Oil Palm Plantations

Bornean orangutan with 104 air gun pellet wounds recovering well from three-hour operation.

Aan, the wounded female orangutan, who the Orangutan Foundation rescued a few weeks ago, has survived a 3 hour operation to remove 32 of the total 104 air gun pellets in her body.

Dr Zulfiqri, a veterinarian from the Orangutan Foundation, assisted by a specialist surgeon from the local Imanuddin Hospital, managed to remove 32 of the pellets lodged in her body and head.

Aan is recuperating in the Orangutan Foundation Veterinary Facility, in the Lamandau River Wildlife Reserve.

When she was rescued from the oil palm plantation, she had already lost the sight in her left eye and was losing the sight in her right eye day-by-day. The X-rays showed a dozen pellet shots lodged in and around her eyes. Now she has lost sight in both eyes completely, so food and water for her must first be touched or placed in her hands.

It is unlikely that Aan can be released back into the wild, but will remain at Camp Gemini, a release camp within the Lamandau River Wildlife Reserve.  Dr Zulfiqri said that: “If necessary, surgery to remove more pellets will continue to be done in stages.”

The Head of the local Conservation Agency based in Pangkalan Bun, Mr Hartono said: “I hope that Aan will now feel more comfortable being in the forest living in a large holding cage. We will work together with the Orangutan Foundation to find the best way so that Aan can continue to live.”

Ashley Leiman OBE, Director of the Orangutan Foundation said:  “We have worked in Borneo over 20 years and have never had to rescue three orangutans in four days. The reasons for the increase could be due to the rapid loss of orangutan habitat or it could be because more people are reporting orangutans to the wildlife department whereas before they would have killed them.”

In October, the Orangutan Foundation, in cooperation with the Indonesian Natural Resources Conservation Agency of Central Kalimantan, successfully translocated two orangutans into the protected Lamandau River Wildlife Reserve.  The larger male Herlino was rescued from an oil-palm plantation whilst the four-year old female Joson had been kept for the last 4 months in a small cage in a village.

Read full press release here.

Please support our vital work www.orangutan.org.uk. Remember Orangutan Awareness Week runs from Monday 12th November – Sunday 18th November with Orange for Orangutan Day on Wednesday 14th November.  Do something for orangutans and their rainforest home this week!

Orangutan shot at 104 times

A total of 104 bullets have been found lodged in the body and head of a female orangutan, who was rescued last week by the Orangutan Foundation and Indonesian Government’s Natural Resources Conservation Agency of Central Kalimantan (KW II-BKSDA Kalimantan Tengah). The adult female, who has been named Aan, was rescued from an oil palm plantation. She was found huddled in a tree, terrified. After anaesthetising her Dr Fikri, the Foundation’s vet, and rescue staff found her to be underweight and possibly blind in her left eye – a bullet could be seen lodged in her forehead. Based on information from the oil palm company, who reported her to the Forest Police, Aan had been roaming the plantation for a month and is thought to have come from a small relic forest, 1km from the plantation.

Dr Fikri, took Aan to Pangkalan Bun hospital. X-rays revealed 37 bullets lodged in her head and 67 bullets scattered all over her body, including several bullets lodged in vital organs including her heart and lungs. She has many bullets and bullet holes in her head which may lead to severe infections and could be fatal.

Even if Aan survives, there are bullets lodged above both eyes so it is likely that she will become fully blind. Dr Fikri also reports many bullets lodged around both ears so she may also become deaf.

Pak Hartono, the Section Head of Conservation Areas II-Natural Resources Conservation Agency of (Central) Kalimantan Tengah (SKW II-BKSDA Kalteng) and the Orangutan Foundation issued a joint press release. He stated he was regretful about Aan’s condition and he emphasised the laws protecting orangutans and the consequences of breaking these laws (Indonesian law has forbidden anyone to capture, injure, kill, and keep protected wildlife and will be subject to imprisonment for five years and a fine of one hundred million rupiah). 

Pak Hartono also called on the community who are keeping or know of protected animals to voluntarily hand them over to SKW II-BKSDA Kalteng. He went on to state that he hoped the relevant government agencies will evaluate licensing for development activities in order to maintain the balance of nature.

Pak Hartono’s department will continue to work with the Orangutan Foundation to seek the best for Aan’s welfare. With the help of a doctor, bullets lodged in her body will be removed. If the operations are successful and Aan recovers she will be moved to one of the release camps, in Lamandau River Wildlife Reserve, where Aan will housed in a purpose built enclosure.

The Foundation has been shocked and saddened by Aan’s condition. But her spirit to survive is strong and we will do all we can to help her.  Aan’s tragic story highlights the importance of education and awareness and the need for continued protection of orangutan habitat.   Please support us to help us achieve this.

Update on Tripa from Sumatra

Dr Ian Singleton, director of the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme (SOCP), has just sent some information about a new video (watch here) and article (read here) about the forthcoming NBC broadcast on the work of SOCP and the situation in the Tripa Peat Swamps, Sumatra.

For those of you in the US the film will be shown on Rock Center with Brian Williams this THURSDAY 18th October. 

Please also spare a minute to sign this petition www.change.org/saveTripa2

Thank you,

Orangutan Foundation





Indonesian court cancels oil palm plantation permit

We heard this morning that the High Court in Medan has ordered the Aceh Governor, Zaini Abdullah, to revoke a permit for an oil palm plantation in the Tripa peat swamps in Aceh province in the north of the island of Sumatra. The appeal was filed by the Aceh chapter of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi). This ruling is very good news for the future of the remaining orangutans in Tripa. It also demonstrates a commitment by the Indonesian government to enforce the laws protecting carbon-rich forests and endangered species. Read the full article in the Jakarta Post and keep up to date with the campaign to save Tripa at End of the Icons

Thank you,

Orangutan Foundation


More orangutans need rescuing

We are sad to report that the pregnant female orangutan, who had been chained up by her foot, has not survived. Worryingly, the same plantation have another 20 to 30 orangutans in need of rescue. See earlier blog Worrying trend - another orangutan rescued.

