – literally the “child of Krakatoa” – the successor to the one of the deadliest volcanos in history. - The park’s rhino population faces numerous threats, and researchers fear a volcanic eruption could push the species even closer to extinction.
Palm oil culprits apprehended in the Leuser Ecosystem. Who sent them? [11/23/2016]
- Three men and an excavator were found digging a drainage canal through the Singkil Swamp Wildlife Reserve, the region’s largest, deepest and most intact peatland. - The head of the Aceh Natural Resources Conservation Agency says the men appeared to be clearing the land for oil palm, which is illegal in the area. - The arrest comes at a critical time for the broader Leuser Ecosystem, with a Jakarta court set to rule on a challenge to Aceh province’s controversial land-use plan next week. The allegedly illegal plan makes no mention of Leuser.
Small-scale farming threatens rainforests in Sumatra [11/22/2016]
- A recent study probed the ecology of small farms in Sumatra, showing that small-scale farming can be just as damaging to the environment as large plantations. - Small-scale coffee growers in Latin America have sustainable practices because they work in cooperatives with direct access to markets for rainforest-certified products. - For smallholder farming of oil palm and rubber to become sustainable in Indonesia, farmers will need to form similar cooperatives and grow rainforest-certified crops.
69m people breathed toxic smoke from 2015 Indonesian fires: study [11/22/2016]
- The study was led by a researcher from Newcastle University and published in the journal Scientific Reports. - The findings support an earlier study which concluded that 100,300 people are likely to have died prematurely as a result of last year’s fires. - Researchers said they could have drawn more reliable conclusions if local hospitalization data had been available, but such data is scarce.
Don’t feed the orangutans — a warning unheeded at popular ecotourism stop [11/21/2016]
- Bukit Lawang is a small tourist village on the fringes of the heavily forested Leuser Ecosystem in Indonesia’s main western island of Sumatra. - The industry has been a boon for Bukit Lawang villagers, but some locals are raising concerns about bad practices they say are harming the orangutans. - Observers say that done properly, ecotourism could help protect the orangutans and their habitat. But that’s a far cry from Bukit Lawang today.
A data trove to support a hoped-for shark sanctuary in Indonesia [11/18/2016]
- Growing international demand for shark fins has caused a massive increase in shark catches. - Local groups in the Gili Islands want the government to create a sanctuary for sharks there. It would be Indonesia’s first. - To build their case, conservationists are gathering data about the abundance of species in the area, which they hope will convince the government to establish the sanctuary.
From Ohio to Indonesia: captive-bred Sumatran rhinos may be the species’ only hope for a future [11/08/2016]
- Andalas, the first rhino born at the Cincinnati Zoo, has already fathered two calves with a female at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary in Indonesia. Hopes are now pinned on his brother successfully breeding there too. - Researchers in Malaysian Borneo, where the last three rhinos surviving in captivity all have fertility problems, have turned to in vitro fertilization to try and produce a calf. - Experts say they have to be optimistic about the future, but Sumatran rhinos face daunting challenges: small numbers, low fertility, bureaucratic obstacles and questions over the wisdom of expending so many resources on so few animals.
Asia races to save the Critically Endangered helmeted hornbill [11/07/2016]
- The helmeted hornbill (Rhinoplax vigil) is one of Southeast Asia’s most unique large bird species, but its numbers have plummeted since 2012 as organized crime trafficking rings trade in the “red ivory” of the birds’ casque, an enlargement of its beak, which can sell for $4,000 per kilo. - Yokyok Hadiprakarsa, Executive Director of the Indonesian Hornbill Conservation Society, has worked with R. vigil for seventeen years. At first he was interested in its biology; then, as he watched the bird vanish from his nation’s forests, he became a crusader for its preservation. - A 2013 investigation revealed that in Indonesia’s West Kalimantan province 6,000 helmeted hornbills were killed for their red ivory in a single year. The birds’ casques are carved into ornaments, jewelry and belt buckles, or are turned into pills with dubious curative powers. - While the species is protected under CITES, and has been declared Critically Endangered by the IUCN, trafficking enforcement efforts have largely been a failure so far across the region. Only a redoubled effort by Asian countries is likely to save it.
For the palm oil industry, ‘engagement’ means turning a blind eye to deforestation [11/07/2016]
- Regardless of who they trade with, palm oil producers should be hearing the same message: clearing rainforests doesn’t pay. Yet that message is not getting through. - Greenpeace has just concluded an investigation into environmental and human rights abuses in the global palm oil trade. What we uncovered incriminates almost all of the major palm oil traders. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Massive hydroelectricity project planned for Indonesian Borneo [11/07/2016]
- A $17 billion hydroelectricity project on the Kayan River is slated to begin construction in early 2017. - Experts fear the project, which is expected to affect 184,270 hectares, will have a severe impact on the area’s ecosystem and indigenous people. - There has been little opposition to the project, with local leaders saying they believe it will bring economic development to the region.
Was Borneo once a land of tigers? [11/07/2016]
- The scientific consensus is that while tigers did inhabit the Indonesian islands of Java and Bali, and still live in Sumatra, they never lived in Borneo. - Indigenous peoples in Borneo say otherwise. So-called ‘tiger fangs,’ for example, often feature in traditional Dayak ceremonies. - Some researchers wonder if the question of whether tigers lived in Borneo has gotten short shrift from experts who should be paying more attention to local communities.
Parents who say Indonesia’s haze killed their children testify in citizen suit [11/04/2016]
- Indonesian President Joko Widodo has promised to prosecute companies linked to last year’s fire and haze disaster. - In July, though, the Riau Police terminated investigations into 15 companies the environment ministry had listed in connection with the burning. - At least two lawsuits challenging the dropping of the cases are now underway.
Higher incomes driving Indonesian smallholders to oil palm and rubber [11/03/2016]
- Interviews with more than 460 farming households led the scientists to conclude that farmers making the switch to a single crop chasing better incomes. - More than 40 scientists from Indonesia, Switzerland, New Zealand and Germany were involved in the research. - The research is part of the EFForTS project, based at the University of Göttingen in Germany.
From Indonesia to Ohio: the struggle to breed Sumatran rhinos in captivity [11/03/2016]
- Sumatran rhinos were once widespread across southern Asia; today, fewer than 100 are believed to be left in the wild. - An international captive breeding program was launched in 1984, sending rhinos to the United States and United Kingdom. - The first calf wasn’t born until 2001, because maintaining and breeding these rare rhinos turned out to be an unusual challenge.
Complaint against a palm oil company in Papua held in limbo by RSPO [11/02/2016]
- In April, an NGO complained to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil about a plantation firm alleged to have grabbed indigenous land in Indonesia’s Papua province. - The official grievance has yet to be accepted or rejected by the RSPO’s Complaints Panel, even after more than six months. - Observers have noted that an executive from the parent company of the firm in question also sits on the RSPO’s Board of Directors. The roundtable denies that there is any conflict of interest. - The RSPO is the world’s largest association for ethical palm oil production, whose members consist of palm oil companies, banks and NGOs that choose to join.