The orangutan's forest habitat should not have been cleared in the first place - they are an endangered species and protected by law. If clearing goes ahead a large enough area for the orangutans to live in should have been set aside. However, it seems there is only remnant forest surrounded by oil palm and with villages close by. The orangutans have no where to go.
We are in discussion with BKSDA (The Government Agency for Natural Resources) to find the best possible solution.  We have a rescue team in the field and we will do our utmost to save these orangutans. Rescues and translocations are costly in terms of staff time, logisitics and veterinary equipment and also the follow up care involved and not to mention ongoing habitat protection. Please support our crucial work.  You can donate via our secure online shop or via justgiving or by calling 0044(0)20 7724 2912.
More to follow soon.
Thank you.

Spare a few minutes to help save habitat of critically endangered great ape

Please sign this petition to the Indonesian President to halt the destuction of the Tripa Swamps, home to a few hundred critically endangered orangutans.

Press release from “Coalition to save the Tripa peat swamps”

Increase in fires burning in Tripa highlight Indonesian Government failing to cease deforestation; orangutan population doomed unless illegal activities halted immediately.

Tripa aerial flyover June 27 2012, 2pm

Another massive wave of fires currently sweeping across the Tripa peat swamp forests has highlighted the accelerating destruction and ongoing disregard of Indonesian National Law by palm oil companies inside the protected Leuser Ecosystem, despite a high level National Investigation launched months ago, which is yet to report on findings.

A recent spike in the number of fires was recorded by satellites monitoring fire hotspot activity in Sumatra, and confirmed by field staff yesterday who filmed and photographed numerous fires burning in the palm oil concessions operating right across in Tripa.

The five companies at present actively operating in Tripa have responded to the increased media scrutiny and current investigation by increasing security on their plantations. Some are even being guarded by military and police personnel stationed along access routes while illegally lit fires burn inside.

“The ongoing destructive activities of these companies during the investigation indicates their complete disregard for Indonesian law and the authority of the ongoing investigation, and the government is allowing this to happen.” Stated Kamaruddin, lawyer for the Tripa community.

“A direct Presidential Instruction is urgently required to bring an immediate halt to the rampant and illegal destruction of Tripa, not a speech telling the world deforestation is a thing of the past.” Kamaruddin added.

“There is no doubt that each of these companies is breaking several laws. Whilst we realize, and very much appreciate and support the investigation going on (by the Department of Environment), it’s proving to be too little too late. These companies simply have to be ordered to stop immediately, and that order to be strictly enforced, otherwise the Peat Forests and inhabitants of Tripa will be lost forever”, he added.

One of the five companies operating in Tripa, PT. Kallista Alam, was challenged in court and its concession area recently reinstated as off limits to deforestation and degradation in the 2nd revision of Moratorium Map on May 25th, 2012. This particular concession has been the subject of an ongoing legal battle as it clearly contravenes National Spatial Law No 26/2007 and Government Regulation 26/2008, since it was granted inside the Leuser Ecosystem National Strategic Area for environmental protection, in which no concessions can be granted that damage the environmental protection function of the ecosystem, and in which all activities that do damage the ecosystem must be halted, and damaged areas restored.

Fires continued to rage late yesterday in the northern stretches of the PT Kallista Alam concession. Likewise, numerous obviously deliberately set fires were also observed in the concessions of PT. Surya Panen Subur 2, PT. Cemerlang Abadi, PT. Gelora Sawita Makmur , PT. Dua Perkasa Lestari and an area known as the PT Patriot Guna Sakti Abadi concession, even though the latter was never formally granted.

“The situation is indeed extremely dire” reports Dr Ian Singleton of the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme. “Every time I have visited Tripa in the last 12 months I have found several orangutans, hanging on for their very survival, right at the forest edge. Its very easy to find them and we have already evacuated a few lucky ones to safer areas. But when you see the scale and speed of the current wave of destruction and the condition of the remaining forests, there can be no doubt whatsoever that many have already died in Tripa due to the fires themselves, or due to starvation as a result of the loss of their habitat and food resources”, he explained.

The Tripa peat swamp forests have received considerable international attention, much of it focusing on the fact that the burning of Tripa’s peat swamp forests made a mockery of a 1 billion USD agreement between the Governments of Indonesia and Norway to reduce carbon emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, also known as the REDD deal, since the peat alone in Tripa sequesters huge amount of carbon that is being released into the atmosphere even now .

Tripa was also high on the agenda at the first meeting between the newly inaugurated Governor of Aceh and the European Union, just a few days ago. Furthermore, on June 13th at a global policy address on the future of Indonesia's forests, ahead of Rio+20 summit, at CIFOR, President SBY himself proclaimed that “deforestation is a thing of the past” and "Losing our tropical rain forests would constitute the ultimate national, global and planetary disaster.  That's why Indonesia has reversed course by committing to sustainable forestry."

Yet the ongoing destruction witnessed by the coalition team in recent days is a clear indication that these are simply empty words, and that Indonesia is giving no reasons for its international commitments to be taken as anything more than mere rhetoric.

Dr Singleton also pointed out, “There is still a decent orangutan population in Tripa, however hard and fast it is being extinguished, and there are also large tracts of land that have been cleared of forests but never used. If these companies were immediately instructed to stop all their destructive operations while the legal investigation process continues, and then removed, ideally with prosecutions and appropriate punishment, Tripa, its orangutan population, and many of the contributions it once made to local community livelihoods could still be restored.”

“But without an immediate halt it will all be lost, to the ultimate benefit of only a handful of already incredibly rich people based elsewhere. This whole thing makes absolutely no sense at all, not environmentally nor even economically. It is simply greed, on a massive scale. A simply staggering scale in fact.” Stressed Dr. Ian Singleton. 

Notes for Editors:

Further Hi-res photos available on www.endoftheicons.wordpress.com

Please find map below with satellite monitored fires from the period 17/06/12 - 26/06/12 new data will become available over the coming days

For Further Press inquiries, Please Contact:


Kamaruddin (Bahasa Indonesian Only)

Tripa Community Lawyer



Dr Ian Singleton

Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme

Email: mokko123@gmail.com

Mobile: +62811650491


Also, for further media statement, please contact:


Saud Usman Nasution

Spokesperson for Indonesian National Police

+62 811 979 2222


PT. Kallista Alam

  • Komp. Taman Setiabudi Indah II, blok V (ruko) No. 11-14, Medan 20133 Phone: 061 – 8216541

Fax: 061 – 8216532

  • Jl.Cycas II Blok UU, No.55 Taman Setia Budi Indah, Medan, North Sumatera

Phone: 061-800200, 812380

Fax: 021-812380


PT. Surya Panen Subur 2

  • Jl.Pulo Ayang raya,Blok OR Kav.1 Kawasan industri Pulogadung Jakarta13930

Phone: (021)4616555

Fax: (021)4616550


PT. Cemerlang Abadi

  • Central Plaza, 3rd Floor, Jl.Jend.Sudirman Kav.47 Jakarta 12930

Phone: 021-5255414,5255413

Fax: 021-520748


PT. Dua Perkasa Lestari

  • Rasuna Office Park ZO 10-11 Rasuna Epicentrum, Jakarta

Phone: 021-83703232, 031-5925239

Fax: 021-83704488, 031-5925387


PT. Gelora Sawita Makmur

  • LENDMARK Centre,Tower A, 8th floor,Jl. Jend sudirman No.1 Jakarta 12910

Phone: (021)5712790, 5712853

Fax: (021)5712716

Worrying trend - another orangutan rescued

 We have received another report from our vet, Dr Fikri, about an orangutan that was rescued from an oil palm plantation. The Central Kalimantan Agency for Natural Resources (SKW II BKSDA) received a report from an oil palm company, PT.TASK III, located in Cempaga District, Sampit, about the presence of an orangutan. The ape had been seen in the plantation eating oil palm fruit. The Orangutan Foundations rescue team and BKSDA arrived at the oil palm plantation and with the plantation staff coordinated a rescue plan and headed straight to where the orangutan had been seen. Luckily she was still there. The orangutan was a female and had been living in the plantation for some time because of the number of nests in trees.

Photo 1. Oil palm plantations PT.TASK III which is adjacent to the plantation owned by the community

Photo 2. Remaining forest around PT.TASK III plantations

Photo 3. Remaining forest around PT.TASK III plantations

Photo 4. Remaining forest adjacent to the PT.TASK III plantations


Photo 5. Other land owned by oil palm plantations which have not been planted which is adjacent with PT.TASK III

Photo 6. Orangutan nests in the remaining forest around oil palm plantation

The team did an expert job in darting the orangutan. She was anesthetized quickly with minimal stress and no injuries incurred. Dr Fikri examined her and she was wild female orangutan, around 12 years old and weighing 42 pounds.

Photo 7. Orangutan in the middle of oil palm plantations, before anesthesia

Photo 8. Dr Fikri prepares the anaesthetic 


Photo 9. Orangutan has been sedated


Photo 10. Examination of the condition of the orangutan


Photo 11. Examination  of the orangutan


Photo 12. Examination of the orangutan


Photo 13. Examination is complete and orangutan is put a holding cage


Photo 14. Rescue at plantation completed


Photo 15. Orangutan leaves the plantation

Photo 16. Orangutan arrives at the BKSDA Office, Pangkalanbun

 The orangutan was taken to BKSDA Office in Pangkalan Bun. On the 12th June it was decided she was ready to be released into the wild (see images below). Later that morning she was taken by car from the BKSDA office to where the speedboat was waiting. She then began her journey by river into the Lamandau River Wildlife Reserve. She was released on the Teringin Lama River between Camp Siswoyo and Camp Gemini, two orangutan release camps which are run by the Orangutan Foundation.

The orangutan moved slowly out from the cage and climbed up into the trees. Dr Fikri watched as she climbed away and settled high in another tree and looked around – she seemed to be thinking "Hurray ..... I have been freed....".

At the time of writing this post, the field team informed us of another orangutan found in the vicinity of same plantation. This female’s foot was chained and very swollen.   On examination the orangutan was found to be three months pregnant.  We’ll update you soon.

A male orangutan that we attempted to rescue in April, at the time of filming the Sir Terry Pratchett documentary, is still in the plantation in spite of a number of attempts to rescue him.   The fully adult male moves further towards the river when approached and so the team will wait until they feel it is safe to dart him.

Ashley Leiman, Founder and Director of the Orangutan Foundation, is worried about this recent increase in rescues as it signifies what immense pressure this endangered great ape’s habitat is under.

Photo 17. Orangutan leaving BKSDA office

Photo 18. Orangutan moved to speedboat


Photo 19. Orangutan on a speedboat

Photo 20. Journey to the Wildlife Reserve


Photo 21. Preparation for release


Photo 22.  Dr Fikri opens the cage door


Photo 23. Opening cage door


Photo 24. Orangutan is free again


Photo 25. Orangutan is wild once more!

Photo 26, Dr Fikri watches as orangutan moves away

Photo 27. orangutan in tree, somewhere. 

 Please donate to our latest appeal and support our guard posts and forest patrols: they keep the endangered orangutans and their forest homes safe. (Read letter by Ashley Leiman OBE)

Conservation in unprotected areas -reply to comments

Thank you to everyone who has recently left comments, especially about Brian and Rosa’s release – they do mean a lot to our staff (Rosa, lovely to hear from you and of course the orangutan Rosa was named after you. Rosa was our vet who previously work at the orangutan care centre). I’d like to respond to Louis McCarten, who left a comment about Belantikan’s protection - 'I think it is time to press the Indonesian government to provide actual legal protection to the Belantikan rain forest. And quickly. I do not see a future for the biodiversity here if this is not attempted (and financed). Why not a Belantikan National Park? Better that than a Belantikan alan alang wasteland (or yet another oil palm plantation the world doesn’t need–which of course is what is the world is going to get if we don’t do something to save the Belantikan). 

Your point about Belantikan needing protection is entirely reasonable and this is why we are working in this area. Belantikan has the world’s largest population of orangutans outside of a protected area and it is important for many other ecological reasons.  However, the situation in Belantikan it isn’t black and white - there are many factors to consider when deciding how best to protect a high conservation value forest area. Designating the forests as a national park isn’t the answer either. We must deal with the reasons behind deforestation otherwise they will persist despite the change in land status, as we have witnessed in other Indonesian national parks.  

A lot of the land is community owned, adat and so rightfully it is the local people who make the decisions about their land.  The logging concessions are legal and still have many years left before they expire. However, rather than seeing these as only negative factors we need to find a way to work together.   