North Sumatra’s governor wants to build a road through Mt. Leuser National Park [10/31/2016]
- The national park lies within the Leuser Ecosystem, home to one of Indonesia’s last great swaths of intact rainforest. - The governors of Aceh and North Sumatra provinces have asked the central government for permission to develop parts of the national park. - The environment ministry in Jakarta has rejected the plans, citing ecosystem concerns.
Pledging to reduce emissions while expanding its power grid, Indonesia walks a fine line [10/28/2016]
- On October 19, Indonesia’s parliament ratified the Paris Agreement. - During the Paris climate conference, Indonesian President Joko Widodo pledged to reduce emissions to 29 percent below the “business as usual” baseline by 2030. - Indonesia aims to add 35,000 megawatts of power to its existing national grid by 2019, a plan that calls for building 117 new coal-fired power plants. - Slower-than-expected progress in its grid expansion plan may help Indonesia meet emissions targets, for now.
RSPO loses key backer in Australia: ‘We just can’t trust them anymore’ [10/28/2016]
- Palm Oil Investigations said it would cease to promote palm oil certified as sustainable by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil. - The watchdog had pushed some of Australia’s biggest corporate users of palm oil to buy only that which the RSPO had certified as ethically produced. - The RSPO is the world’s largest association for sustainable palm oil production.
Hectare by hectare, an indigenous man reforested a jungle in Indonesia’s burned-out heartland [10/26/2016]
- In 1998, a Dayak Ngaju man named Januminro started buying up and reforesting degraded land not far from Palangkaraya, the capital of Indonesia’s Central Kalimantan province. - Today the forest spans 18 hectares and is home to orangutans, sun bears and other endangered species. - Januminro uses funds from an adopt-a-tree program to operate a volunteer firefighting team. He has big plans to expand the forest.
Company poised to destroy critical orangutan habitat in breach of Indonesia’s moratorium [10/24/2016]
- Sungai Putri is a beautiful natural forest area in West Kalimantan that is home to between 750 and 1750 orangutans. - This makes it the third largest population of this Critically Endangered species in the province. Sungai Putri has extensive deep peat areas, up to 14.5 meters deep in places. - A company named PT Mohairson Pawan Khatulistiwa apparently plans to clear more than half of their license area for conversion into an industrial tree plantation.
Man surrenders pet crocodile he raised for 13 years [10/20/2016]
- The crocodile was 4 meters long. - It consumed up to three chickens or ducks a day — very expensive for its owner. - Officials took the crocodile to a breeding park in Sumatra’s largest city, Medan.
Environmentalists squirm as Jokowi eyes Lake Toba tourism bonanza [10/19/2016]
- Indonesian President Joko Widodo has established a special authority to revive tourism in Lake Toba, North Sumatra. - Environmentalists worry the plan could lead to forest clearance and exacerbate a worsening pollution problem. - Government officials argue tourism could actually be a boon for the lake’s environment — trees included — as well as the local economy.
More than 20 labor law violations by Indofood alleged in Indonesia [10/14/2016]
- NGOs are calling for a pair of Indofood subsidiaries to be suspended from the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil. - The company has denied the allegations of human rights abuses on its plantations in the archipelagic Southeast Asian country, the world’s top palm oil producer. - Indofood is an arm of the Salim Group and one of the world’s largest palm oil companies.
Airbus to marshal its satellites against deforestation [10/12/2016]
- Starling is a new service developed by Airbus, The Forest Trust and SarVision. - Palm oil suppliers can use it to verify their compliance with their customers’ zero-deforestation policies. - Starling, which will be sold to companies, is meant as a compliment to Global Forest Watch, a publicly available platform that anyone can use to track deforestation in near-real time. - Starling is more powerful than Global Forest Watch, with the ability to see through clouds and zoom in close enough to count the trees.
Struggle against mining on Bangka Island continues despite wins in court [10/11/2016]
- Pulau Bangka lies off the coast of Sulawesi, Indonesia, in one of the world’s most biodiverse marine areas. - In 2008, a local official granted mining company PT Migroko Metal Perdana a permit to explore the area for iron ore. - Indonesia’s Supreme Court ruled that the permit should be revoked, but the local government has not executed the order. - Indonesia’s Minister of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries has pledged to raise the issue with the president.
Fires ravaged forests in Indonesian palm oil giant Astra’s land in 2015 [10/07/2016]
- In September last year, Astra Agro Lestari earned plaudits for issuing a zero-deforestation pledge. - A new Aidenvironment report tracks the company’s progress implementing its commitment. - A major issue is Astra’s policy for preventing fires on its land. Fires raged across its concessions last year, but the firm has not elaborated how it plans to stop burning.
Indonesia’s oil palm plantations are rife with spitting cobras [10/06/2016]
- The Southeast Asian country is the world’s top palm oil producer. It also ranks No. 2 in snakebites globally. - The species of serpent that has spread in Indonesia’s oil palm and rubber plantations is the Sumatran cobra. - There is no available antivenom for Sumatran cobra bites. Plantation workers often die from them.
House of Mussels: an artificial reef off the coast of Jakarta [10/05/2016]
- The underwater sculpture Domus Musculi, or House of Mussels, is “a remembrance of what the Jakarta Bay has been famous for: its mussels, which nowadays are no longer exist due to heavy pollution,” according to the artist Teguh Ostenrik’s website. - The sculpture uses Biorock technology, a patented artificial reef system that involves coursing electricity into the sculptures’ steel frames. - Ostenrik has installed other artificial reefs in the waters off Lombok and the Wakatobi islands.
Laws alone don’t stop companies from abandoning deadly mine pits in Indonesia [10/05/2016]
- Indonesian law requires resource extraction companies to manage and pay for post-mining reclamation. - The law is poorly enforced, and many coal mining sites are abandoned without reclamation or even basic safety precautions. - Officials say they lack the resources to tackle the problem effectively. - Twenty-five children have died in abandoned mining pits in Indonesia.
139 scientists shoot down ‘misleading’ reports from Malaysia peat congress [10/04/2016]
- The researchers issued an open letter in response to certain newspaper articles about the 15th International Peat Congress, held recently in Malaysia, a top palm oil producer. - One article erroneously portrays an IPC executive as endorsing new studies finding drainage-based peatland agriculture to be not necessarily unsustainable, when the executive made no such comments. - More broadly, the articles in question portray as fringely held the view that drainage-based peatland development is unsustainable, when in fact it is backed by an extensive body of research and held by a large number of scientists, not just by “militant environmentalists” and “green NGOs” as implied by the articles. - The articles were published in The Jakarta Post and The Borneo Post.