A co-operative management approach, where all the stakeholders (local communities, logging concessions, government) are recognised, have a voice and are taken notice of is one of our aims. The Belantikan Conservation Programme, funded by the United Nations Environment Programme – Great Ape Survival Partnership, began in 2005 and it is attempting to engage and work with all the stakeholders of Belantikan.   

One of our objectives is to see more of the area designated as protected forests (not national park) therefore maintaining key ecosystem functions, such as watersheds.  We are also helping the local communities, who are highly dependent on the forests, to earn a living that is ecologically and economically viable.  The communities have to make vital decisions about their land (whether to sell to oil palm companies, lease to timber concessions, how to farm it) and through increased education and awareness we can help them to understand the future implications of their decisions.

It is terribly depressing that you have to drive for 6 hours through uninterrupted oil palm plantations before you reach the forests and it is upsetting to think of all the wildlife that has been lost.  Our work in Belantikan is still in it infancy and we are working to set strong foundations for what we hope will be a future for these forests, its village communities and the wildlife. However, the ultimately responsibility lies with the Indonesian government and it will be to their detriment, as well as everybody else’s, if they fail to make the right choices. 

Thank you,

Cathy - Orangutan Foundation (UK office)

Orangutan translocated to forest reserve

Finally, last week Memes (the young female orangutan rescued from the oil palm plantation a few weeks ago) was successfully translocated to Camp Gemini, in the Lamandau River Wildlife Reserve, Central Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo. Dr Fiqri, the vet of the Orangutan Foundation's Reintroduction Programme gave the all clear - Memes was healthy and free from worms. Pak Eko Novi, from the Agency for Conservation of Natural Resources of Central Kalimantan, gave permission for the translocation.

Orangutan, Memes, being moved from OCCQ 

Female orangutan, Memes, leaving the OCCQ and heading to the forests. 

Memes was transported from the Orangutan Care Center and Quarantine facility (OCCQ) by the Orangutan Foundation International's (photo above) translocation team. The Orangutan Foundation Reintroduction Programme staff, accompanied by Pak Eko Novi, then took over the final stages of the translocation process.

Orangutan, Memes, heading to the Lamandau reserve

Pak Eko Novi accompanying Memes in the speed boat up to Lamandau River Wildlife Reserve.  

After a journey of 2 hours Memes arrived at Camp Gemini, in the Lamandau reserve. 

Orangutan arriving at Camp Gemini, Lamandau reserve 

The whole translocation process was filmed by Trans 7 (the Indonesian television company) and was observed by staff from Tanjung Puting National Park. 

 TV crew filming translocation process

Trans 7 filming the translocation to raise awareness in Indonesia.

Dr Fiqri did a final check on Memes to make sure everything was well and safe for her. Memes seemed impatient to get back to her life in the forest (see photo below)!

Dr Fiqri observing Memes

Female Bornean orangutan, Memes, ready to get back in the trees! 

Immediately after the cage was opened by Pak Eko Novi, Memes climbed up the nearest tree and didn't look back, as she moved on into the other trees.

Orangutan climbing tree in Lamandau 

Memes headed straight for the nearest tree. 

Orangutan, Memes, in the forest.

Dr Fiqri watched and smiled as Memes disappeared into the forest. He's confident she will be very fast to adapt to her new home in the Lamandau reserve.

Smiling for the release of Orangutan Memes

Two Camp Gemini staff followed Memes into the forest until she made a nest and went to sleep. The staff spent the night in the forest, sleeping in hammocks. Memes woke up early the next morning and moved off very quickly through the trees, eventually losing her two followers.

Memes is now living free in the Lamandau reserve but our work doesn't end here, we must continue to protect these forests and the precious wildlife within.

Please support our work,

Hudi Dewe  (Orangutan Foundation Porgramme Co-ordinator) 

Hope for another Bornean Orangutan.

The translocation of the young female orangutan (we rescued her last week from an oil palm plantation) to the Lamandau River Wildlife Reserve is planned for this week. The young orangutan was named "Memes" by Tigor, Orangutan Reintroduction Manager.  Dr Fiqri, our vet, has said Memes is healthy and clear from worms and can leave the Orangutan Care Centre and Quarantine facility for the Lamandau reserve. Hopefully we'll have more news from Hudi on his return from the stakeholder meetings in the Belantikan Hulu region. 

Thanks for your recent comments Theresa, Amy and Wanda (very sorry to hear about your dog Wanda but glad we could bring you some good news).

Thanks for all your support,

Cathy - Orangutan Foundation

 Please support our 'Protect Me and My Tree Appeal'

orangutan in tree

Fingers crossed for Tripa - critical Sumatran orangutan habitat

We have just heard that it is very likely that the Astra Agro Lestari (AAL) concession in Tripa will close down! This was reported in a local news source (see below writen in Indonesian). Apparently the article reveals that AAL is no longer in a position to endure the pressure from those "environmental NGOs". The spokesman laments about the tragedy that 700 plantation workers will loose their job. AAL still hopes for a win-win solution in dialogue with those environmental NGOs. Paneco and YEL (Foundation for a Sustainable Ecosystem), PanEco's partner NGO in Sumatra are identified as "such pressuring NGOs".

The statement from YEL's chairman, Sofyan Tan, is poignant.

"There's no win-win-solution! The Tripa concessions must simply get out, as they destroy an ecosystem unique in the world. Once Tripa is protected, funds will come to the government in Aceh. Just think of the immense carbon stock preserved in the peat".

We will keep you informed about any developments.

Serambi Online PT SPS Nagan Raya Terancam DitutupMEDAN – Perseroan Terbatas (PT) Surya Panen Subur (SPS), anak perusahan PT AAL (Astra Agro Lestari), yang mengelola sekitar 2.500 hektare lahan sawit di Desa Pulo Kruet, Kecamatan Alue Bilie, Kabupaten Nagan Raya, terancam ditutup. Kepala Proyek PT SPS Ir Djoniadi kepada Serambi, Kamis (29/10) mengaku tak kuat lagi membantu sekitar 700 orang di lokasi itu. “Benar, kalau dulu sekitar 700 orang masyarakat yang ada di sekitar wilayah itu kehidupannya kami tanggung, namun sekarang hanya tinggal sekitar 400 orang saja, dan kemungkinan dalam waktu dekat ini seluruhnya akan di PHK,” katanya.

Dia mengatakan, jika perusahaan tidak beroperasi maka dampaknya sangat besar terhadap masyarakat sekitar. “Bayangkan saja, warung-warung yang di sekitar itu saja bisa memperoleh pendapatan ratusan juta rupiah per bulannya,” ujar Djoni. Terhadap akan berhenti beroperasi perusahaan, Djoni yang didampingi Comodity Development area Manager PT SPS, Ir Basyir Hasan mengaku karena tidak tahan terus-terusan dipresure beberapa LSM setempat.

Makanya sebelum perusahaan ini ditutup, mereka masih terus mencari solusi untuk duduk bersama dengan berbagai LSM. Saat ini sudah mengarah untuk duduk bersama memikirkan jalan keluar untuk menyelamatkan ratusan masyarakat yang ada di sekitar itu. PT SPS sebuah perusahaan sawit yang menerima yang menerima HGU dari Pemkab Nagan Raya sekitar 5.000 hektar dan selebihnya diambil alih dari PT Agra Patra Citra tahun 2007. Hingga hari ini kata Djoni sudah tak lagi melakukan kegiatan. “Kami saat ini cuma merawat sekitar 2.500 hektar lahan. Ini baru tergarap. Kami belum membuka lahan, masih memperbaiki lahan yang rusak, yang kami beli dari Agra Patra Citra,” tegasnya.

Dikatakan, di daerah tersebut bukan SPS saja yang beroperasi. Sejak 1920-an hingga sekarang sudah ada perusahaan lain yang beroperasi di Rawa Tripa tersebut. “Kini, ada masyarakat yang memiliki modal besar, membuka lahan kebun di Rawa Tripa, kenapa tak disorot,” ujar Djoni. Ia masih memberi harapan jika masih ada solusi dan kesepakatan yang baik. Lebih dari 700 masyarakat nantinya bisa mereka rekrut kembali. “Nantilah kita lihat ya, bagaimana jalan keluarnya,” ujarnya.

Sementara itu, Dr Sofyan Tan, salahseorang dari LSM yang ikut mempresure kegiatan PT SPS selama ini yang dihubungi terpisah menampik disebutkan LSM yang dipimpinnya Paneco “menggoyang” beroperasinya PT SPS. “Kami bukan menggoyang, kami ingin menyelamatkan hutan Aceh. Jika Pemkab setempat ingin uang, ya silahkan, tapi rasakan nanti bila terjadi lagi tsunami,” ujarnya. Bagi Sofyan Tan, tidak ada kata-kata solusi. Rawa Tripa, katanya harus diselamatkan, SPS harus hengkang dari situ. “Rawa Tripa itu, satu-satunya kawasan di dunia ini yang harus dijaga. Rawa itu memiliki kekayaan alam yang tak ada di daerah lain,” katanya.

Tentu ujar Sofyan Tan, dengan menjaga hutan, uang pasti akan masuk ke kas daerah. “Di rawa itu ada penyerapan karbon yang lebih tinggi, yang bisa dihasilkan pemkab setempat dan Pemprov Aceh. Lebih baik perusahaan itu ditutup saja,” ujarnya.(lau) 

Orangutan Rescued From Oil Palm Plantation

Last Sunday the Orangutan Foundation responded to reports of a young female orangutan isolated in a tree in an oil palm plantation.

 Stranded orangutan in tree

The young  female orangutan climbed the fig tree when we arrived in the oil palm plantation area at Pandu senjaya village, Pangkalan Lada.

OF staff clim tree to rescue orangutan

Uduk and Yatno  climbed the tree, but the orangutan moved to the top of the tree. At 17.30 the orangutan made the third nest and prepared to sleep. It started to get dark, so Uduk climbed down from the tree. We decided to stop the rescue and drove back to Pangkalan Bun. A labourer from the oil palm plantation stayed and watched the orangutan during the night.

The next day at 05.00 Dr Fiqri, the Vet of Orangutan Foundation's Reintroduction Programme arrived and the orangutan was still in the tree. The labourer had started work that made the orangutan scared to come down.

orangutan in tree

The plantation labourer moved to a different area and the orangutan began to climb down. Dr Fiqri tried to catch her but she was very fast and moved to another tree, climbing right to the top.

The second rescue team arrived at 08.00, started to moved in on the second tree where the orangutan was.

Rescue accomplished

At 10.00 the orangutan climbed down and the rescue team succeeded to catch her with a net.

Orangutan rescue succeeded

Dr Fiqri immediately checked the orangutan and he found worms in the orangutan's faeces but on a whole the orangutan was in good condition.

Orangutan rescue succeeded

The young  female orangutan inside the transportation cage.

Orangutan rescue

We then had to carefully transfer the cage to the truck.

Orangutan rescue

The young female orangutan on the back of the truck with Dr Fiqri always keeping a close eye on the whole translocation process for safe and good handling.

Goodbye oil palm plantation

The young  female orangutan's view as she leaves the oil palm plantation. She will be freed in the Lamandau River Wildlife Reserve, a safer and healthier habitat, after she has received treatment for the worms in the Orangutan care Center and Quarantine (OCCQ) facility.

Dr Fiqri said approximately 3 or 4 days after treatment the female orangutan is ready to be translocated to the reserve where she will be monitored and protected. Please make a donation today to support our work in the Lamandau reserve - these orangutans deserve a life in the forest and the forests deserve orangutans.

Special thanks  go to; Eko Novi, the head of of Section II Nature Resources Conservation Agency of Central Kalimantan; Haryo, who gave the information about the young  female orangutan in the oil palm plantation; Sia and Polis (OCCQ  Staff) for good collaboration rescue ; Tigor (Orangutan Reintroduction Manager), Uduk (Orangutan Reintroduction Camp Coordinator), Fiqri (Orangutan Reintroduction Vet) and Yatno (Orangutan Reintroduction Driver) for the good work and dedication.