Indonesia exploring new model to fund national parks [09/30/2016]
- The environment ministry’s budget for conservation was recently slashed by parliament. - To fill the gap, the ministry is exploring a mechanism to seek foreign funding, the ministry’s director for nature conservation told Mongabay. - The mechanism could build on a model established last year in Raja Ampat district, in which a special authority was set up to manage the district’s protected areas using tourism revenue.
Fires driving deforestation in Indonesia’s Leuser Ecosystem [09/29/2016]
- The Leuser Ecosystem is home to one of Indonesia’s best remaining rainforests. - The nationally protected area saw its forest cover dwindle from 1,820,726 hectares to 1,816,629 hectares from January-June 2016. - More than 2,000 forest crimes were recorded in Leuser during the same period.
Slave-linked fishing firm thought to have resumed operations in Indonesia [09/29/2016]
- Indonesian fisheries minister Susi Pudjiastuti told reporters she had reopened an investigation into PT Pusaka Benjina Resources. - The company’s licenses were revoked after the Associated Press exposed slavery and human trafficking in its operations in eastern Indonesia last year. - Pudjiastuti said she had received a report that the company had been buying fish from local fishermen for almost a month and processing them in its factory on Benjina Island north of Australia.
Indonesia seeks foreign funds to aid peat restoration drive [09/26/2016]
- The head of Indonesia’s peat restoration agency said corporate social responsibility and donor funds would not be enough to meet the country’s target. - Indonesia’s finance ministry is preparing a reform package to provide incentives to invest in peat rehabilitation. - The environment ministry has moved to issue five timber companies with administrative sanctions for complicity in wildfires burning on their concessions. - Three companies had their licenses altogether revoked; land from two of those concessions will be converted into a buffer zone for Tesso Nilo National Park.
Efforts to conserve Asia’s rhinos meet successes, setbacks [09/22/2016]
- Asia is home to three of the world’s five surviving rhino species - Rhino populations in India and Nepal are growing, but Javan and Sumatran rhinoceroses remain critically endangered - Their survival likely depends on successful collaboration between governments and conservation organizations
SE Asian governments dismiss finding that 2015 haze killed 100,300 [09/20/2016]
- On Monday, researchers from Harvard and Columbia universities reported that 100,300 people in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore are likely to have died prematurely from haze produced by last year’s devastating agricultural fires in Indonesia. - Government officials from the three countries cast doubt on the findings. - One of the study’s authors suggested the figure was actually conservative, as it only accounted for adults and for deaths that could occur within one year of exposure to the haze.
Revealed: Australian miner used arbitration threat to upend Indonesian environmental law [09/15/2016]
- In the early 2000s, Australia-based Newcrest Mining was one of 13 companies to win an exemption from Indonesia’s 1999 Forestry Law, which banned an environmentally destructive form of mining in protected forest areas. - The companies had obtained permits from Indonesia’s military government, but when the regime fell in 1998, the newly democratized country tried to implement new rules to protect its forests. - Newcrest responded by threatening to sue the Indonesian government in a secretive international tribunal presided over by corporate lawyers, under an instrument of international law known as investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS). - ISDS is written into thousands of trade and investment treaties, including the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Pulp and paper supplier denies draining peat on island near Singapore [09/13/2016]
- Haze-causing fires are continuing to burn in Indonesia, especially in West Kalimantan province on the island of Borneo. - The CEO of PT RAPP, a subsidiary of Indonesia’s second-largest pulp and paper company, said the canals his firm was accused of digging recently in order to drain peat soil for planting were actually meant to serve as reservoirs to aid firefighting in the burned-out concession. - Indonesia’s peatland restoration agency is investigating the company’s activities.
Indonesian environment ministry shoots down geothermal plan in Mount Leuser National Park [09/12/2016]
- Last month, the governor of Aceh province asked the Environment and Forestry Ministry to greenlight a geothermal project in Mount Leuser National Park. - The ministry has rejected the request, the ministry’s head of national parks told Mongabay. - Conservationists worried the project would threaten some of the last remaining Sumatran elephants and rhinos, both of which are critically endangered species. - The company behind the project was Hitay Holdings, a Turkish investment group.
‘A major concern’: plantation-driven deforestation ramps up in Borneo [09/10/2016]
- Researchers analyzed satellite data and historical land cover maps to determine how much forest was cleared for plantations between 1973 and 2015. - In total, they found 18.7 million hectares of old-growth forest was cleared between 1973 and 2015. Of that, they concluded 4.5 to 4.8 million hectares were cleared for plantation expansion – mostly for palm oil production. - They found less plantation-driven deforestation on the Indonesian side than they were expecting, but a big jump from 2005 to 2015. Malaysia has remained relatively constant since the 1970s. - The researchers recommend their findings be used to increase transparency and accountability.
First Toba, now Maninjau: another mass fish death hits an Indonesian lake [09/09/2016]
- Three thousand tons of farmed fish are thought to have perished in Lake Maninjau, the largest lake in Indonesia’s West Sumatra province. - The die-off follows a similar incident that occurred in Lake Toba, North Sumatra, in May. - As in Toba, scientists say there are too many fish farms in Lake Maninjau, exacerbating the natural factors that may have killed the fish.
The good, the bad, and the ugly in palm oil (commentary) [09/09/2016]
- A new study quantifies the impact of palm oil on forest cover in Borneo. - The results indicate that the plantation industry was the principle driver of the loss of old-growth forest in Malaysian Borneo. - The good news, at least for Indonesia, is that considerably more oil palm has been developed on land that had been cleared many years previously. - This post is a commentary — the views expressed are those of the authors.
These banks are pumping billions into Southeast Asia’s deforestation [09/08/2016]
- The new Forests and Finance database was launched on Tuesday by a coalition of research and campaign groups. - The data show that in 2010-2015, banks in Asia and the West pumped over $50 billion into Southeast Asian forest-risk companies. - Many banks lack policies to prevent their money from being used to harm the environment. - Even the policies that do appear strong on paper are often of little effect, experts say.
Indonesian government to investigate Korean palm oil giant over burning in Papua [09/07/2016]
- The Indonesian environment ministry said they were sending a team to look into Korindo’s operations in Papua. - A Korindo spokesperson denied that the company had burned land intentionally, suggesting that the fires on its land were the government’s fault, not the company’s. - Environmental campaigners are touring Korea this week to raise awareness about Korindo’s activities in Papua.
IUCN motions to ban the pangolin trade [09/06/2016]
- The IUCN World Conservation Congress last week passed a motion urging all IUCN members to support the transfer of all eight pangolin species from Appendix II to Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). - The next CITES conference begins in late September. - The motion was proposed by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), with 18 co-sponsors, and adopted with a majority of IUCN members.