Thank you,

Hudi W Dewe

Orangutan Foundation - Programme Co-ordinator

Sumatran Orangutan Footage

Please follow this link to view a short piece on the Sumatran orangutans, with a focus on the Tripa Swamps, Aceh, Sumatra that appeared in Times.com. http://www.time.com/time/audioslide/0,32187,1926657,00.html

Protecting Lamandau River Wildlife Reserve’s Buffer Zone

Lamandau Ecosystem Conservation Partnership (LECP) recently helped facilitate meetings in order to increase protection to the Lamandau River Wildlife Reserve Buffer Zone Area.   Meeting of BKSDA and oil palm company

 Meeting between government and oil-palm companies faciliated by Lamandau Ecosystem Conservation Partnership (funded by the EU).

Finally, on July 13 2009, the Indonesian Government Agency for the Conservation of Natural Resources of Central Borneo (BKSDA) and two oil palm plantation companies, which have their plantation area close to or on the border of Lamandau River Wildlife Reserve area, signed the Memorandum of Understanding and Memorandum of Agreement, witnessed by Kotawaringin Barat and Sukamara District Government. The two companies are Sungai Rangit, Co. Ltd. and Bumitama Gunajaya Abadi, (BGA) Co. Ltd. 

According to Chief of BKSDA of Central Borneo, Mr. Mega Hariyanto, the memorandum is  the first Memorandum of Understanding in Indonesia on a conservation area’s buffer zone, that has been established by government and private sector.

signing MOU buffer zone 

The companies, BGA and Sungai Rangit, are willing not to plant and do any business activities within a radius of 500 meters outside of Lamandau River Wildlife Reserve buffer area. This is also very important as the reserve is a government designated orangutan release site. 

Below is a translated quotation from a local newspaper, Borneonews, on the memorandum assignation:  

BKSDA and Company made MoU on Conservation of Lamandau River Wildlife Reserve Thursday, July 23, 2009 |

'Borneo News Lamandau River Wildlife Reserve which is situated at Kotawaringin Barat, Central Borneo is a conservation area which needs a protection. Related to its conservation, the management of Lamandau River Wildlife Reserve under coordination of the Indonesian Government Agency for the Conservation of Natural Resources has made a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with two companies which operated side by side with Lamandau River Wildlife Reserve.  Namely, Bumitama Guna Jaya Abadi (BGA), Co. Ltd which is situated at Kotawaringin Barat and Sungai Rangit, Co. Ltd. which is situated at Sukamara District are the two companies.  There are six important points that concluded within the agreement. Which are: BGA and Sungai Rangit are prohibited to do land clearing for plantation or any purposes in surrounding Lamandau River Wildlife Reserve.  BGA and Sungai Rangit is willing not to plant and doing any business activities within radius of 500 meters outside of Lamandau River Wildlife Reserve buffer area.  Both BGA and Sungai Rangit have to cooperate and accompanied by BKSDA to prevent forest fire in surrounding Lamandau River Wildlife Reserve. BGA and Sungai Rangit are obligated to make a report to BKSDA on the existence of orangutan and other protected wildlife if they were entering in plantation area.  BGA and Sungai Rangit also support BKSDA of Central Borneo socialization activity to community, and both companies should report to BKSDA of Central Borneo if there are any indication of illegal activity arround of Lamandau Wildlife Reserve appears.  Chief of BKSDA of Central Borneo Mega Harianto explained that one of reason to establish the agreement is issue on emission reduction caused by global warming that will harm environment.  "This understanding and agreement is an initial point in building socialization on environment awareness surrounding Lamandau River Wildlife Reserve and both companies" Mega said.  Continued by Mega, the agreement is necessary established since management of Lamandau River Wildlife Reserve has been doing more effort to handle problems within its area, compared to manage Lamandau River Wildlife Reserve natural resources it self.  

In the other side, Second Assistance Regional Secretary of Kotawaringin Barat Regency, M. Sayrifudin emphasized that rules on area are necessary built by government at province or higher level in order to keep Lamandau River Wildlife Reserve from residence.'

Thank you,


Orangutan Foundation Liaison Office

Oil boom threatens the last orang-utans

This article was published in the Independent newspaper today and covers the urgent situation in the Tripa Swamps, Aceh Sumatra. Read the full article with photos 'Oil boom threatens the last orang-utans'. 'A famous British company, Jardines, is profiting as the lowland forest – which shelters the few remaining orang-utans – is razed to make way for massive palm oil plantations, reports Kathy Marks in Tripa, Indonesia.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Perched halfway up a tree near a bend in the Seumayan River, a young orang-utan lounges on a branch, eating fruit. In the distance, smoke rises from an illegal fire, one of dozens lit to wipe out the virgin rainforest and replace it with oil palm plantations.

It's burning season on Indonesia's Sumatra island, where vast tracts of vegetation are being torched and clear-felled to meet the soaring global demand for palm oil. The pace is especially frenzied in the peat swamp forests of the Tripa region, one of the final refuges of the critically endangered orang-utan – and a company owned by one of Britain's most venerable trading groups is among those leading the destructive charge.

Prized for its productiveness and versatility, palm oil is used in everything from lipstick and detergent to chocolate, crisps and biofuels. Indonesia and Malaysia are the world's biggest palm oil producers – but they also shelter the last remaining orang-utans, found only on Sumatra and Borneo islands in the same lowland forests that are being razed to make way for massive plantations.

In Indonesia, one of the largest palm oil companies is Astra Agro Lestari, a subsidiary of Astra International, a Jakarta-based conglomerate which is itself part of Jardine Matheson, a 177-year-old group that made a fortune from the Chinese opium trade and is still controlled by a Scottish family, the Keswicks, descendants of the original founders.

Conservation groups are targeting supermarkets in Britain to alert consumers to the effects of the palm oil explosion. But The Independent can reveal that Jardines, registered in Bermuda and listed on the London Stock Exchange, is implicated through Astra Agro in ripping out the final vestiges of orang-utan habitat.

Environmentalists are dismayed by the activities of Astra Agro, one of the main companies operating in Tripa under permits that were awarded during the 1990s by the notoriously corrupt Suharto government. They point out that Tripa belongs to the nominally protected Leuser Eco-System, renowned for its exceptional biodiversity, and claim that the plantation businesses are contravening a logging moratorium as well as engaging in illegal practices including burning land.