Indonesian military plans anti-haze operation in Sumatra [09/02/2016]
- Indonesian daily Kompas reported that military officers on Thursday used a speedboat to access a four-hectare fire burning in Simpang Tiga village, Ogan Komering Ilir district. - This week the newly appointed police chief criticized Singaporean law for the latitude it gave the city state to sanction Indonesian citizens complicit in burning land. - The Singapore Environment Council continues to push retailers to remove product lines sourced from companies complicit in wild fires.
No fire, no food: tribe clings to slash-and-burn amid haze crackdown [09/01/2016]
- Indonesia’s vast peat swamp zones have been widely drained and dried for agriculture and made highly flammable. In the dry season they burn uncontrollably when farmers and companies use fire to clear land. - Last year’s fires sent toxic haze billowing across Southeast Asia, polluting the air above Singapore, Malaysia and other countries. They sickened half a million people in Indonesia and emitted more carbon than the entire EU during the same period. - To prevent another crisis, President Joko Widodo has ordered a law enforcement crackdown on illegal burning, and already the police have arrested hundreds of people. - Indigenous tribes who have relied on slash-and-burn for centuries, however, say that they need to be allowed to keep burning, and that they may face a food crisis if they cannot.
657 pangolins found wrapped in plastic, hidden in freezers [09/01/2016]
- More than 600 pangolins were found vacuum sealed in plastic and frozen in five large freezers, Indonesian authorities said. - The police have arrested a 55-year-old man, who has been named a suspect. - If found guilty of illegally trading pangolins, the suspect could face five years in jail and a fine of 100m rupiah ($7,500).
Korean palm oil firm burned large tracts of forestland in Indonesia, NGOs allege [09/01/2016]
- A new report by environmental group Mighty and partners highlights rainforest destruction and fires on land belonging to the conglomerate Korindo in Indonesia’s Papua province. - Satellite images and hotspot data show the spread of fire closely mirrors land development in the company’s oil palm concessions, an indication it used fire to clear land cheaply. - Burning land to clear it is illegal for companies in Indonesia, but many firms have done so anyway, fueling the annual forest and peatland fires that blanket the region in a choking haze.
Why did millions of fish turn up dead in Indonesia’s giant Lake Toba? [08/30/2016]
- In May, millions of fish died suddenly in the Haranggaol Bay of Lake Toba, Indonesia’s largest lake. Scientists chalked it up to a sudden depletion of oxygen in the water, the result of a buildup of pollutants in the lake, unfavorable weather conditions and unsustainable practices by local aquafarmers. - The local economy was badly shaken by the incident. Most residents of Haranggaol village rely on the fish farms as their only dependable source of income. Many villagers have had to go into debt to keep their businesses from collapsing. - Haranggaol residents have since tried to modify their practices to prevent another die-off, but without the resources and know-how of the lake’s corporate aquafarmers, they have had a difficult time. - Meanwhile, the government has big plans for Lake Toba as a tourist destination along the lines of a “Monaco of Asia” — one that might not include the unsightly fish farms.
Another Indonesian court convicts a company of causing fires [08/30/2016]
- In December 2015, plantation company PT Bumi Mekar Hijau was acquitted in a civil suit the government had filed against it for letting fires ravage its land in 2014. - Now, an appeals court has reversed that decision, ordering the company to pay $6 million in compensation. - Environmentalists wished the company had been made to pay a higher penalty, given that the government was asking for more than $600 million. The 2015 Southeast Asian haze crisis cost Indonesia $16 billion, according to the World Bank.
Indonesian police arrest hundreds in connection to burning land [08/26/2016]
- Indonesia’s top cop on Thursday said the police had arrested 454 individuals over the fires now spreading in Sumatra and Kalimantan. - The environment minister called on police to “investigate thoroughly” for any links to companies and local government officials. - Local authorities in some haze-hit areas were assembling makeshift shelters as a precautionary measure to care for people with health problems.
Aceh governor eyes geothermal project in Indonesia’s Leuser Ecosystem [08/26/2016]
- Aceh Governor Zaini Abdullah has written to the Environment and Forestry Ministry in Jakarta, asking for part of the core zone of Mount Leuser National Park to be rezoned for geothermal development. - The plan is for a company owned by Turkish venture capitalist Emin Hitay to explore the area for geothermal resources. Hitay intends to invest billions of dollars in geothermal projects across Indonesia. - Abdullah argued that the project would support President Joko Widodo’s goal of adding a 35,000 megawatts of generating capacity to Indonesia’s electrical grid. - Environmentalists object to the plan because they say it will threaten endangered wildlife and harm local livelihoods.
Pet trade’s “cute” and “adorable” label endangers the slow loris [08/25/2016]
- The slow loris includes all the species of the genus Nycticebus, which range from Northeast India to Southeast Asia, Indonesia and the Philippines. Much still isn’t known about the genus, including the numbers of animals remaining in the wild. Not even the number of species is certain (the IUCN is raising the count from 8 to 9 this fall). - These nocturnal primates are highly threatened by trafficking. Lorises are hunted for sale as pets, for traditional medicine, and for photo prop opportunities with tourists. Habitat loss is another leading cause of decline, though lorises have proven to be adaptable. They like forest edges, so can live near human communities successfully if left alone. - The loris is unusual in that it is a venomous mammal, and its bite is toxic, and can be dangerous to humans. For that reason, traffickers pull the animal’s teeth when captured without use of anesthetics or antibiotics. Many captured for the pet trade die in transit. - Dr. Anna Nekaris and the Little Fireface Project in Java, Indonesia, are leaders in the underfunded slow loris research and conservation effort. Rescue centers have arisen across Asia to protect the animals. Education is a key tool: Nekaris, for example, suggests not “liking” viral loris youtube videos, but instead offering conservation-related comments.
Indonesia must do more to protect whale sharks, conservationists say [08/23/2016]
- Most whale sharks live in the Indo-Pacific, where Indonesia lies. - The giant fish is a protected species in Indonesia, but that hasn’t stopped poachers from hunting it for its fins, skin and oil. - Advocates want the Indonesian government to crack down on traffickers and do more to promote sustainable ecotourism that contributes to the creature’s conservation.
Indonesian parliament to investigate fire-linked firms in Riau [08/20/2016]
The Indonesian parliament will form a task force to look into the cancelling of investigations against 15 companies alleged to be complicit in fires in Riau, the country’s top palm oil producing province. Legislators made the announcement on Friday as burning in Sumatra and Kalimantan continued to spread, prompting emergency responses from authorities there. The fires are an […]
Indonesia’s peat restoration chief calls for protection of all peat domes [08/18/2016]
The Indonesian agency set up to prevent a recurrence of last year’s devastating forest and peatland fires is calling for all peat domes in the country to be designated as protected areas. Indonesian law already prohibits development on deep peatlands, where the carbon-rich peat soil can extend for many meters below the surface. But the country’s vague peat […]
Smoke from Indonesia’s fires begins to drift into Malaysia [08/17/2016]
- The number of Indonesian fires and hotspots in the 2016 dry season has so far been lower than last year. - The director of law enforcement at Indonesia’s environment ministry said the ministry accepted the unpopular decision by Riau Police to close the pending cases on the 15 companies under investigation. - Kalyana Sundram from the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) said companies liable for fires in Malaysia would have licenses immediately revoked by the central government.