Greenpeace UK says: "It's scandalous that a British company is bankrolling the destruction of Indonesia's rainforests and peatlands. We need to see big firms like Jardines withdrawing investment from companies involved in rainforest clearance."

Orang-utans are vanishing at an alarming rate in Borneo but in Sumatra their situation is even more precarious. The Sumatran orang-utan – more intelligent and sociable than its Borneo cousin and with a unique culture of tool use – is likely to be the first great ape species to go extinct.

There are believed to be just 6,600 individuals left, mostly living in unprotected areas of Aceh province. Their lowland forests remained relatively undisturbed during the long-running separatist war in Aceh, but since a peace agreement was signed in 2005, it has been open season.

The primates are now splintered across 11 pockets of jungle, with only three populations considered viable. Another three, including Tripa, are borderline viable. Elsewhere, the orang-utans – which use sticks to extract insects from trees and seeds from fruit – are effectively extinct. As their territory shrinks, along with their food supplies, the apes are increasingly coming into conflict with humans. Farmers shoot those caught raiding crops; babies are captured and sold as pets. Adults discovered in oil palm plantations may be hacked to death with machetes.

In Tripa, more than half of the 62,000 hectares of ancient forest has gone. As well as being home to endangered species including the sun bear and clouded leopard, the peat swamps acted as a protective buffer during the 2004 tsunami. They also hold gigantic carbon stocks which are now being released, exacerbating climate change. "If you can't save Tripa, what can you save?" asks Denis Ruysschaert, forest co-ordinator for PanEco, a Swiss environmental organisation.

Sumatra is a beautiful island, with jungle-clad mountains and picturesque villages where long-horned water buffalo wander. But it is difficult not to be shocked by the colonisation of the landscape by one short, stumpy tree: oil palm. The monoculture is a desolate sight, stretching for miles, relieved only by charred hillsides dotted with tree stumps – cleared land awaiting yet more oil palms. Trucks rattle past, laden with the prickly red fruit from which oil is extracted. In Aceh, they call it the "golden plant" – the cash crop that is lifting the province out of poverty and helping it rebuild after the tsunami. "Recently there's a frenzy to plant oil palm," says Fransisca Ariantiningsih, who works for Yayasan Ekosistem Lestari (Yel), an Indonesian conservation group.

On Sumatra's west coast, a small-time farmer, Raluwan, is nursing his seedlings. Ten families, he explains, have logged and burnt 100 hectares of land. Each hectare will yield four tonnes of fruit, fetching 800 Rupiah (47 pence) a kilo."I used to grow chilli, but palm oil is a very economical crop," he declares. "You don't need much pesticide or fertiliser." Raluwan knows orang-utans live in the nearby forests. "I don't care," he says. "I've got to feed my family."

However, many are missing out as the industry grows to meet demand from Europe, the US, China and India. Most plantation workers are migrants from Java and in Tripa, communities that depend on the swamps for water, fish and medicinal plants are suffering.

Kuala Seumayan is hemmed in by plantations. Villagers say they no longer have space even to bury their dead. "Since the forest has been chopped down, it's difficult to get food," says one elder, Darmizi. In the Seumayan River, youngsters dive for freshwater clams while children squeal and splash in the placid brown waters. It's an idyllic scene, but something is missing: the sights and sounds of the forest. The only wildlife consists of a hornbill and two long-tailed macaques. Indrianto, a forestry manager, says: "This used to be all peat swamp, with many trees and animals. Now it's all oil palm. Before, I heard animal calls. Now I hear only chainsaws."

By chance, we spot an orang-utan in a solitary tree. Tripa has just 280 apes left. The young male, its fur glowing in the afternoon sun, curls one arm lazily over an upper branch.

A black slick floats on the water: sludge from one of many canals dug to drain the swamps. The arduous procedure is considered preferable to planting on fallow land, which would require negotiations with landowners. This way, the companies also get to sell the timber. As you fly over Tripa, the scale of destruction becomes clear. The green tangle of the forest, in all its riotous variety, abruptly gives way to giant rectangles, laid out with geometrical precision and studded with thousands of palms.

Riswan Zen, a spatial analyst for Yel, last flew over in 2007. "So much forest gone, and all in two years, my God," he says, gesticulating at a satellite imaging map. "If nothing is done, there'll be no forest left in one to two years."

Tripa, designated a priority conservation site by the UN, could hold 1,500 orang-utans if the forest was allowed to regenerate. Prospects seem slim, although Indonesia – one of the world's biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, thanks to deforestation – claims to be committed both to saving the orang-utan and combating climate change.

Fewer than a quarter of Indonesian producers have joined the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, a global organisation promoting sustainable practices. (Astra Agro is not among them.) Even in Aceh, where Governor Irwandi Yusuf, a former rebel leader, has proclaimed a "Green Vision", authorities seem unwilling to crack down on the powerful oil palm companies.

So far, Jardines, whose colourful history inspired a series of novels by James Clavell, has resisted pressure to rein in its Indonesian subsidiary. In a statement to The Independent, Jardines – whose interests include the Mandarin Oriental hotels and Asian branches of Starbucks and IKEA – said Astra Agro's plantations "function in full compliance with ... environmental impact studies".

Astra Agro says it plans to develop only half of its 13,000 hectares in Tripa because of conservation concerns, and it denies any illegal activity.

Ian Singleton, a Briton who heads PanEco's Sumatran Orang-utan Conservation Programme, has no doubt that oil palm is the biggest threat to the orang-utan: "I see the orang-utan as a test case. Are we serious about trying to conserve the planet's eco-systems? If we are, let's prove it by saving a species like the orang-utan. We know where the orang-utans are; all we have to do is protect the forests. If we're serious about conservation, this is where we start."

At a glance: Jardine Matheson

*Founded by two Scottish traders in Canton, China in 1832, it was the first British trading company to smash the East India Company's Asian monopoly.

*Founder William Jardine was known as "the iron-headed old rat" for his toughness and asperity.

*The company's fortunes were founded on smuggling huge quantities of opium into China, creating millions of addicts.

*When the Chinese fought back, Jardine persuaded the British government to launch the First Opium War against China.

*Astra Agro, a subsidiary of the company, claims that "concern for the environment" is "an integral part of all the company's activities".