Pulling the stunningly unique painted terrapin back from the brink [08/17/2016]
- The Critically Endangered painted terrapin (Batagur borneoensis) is one of the 25 most endangered tortoises and freshwater turtles on earth, according to the Turtle Survival Coalition — with surviving numbers in Indonesia and Malaysia unknown. - The species is under tremendous pressure from poaching for eggs and by agroindustry which is degrading and converting its river and ocean beach and mangrove habitat for fish and shrimp aquaculture and oil palm production. - Joko Guntoro and the Satucita Foundation — with help from the UK’s Chester Zoo, the Houston Zoo in Texas, and the Turtle Survival Alliance — have built a head starting facility in Indonesia and successfully incubated more than six hundred hatchlings which are scheduled for release this autumn. - A mysterious species, scientists know next to nothing about painted terrapin migration, juvenile and adult behaviors — key to conservation. Unfortunately, under-funded researchers lack the money for satellite tracking of the species.
PHOTOS: ‘A Visual Celebration of Borneo’s Wildlife’ [08/15/2016]
- “This is probably the finest and most comprehensive collection of images ever published of Borneo’s diverse wildlife, based on the latest research papers,” photogarapher and writer Bjorn Olesen told Mongabay. - All of the authors’ royalties from the book will be donated to Fauna and Flora International for its nature conservation work in Southeast Asia. - But if you just can’t wait until you get your hands on a copy, Mongabay has a sneak peek for you. Here is a selection of the photos from the book, with captions by Bjorn Olesen.
10 orangutans released into the wild in Borneo [08/15/2016]
- The orangutans were freed in Bukit Baka Bukit Raya National Park, which forms part of the Heart of Borneo conservation project. - It was the first time orangutans were released in the national park. Conservationists hope to eventually free 300 captive orangutans there. - A 2007 government action plan called for all captive orangutans to be released by now, but more than 1,500 still live in rehabilitation centers across Sumatra and Kalimantan. - Rapid loss of the creatures’ forest habitats is one reason why it’s hard to find release sites for the animals.
Company ordered to pay record $76m over fires in Sumatra [08/12/2016]
- The case concerned fires that burned across PT National Sago Prima’s concession in Indonesia’s Riau province in 2014. - The company was deemed to have been negligent in failing to prevent the fires because it did not have the proper firefighting equipment and infrastructure on hand. - The fires were also deemed to have damaged the environment and the economy.
Indonesia mulls revision of orangutan conservation plan [08/11/2016]
- Indonesia’s 2007 strategy for saving the endangered Sumatran and Bornean orangutans has not gone according to plan, with both species continuing their decline. - The authors of the 2007 action plan thought Indonesia’s worst environmental problems, such as the rapid loss of forest where orangutans live, would be solved by now, according to a government official who helped to write the plan. - Last year, the government set a new target to increase the population of 25 “priority species,” including the Bornean orangutan, by 10% over 2013 levels by 2019.
Tens of thousands of birds being sold illegally in Javan bird markets [08/11/2016]
- Around 98 percent of the birds being sold in Javan bird markets are native to Indonesia, study found. - Some 28 species being sold at the markets are protected under Indonesia’s national law, while 10 species are listed as Threatened by the IUCN Red List. - Traders succeed in selling wild-caught birds mainly because law enforcement is lax, conservationists say.
From Boom to Glug glug: Indonesia’s new anti-poacher policy [08/09/2016]
- Since taking office in 2014, one of Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s signature policies has been to explode fishing boats that trespass in the archipelagic country’s waters (after evacuating the crews). One hundred and seventy-six vessels have already been destroyed in this way. - Now, the government is changing its policy. Beginning on August 17, Indonesia’s independence day, the boats will be sunk in such a way as to promote the formation of coral reefs. - A fisheries ministry official said foreign countries had already gotten the message, so there was no need to keep exploding boats. - Another reason for the change is an accident that happened with the MV Viking, which leaked oil onto a popular beach in southern Java after it was scuttled in March.
Photos: Indonesia’s far-flung indigenous seek audience in Jakarta [08/09/2016]
- A three-day event to honor the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples began with a Sunday march from the Bundaran HI roundabout in Central Jakarta to the National Museum. - Despite political momentum, Indonesia’s indigenous have yet to see major gains. - Indigenous citizens from around the country say they are still waiting for the big changes they were promised when President Joko Widodo was running for office in 2014.
Borneo conservationists and top oil palm firm work to help orangutans [08/09/2016]
- Oil palm production in Borneo is booming, resulting in major deforestation and putting Critically Endangered orangutans at risk. But the industry and conservationists have historically not worked well together to solve the problem. - In an attempt at a solution, Orangutan Foundation International and PT SMART — Indonesia’s largest oil palm group — have joined forces to teach administrators, management and workers to value and protect orangutans. - PT SMART and PT Lontar Papyrus, a major wood pulp supplier, have agreed to a Zero Tolerance/No Kill policy for orangutans and other protected species, and OFI is running an ongoing training program to initiate employees to the initiative.
Hundreds sickened in Indonesia’s Aceh as peat fires burn [08/09/2016]
- In West Aceh, a school has had to close, with two students hospitalized with breathing problems. - One hundred and fifty military and police officers are trying to put the fires in West Aceh. - The fires are a result of slash-and-burn land clearing by oil palm planters, officials say.
IPOP’s demise undercuts palm oil industry progress [commentary] [08/08/2016]
- The Indonesian Palm Oil Pledge (IPOP) was a sustainability commitment signed by Indonesia’s biggest palm oil refiners in 2014. - Dave McLaughlin, the World Wildlife Fund’s acting senior vice president for sustainable food, argues that the Indonesian and Malaysian governments must do more to promote sustainability in an industry plagued by environmental destruction and illegal practices. - This post is a commentary — the views expressed are those of the author.
RSPO lifts suspension of Malaysian palm oil giant IOI [08/05/2016]
- NGOs have complained about IOI’s operations in Indonesia for years. In April, the RSPO suspended the company’s sustainable certification. - On Friday, the RSPO lifted the suspension after IOI submitted an action plan to address the latest complaint. - Green groups said the RSPO should have kept the suspension in place until IOI could demonstrate progress on the ground. - It remains unclear whether consumer goods giants like Unilever and Proctor & Gamble, which moved to cut supplies from IOI in the wake of the suspension, will look to resume purchases from the company.
Indonesian fisheries czar promises to end subsidized fuel scam [08/04/2016]
- On an inspection in Bali this week, fisheries minister Susi Pudjiastuti discovered that a number of boats had had their sizes marked down in order to receive subsidized fuel meant for smaller boats. - Pudjiastuti responded with a threat to limit the fuel subsidy to boats under five gross tons, down from 30 now. - Before Pudjiastuti was appointed minister, boats over 30 gross tons could receive the cheaper fuel.
Malayan Sun bear: bile trade threatens the World’s smallest bear [08/01/2016]
- The Malayan Sun bear (Helarctos malayanus) is listed as Vulnerable to Extinction by the IUCN, and is threatened by habitat loss and hunting for traditional medicine. Its range once extended across mainland Southeast Asia, to Sumatra and Borneo, but the animal now occurs only patchily throughout. - Sun bears are a keystone species, vitally important to seed dispersal, pest control and nutrient cycling, so their extinction would likely bring major, though largely unstudied, impacts to tropical forests. - Killing Sun bears is prohibited under international and national wildlife protection laws, but these laws are often poorly enforced, while international trade in bear bile to serve the traditional medicine industry continues to boom. - Conservationists in Indonesia and elsewhere are studying Sun bear behavior to improve rescue and restoration efforts. Others want to eliminate commercial bear farms where bear bile is extracted, and end trafficking by creating strong national legislation, improving enforcement, and raising public awareness.
Like Indonesia, Malaysia to sink illegal foreign fishing boats: minister [07/29/2016]
- Instead of bombing vessels that trespass in its waters, Malaysia will sink them in a way that promotes the formation of artificial reefs and fish breeding, a Malaysian minister said after a fisheries summit in Jakarta. - Under president Joko Widodo, Indonesia has evolved into something of an enforcer of the seas. - The announcement from Malaysia is the latest sign of international approval for the policies of Jokowi, as he is known.
Up the Kapuas River, a Borneo tribe lives off the land [07/29/2016]
- The Dayak Punan turn to the surrounding jungle for religion, food, water, shelter, medicine, and defense. They have cared for and guarded the forest for centuries. - Indigenous peoples across Indonesia are waging a battle for the rights to their customary territories. President Joko Widodo has promised to prioritize the passage of a long-awaited law on their rights, but progress has been slow. - Some worry that if Indonesia’s indigenous gain absolute authority over their lands, they will only auction them off to the highest bidder. - Others point to recent studies showing that forests managed by indigenous peoples are among the best preserved.
15 fire-linked firms escape prosecution in Indonesia’s Riau [07/28/2016]
- The police in Riau, Indonesia’s top palm oil-producing province and one of the hardest-hit by last year’s disastrous forest and peatland fires, closed cases against 15 plantation firms that the environment ministry had linked to the burning. - Luhut Pandjaitan, who on Thursday was replaced as the country’s chief security minister, had expressed concern about the decision not to bring charges against the companies. - In East Kalimantan, the head of a local policy implementation unit has also complained that the authorities are not moving quickly enough to prosecute errant plantation firms.
New initiative to further creation of a single map in Indonesia’s Riau [07/27/2016]
- The lack of a single map of land-use claims and internal borders in Indonesia is a major impediment to sustainable development in the country. - The government has embarked on a One Map initiative to fix this problem, but the project’s fruition is still years away. - President Joko Widodo has set a target to complete the One Map initiative by 2019.
Indonesia declares national park in top palm oil-producing province [07/27/2016]
- The establishment of the Zamrud National Park was announced as part of World Environment Day on Friday. - Zamrud is the third national park in Riau province. - Other national parks in Riau, especially Tesso Nilo, have suffered extensive forest loss as a result of encroachment. - More than 40% of Riau’s forests have been cleared for industrial concessions since 2001, according to the World Resources Institute.
Failure of Indonesia’s palm oil commitment ‘not bad news’ [commentary] [07/27/2016]
- The Indonesian Palm Oil Pledge (IPOP) was a sustainability commitment signed by Indonesia’s biggest palm oil exporters in 2014. - Scott Poynton, the founder of The Forest Trust (TFT), argues that the disbandment of IPOP is no big loss to conservation. - He says companies are pressing forward with their own sustainability initiatives. - This post is a commentary — the views expressed are those of the author.
Study concludes conservation NGOs might be better off working outside the RSPO [07/26/2016]
- NGOs adopt a number of different roles based on their conservation goals and the resources at their disposal for achieving those goals. - However, the RSPO’s institutional structure could limit NGOs’ ability to have an impact, the authors of the study found. - Conservation NGOs have played a vital role in strengthening biodiversity conservation within the RSPO, the authors write, but the RSPO system has largely failed to support NGOs in reaching their initial conservation goals.
Fish farms need not be outlawed in Indonesia’s Lake Toba: minister [07/25/2016]
- The archipelagic country’s chief security minister, Luhut Pandjaitan, said the floating cages could stay as long as they followed environmental regulations. - The military and police had been deployed as part of an effort by the state to turn Lake Toba into a prominent tourism destination. - Vice president Jusuf Kalla is scheduled to visit the lake at the end of this week.
Haze epicenter receives environmental award in Indonesia [07/23/2016]
- The government presented this year’s Adipura Awards in Siak, Riau province. - The awards are usually handed out in Jakarta. - Siak also won an Adipura Award, and it was the only district in Riau, which has traditionally been hard-hit by forest and peatland fires, to do so.
Military sent to clear fish farms in Indonesia’s Lake Toba [07/22/2016]
- The giant lake has struggled with pollution as fish farming and other activities have spread in the region. - President Joko Widodo has announced plans to clean up Lake Toba and turn it into a prominent tourist destination. - Now, farmers in Simalungun, a district in the lake region, are told they have until Monday to get rid of their floating cages. - The anxious farmers want the government to either extend the deadline or compensate them for their losses.
Piloting PALM Risk to detect palm oil-driven deforestation [07/20/2016]
- The PALM Risk Tool, hosted on World Resources Institute (WRI)’s Global Forest Watch (GFW) Commodities platform, uses satellite imagery to show deforestation risk around 800 palm oil mills. - Corporations can use the tool to increase transparency, improve plantation practices, honor sustainable palm oil commitments and preserve endangered species’ habitat; government and civil society can use it to hold companies accountable to stopping rampant deforestation for palm oil. - Piloting the technology, Unilever found 29 high-risk mills in its supply chain, and it will work with unsustainable suppliers to improve their operations and curb forest loss.
Cargill suspends new purchase agreements with Malaysian palm oil giant IOI [07/18/2016]
- Cargill is the latest palm oil user to take action against IOI Group after its sustainability certification was suspended by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil earlier this year. - Three of IOI’s subsidiaries in Indonesian Borneo are alleged to have cleared rainforest without the proper government permits, operated on carbon-rich deep peat soil, and used fire to clear land cheaply — practices not uncommon in an industry rife with illegality. - Until its suspension, IOI was one of the biggest suppliers of RSPO-brand “Certified Sustainable Palm Oil.”
Indonesia’s palm oil permit moratorium to last five years [07/18/2016]
- Indonesia’s chief economics minister made the announcement after a meeting between ministers last week. - The moratorium will take the form of a presidential instruction to be issued in the near future, he said. - The forestry ministry has already taken steps to follow up on the moratorium announcement.
Fires begin to appear en masse as Indonesia’s burning season gets going [07/08/2016]
- Nearly 300 hotspots were detected over Sumatra and Kalimantan on Monday. - By Wednesday, that number had dropped somewhat, though authorities said they expected the fires to increase as Indonesia enters the dry season. - Police in Riau arrested a man for burning a small plot of land, while the NGO Walhi said authorities should focus on burning by large companies.
Bunge joins ranks of palm oil users to sanction Malaysia’s IOI [07/07/2016]
- In March, IOI lost its sustainability certification from the world’s largest association for ethical palm oil production over allegations of environmental destruction in its Indonesian operations. - Since then, a number of IOI’s customers have moved to disengage with the supplier. - Among Bunge’s demands is for IOI to issue a more detailed sourcing policy.
Replanting oil palm plantations reduces frog diversity, but researchers say there are ways to fix that [07/06/2016]
- An international team of researchers compared frog populations in mature palm plantations that were about 21 to 27 years old with populations on plantations that had been re-planted within the past two years in Sumatra, Indonesia. - They found a loss in both number of frog species (31 percent lower) and number of total frogs (47 percent lower) in young oil palm plantations as compared to mature plantations. - The researchers say that practices such as staggered replanting and maintaining connectivity between mature oil palm patches could help maintain frog diversity, but more studies are needed for the many different types of wildlife that live in oil palm plantations.
Bornean orangutan declared ‘critically endangered’ as forests shrink [07/05/2016]
- The new IUCN assessment finds that hunting, habitat destruction, habitat degradation and fragmentation are the biggest drivers behind the population loss. - Things will likely get worse before they get better, but it’s not too late for the orangutan, according to one of the authors of the assessment. - According to the World Wildlife Fund, 45,000-69,000 Bornean orangutans still remain.
Timber plantation licenses canceled as Mentawai fight off another threat to their traditional lands [07/01/2016]
- It was reported just last month that the Mentawai peoples, who live on Indonesia’s Mentawai Islands about 150 kilometres (93 miles) off the west coast of Sumatra, were facing a new threat to their traditional territories. - Biomas Andalan Energi had received a principle approval letter to create timber plantations on a total of 200 square kilometers (77 square miles) of primary rainforest and indigenous lands on the biggest island of the Mentawai archipelago, Siberut. - A petition started by local NGO Yayasan Citra Mandiri Mentawai collected over 135,000 signatures, demonstrating not just local but international support for the rights of the Mentawai people to protect their islands against exploitation.
Under gov’t pressure, palm oil giants disband green pledge [07/01/2016]
- The members of the Indonesia Palm Oil Pledge, a pact between six palm oil refiners to purge their supply chains of environmental destruction and human rights abuses, announced on Friday they were disbanding the agreement. - The companies — Wilmar International, Cargill, Golden Agri-Resources, Asian Agri, Musim Mas and Astra Agro Lestari — feared being investigated by Indonesia’s anti-monopoly agency, according to the leaked transcript of a recent meeting between the firms. - NGOs condemned the decision as a setback for the movement to clean up the palm oil industry, whose rapid expansion is eating away at Indonesia’s rainforests and dispossessing indigenous peoples.
5 Tech Projects That Are Protecting Sharks [06/30/2016]
- Annually, approximately 100 million sharks are killed by commercial fisheries. - Shark Week is the longest running cable TV program and has aired every summer since 1988; educating millions of viewers on the intricate and elusive nature of sharks. - In celebration and support of Shark Week 2016, we are excited to highlight five different organizations and technologies that are being used to protect shark species.
Amid illegal fishing crackdown, Indonesia to buoy legal catch [06/30/2016]
- Fishing boats across the archipelago were forced into port for months during the government’s licensing freeze, part of a bid to root out illegality in the sector. - Now, president Joko Widodo’s administration has issued a new batch of licenses and announced plans to expedite its permit-issuance process. - Experts urge the government to make sure environmental considerations are introduced into the permit-issuance regime.
What are South Sumatrans doing to prevent another haze crisis? [06/29/2016]
- Residents are still digging canals to drain peatlands, which dries out the soil and makes it prone to burning in the dry season. - Villagers near pulp and paper supplier PT Bumi Mekar Hijau’s concession, much of which burned last year, say they are upset with the company. - A small number of residents have been enlisted to serve as part of a Fire Care Community Group to patrol the area, but a local official says it needs to be expanded.
French MPs say they were pressured into dropping palm oil tax [06/29/2016]
- Indonesian and Malaysian officials at the highest levels have lobbied hard for the tax to be scrapped. - French politicians said Indonesia had threatened the country with “economic retaliation.” - Palm oil is an engine of Indonesia’s economy but leads the way in damaging the environment.
Malaysian palm oil giant IOI under pressure after Cargill ultimatum [06/28/2016]
- Cargill said that unless IOI issues a new sourcing policy and sustainability plan by July 15, it will stay away from new contracts with the company. - Environmental advocates called Cargill’s declaration “disappointing and essentially meaningless” because IOI has already committed to zero deforestation. - Other multinational palm oil users have already cut supplies from IOI.
64 dead in Indonesia landslides as La Nina brings heavy rains [06/27/2016]
- Central Java was hit the hardest, with 59 people confirmed dead in the province. - At least five people were killed in the Sangihe Islands in Sulawesi. - An environment ministry adviser is calling for natural resource extraction in Java, the world’s most crowded island, to be reigned in.
Trafficking: Indonesian soldier caught with 8 pangolins in car backseat [06/24/2016]
- The officer was arrested in the city of Medan in Indonesia’s main western island of Sumatra. - The eight pangolins were worth hundreds of dollars each. The creatures are sought after for their use in Chinese medicine. - Meanwhile, Hong Kong authorities seized nearly $10 million worth of pangolin scales on their way from Africa.
Judges up the ante for tiger traffickers in Indonesia [06/24/2016]
- Wildlife criminals in Indonesia usually receive light sentences, if they are convicted at all. - A four-year prison term recently handed down in Sumatra is the toughest yet for selling tiger parts. - Conservationists implored judges to continue to impose harsher sentences.
PepsiCo products in Indonesia tainted with worker abuses, report finds [06/23/2016]
- A two-month NGO investigation into palm oil giant Indofood’s plantations reveal numerous worker and human rights abuses. - PepsiCo, which has licensed out its brand to Indofood in Indonesia, said it was taking steps to address the findings. - Indofood is an arm of the Salim Group and one of the world’s largest palm oil companies.
No more fires in Indonesia? [06/20/2016]
- In late 2015, Indonesia featured heavily in the global headlines. - Between June and November 2015, Indonesia experienced one of its worst fire and haze episodes ever. - Impressively, during 12 days in Kalimantan with plenty of hot clear days, I saw exactly one small fire. Something seemed to be different. - This post is a commentary — the views expressed are those of the author.
Hype and secrecy in wildlife conservation [06/18/2016]
- All organizations love media attention, and wildlife conservation groups are no different. - Media attention often helps conservation practice, but it can also achieve the opposite. - In their quest to be short and sensational, media often distort conservation messages. Even worse, unintended side effects from media exposure can increase the threats to species. - This post is a commentary — the views expressed are those of the author.
Protected areas grow populations of shark — and disenfranchised fishers [06/15/2016]
- Globally, sharks are likely not reproducing fast enough to maintain stable populations in the face of widespread fishing. - Indonesia is the world’s largest source of shark fins and fishers targeting sharks. - A new study based on 2012 research found more sharks in two no-take zones compared with an open-access fishing area in West Papua, Indonesia, justifying a regency-wide ban on shark fishing implemented the same year. - However, fishermen and other members of fishing communities interviewed for the study felt marginalized by the process of protecting sharks and the study authors conclude that shark conservation measures may inadvertently result in displacing fishing effort to unprotected regions.
Indonesia to rezone 3.8m of protected peat that was damaged or converted [06/13/2016]
- In May, the Indonesian forestry ministry disclosed that nearly half of the 8.4 million hectares of peatland protected under the 2011 forestry moratorium has been damaged or converted to other uses. - Last week, the ministry announced it would issue a regulation to provide legal status for these areas. - Areas that have been turned into small-scale plantations and agricultural lands by local people will be rezoned as social forestry, while areas converted by large companies could be investigated and sanctioned.
Peat expert dies from cancer after fighting Indonesian fires [06/12/2016]
- Suwido Limin was a longtime University of Palangkaraya professor who founded a volunteer firefighting brigade and spent two months in the field during last year’s haze crisis. - After the fires last year, his condition worsened, and he was diagnosed with cancer in February. - Limin, an ethic Dayak, also helped draft a regulation on indigenous rights in Central Kalimantan that has been submitted to the provincial government for approval.
How is Indonesian president Jokowi doing on environmental issues? [06/12/2016]
- In 2014, Joko Widodo became Indonesia’s first head of state to emerge from neither the political elite nor the military. - The election of the former furniture salesman to the nation’s highest office represented a break from its authoritarian past, and Jokowi, as he is known, was expected to enact major reforms. - Last year, it was the environment that served up what will perhaps be remembered as the defining challenge of Jokowi’s presidency. - Jokowi responded to the disaster with some of his most drastic measures.
Is that palm oil mill “sustainable”? A new tool can tell [06/09/2016]
- Palm oil plantation expansion has led to widespread deforestation in tropical countries like Indonesia and Malaysia. - The PALM Risk Tool uses historical tree cover loss data and mill locations to gauge the deforestation risk level of more than 800 palm oil processing mills. - Its creators say it can be used by companies that want to keep tabs on the sustainability of their palm oil sources.
Tracking assets for environmental advocacy work with Bloomberg [06/09/2016]
- Historically, only for-profit financial organizations have used the Bloomberg Terminal, but the advocacy community could be leveraging its vast resources to enact change. - Part 2 of a three-part series on using the Bloomberg Terminal in advocacy work explains how to track companies’ assets, such as palm oil and other commodities. - Tracking assets could enable advocacy groups to expose companies that fail to meet pledges to improve the sustainability of the products they source, among other tactics.
Orangutan reintroductions could risk population survival, study warns [06/08/2016]
- 1,500 orangutans now live in rescue centers located across Sumatra and Borneo, and many conservationists, along with the Indonesian government, want to return them to the wild as soon as possible. However, a new study poses a serious concern. - Borneo’s three recognized orangutan subspecies — from three distinct regions — are thought to have diverged from each other 176,000 years ago, meaning that hybridization between them may result in negative genetic effects. - If hybrid offspring reproduce, gene combinations beneficial to one lineage can be disrupted, causing poor health and reduced reproductive success. This “outbreeding depression” could threaten the survival of individuals and populations long-term. - Some scientists do not agree with orangutan subspecies designations, and would rather see the animals returned to the wild quickly, no matter where. Others say genetic testing of rescued animals and reintroduction to a matching subspecies region will prevent hybridization, and would be the prudent approach.
Timber plantations are the latest threat facing Indonesia’s Mentawai Islands [06/07/2016]
- The Mentawai peoples, who live on Indonesia’s Mentawai Islands, off the western coast of Sumatra, have faced numerous attempts to develop their traditional lands. - In 2014, the Mentawai communities convinced local officials to stop plans for industrial palm plantations on 1,000 square kilometers (about 386 square miles) of forests and indigenous territories after years of protest. - Now a company called Biomas Andalan Energi is planning to create timber plantations on a total of 200 sq. km. (77 sq. miles) of primary rainforest and indigenous lands on the biggest island of the Mentawai archipelago, Siberut.
Unclear if France will revisit ‘discriminatory’ palm oil tax [06/06/2016]
- The proposed tax became a controversy in Indonesia and Malaysia, the two largest palm oil producers, which lobbied hard to get it rescinded. - France consumes less than two-tenths of a percent of the palm oil produced globally, most of which goes to India and China. - Palm oil is crucial to the Southeast Asian nations’ economies but leads the way in damaging the environment.
10 reasons to be optimistic for forests [06/05/2016]
- It’s easy to be pessimistic about the state of the world’s forests. - Yet all hope is not lost. There are remain good reasons for optimism when it comes to saving the world’s forests. - On the occasion of World Environment Day 2016 (June 5), the United Nations’ “day” for raising awareness and encouraging action to protect the planet, here are 10 forest-friendly trends to watch.
PanEco resigns from RSPO over ‘sheer level of inaction’ [06/03/2016]
- PanEco runs the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program in Indonesia. It was one of the RSPO’s 33 NGOs members. - The RSPO mainly consists of companies that produce, trade or use palm oil. - The palm oil sector is vital to the Indonesian economy but leads the way in damaging the environment.
The dark side of China’s foreign fishing boom [06/02/2016]
- China is the largest consumer, producer and exporter of fish, with a distant-water fleet operating in 93 countries. - But Chinese boats are routinely getting into scuffles with foreign authorities for fishing illegally in their waters. - Analysts say government subsidies and poor oversight promote overfishing and rogue activity.