Destruction of the Tripa Peat Swamp Forest - Orangutan Habitat

At the beginning of the 1990's the Tripa Swamp Forests, on the west coat of Aceh (island of Sumatra) had approximately 1,500 Sumatran orangutans. Sumatran orangutans are listed as critically endangered. Today, the remaining Tripa Swamps that are being converted to oil palm plantations contain only an estimated 250 orangutans. It is crucial for the future of the Sumatran orangutan species to save this population's precious habitat. Adult Male Sumatran Orangutan

Adult Male Sumatran Orangutan.

Please take some time to watch this video Destruction of the Tripa Peat Swamp Forest (Aceh) made by PanEco. It was filmed in the Tripa region of Aceh Sumatra. It features local people voicing their concern about the impact of the palm oil business on their daily lives.

Ian Singleton, Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme's (SOCP) Director of Conservation, blogged about the situation in Tripa in November. Read his post Save The Tripa Swamps to find out more.

Thank you.

Indonesian Govt to allow peatland plantations

The article below appeared in the National section of the Jakarta Post on Friday 13th February and it causes great reason for concern. Govt to allow peatland plantations

Adianto P. Simamora , THE JAKARTA POST , JAKARTA | Fri, 02/13/2009 10:02 AM | National

The Agriculture Ministry will issue a decree to allow businesses to dig up the country’s millions of hectares of peatland for oil palm plantations.

Gatot Irianto, the ministry’s head of research and development, said his office was currently drafting a ministerial decree that would explain in detail the mechanism to turn the peatland areas into oil palm plantations, a move that many say will further damage the country’s environment.

“We still need land for oil palm plantations. We must be honest: the sector has been the main driver for the people’s economy,” he said Thursday on the sidelines of a discussion about adaptation in agriculture, organized by the National Commission on Climate Change.

The draft decree is expected to go into force this year.

“We’ve discussed the draft with stakeholders, including hard-line activists, to convince them that converting peatland is safe,” he said.

“We promise to promote eco-friendly management to ward off complaints from overseas buyers and international communities.”

Indonesia is currently the world’s largest crude palm oil (CPO) producer, and is expected to produce about 19.5 million tons this year.

Overseas buyers, however, have complained about Indonesia’s CPO products, saying they are produced at the expense of the environment.

Activists point to the massive expansions of plantations, including in peatlands, for the deaths of large numbers of orangutans in Kalimantan and Sumatra and for releasing huge amounts of carbon emissions into the atmosphere.

Indonesia has about 20 million hectares of dense, black tropical peat swamps — formed when vegetation rots — that are natural carbon storage sinks.

A hectare of peatland can store between 3,400 and 4,000 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), but emits a much larger amount when burned.

Asked about the contribution to global warming, Gatot said trees planted in peatlands would absorb greenhouse gas emissions.

“The peatland will produce emissions only in the opening of the land, but this will be reabsorbed after new trees are planted,” he said.

However, a World Bank report from 2007 showed Indonesia was the world’s third biggest carbon emitter after the US and China, thanks mainly to the burning of peatlands.

A Wetlands International report from 2006 said Indonesia’s peatlands emitted around 2 billion tons of CO2 a year, far higher than the country’s emissions from energy, agriculture and waste, which together amount to only 451 million tons.

The country would have ranked 20th in the global carbon emitter list if emissions from peatlands were not counted.

The ministerial decree is being drafted at a time when President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is still preparing a decree on peatland management in an effort to help combat global warming.

The draft of the presidential decree, drawn up in 2007, calls for tightened supervision on the use of peatlands across the country.

The cost of the biofuel boom on Indonesia’s forests

The cost of the biofuel boom on Indonesia's forests. The clearing of Indonesia's rainforest for palm oil plantations is having profound effects – threatening endangered species, upending the lives of indigenous people, and releasing massive amounts of carbon dioxide, writes Tom Knudson from Yale Environment 360, part of the Guardian Environment Network.

This interesting and informative article appeared in the guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 21 January 2009. Here is an extract from the article featuring Stephen.

"This isn't mowing your lawn or putting up a factory on the outskirts of town," said Stephen Brend, a zoologist and field conservationist with the London-based Orangutan Foundation. "It's changing everything as far as the eye can see."

Like tigers, orangutans — which are found only in Sumatra and Borneo — are also being nudged into increasingly isolated population units by rain forest destruction. Their numbers are dropping, too. But because there are more of them — between 45,000 and 69,000 in Borneo and 7,300 in Sumatra — extinction is not an imminent threat.

"They are still going to be in the wild, but in fragmented populations that can never meet," Brend told me one evening. "And if it's reduced to that, we've just lost everything. It's not only the orangutans. It's what you lose alongside them — the birds, insects, pollinators, all the environmental services that forests give, as well as a thing of beauty."

Indonesia has long been known for its heavy-handed logging and plantation clearing. Rain forests fall faster in Indonesia, in fact, than almost anywhere else on earth. But Riaz Saehu, a spokesman for the Indonesia Embassy in Washington, D.C., told me that under the country's new president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who took power in October 2004, the era of widespread clearing for oil palm may be coming to a close.

"There is an effort to reduce plantation expansion," Saehu said. "What we do now is basically to promote sustainability."

Many scientists are skeptical. "After 23 years there, I must say they can talk the talk but never walk the walk," Lisa Curran, director of Yale University's Tropical Resources Institute, told me in an e-mail. "The richest folks in Indonesia are owners of these oil palm plantations, so the corruption and patronage are linked to the very top of the food chain and power structures."

In 2006, Curran was awarded a so-called MacArthur genius award for her work on deforestation in Indonesia. "Oil palm is a disaster all the way around for biodiversity if converted from logged forest or peat swamp," she said. "Oil palm is fine if they actually put it on totally degraded lands – but they don't." Read the full article

Volunteering in Belantikan - A Dayak Perspective

During our time in Belantikan we were also fortunate enough to have the opportunity to have some long conversations with some of the older villagers about their way of life. We visited the ladang of Pak Taryom outside the village of Nanga Matu, to see the new crops he is cultivating with Yayorin’s help and find out how their new methods are bringing benefits to the area. Pak Taryom

Pak Taryom in his ladang near Nanga Matu, cultivation here has been much changed with Yayorin's help

Pak Taryom also explained to us about the traditions and ceremonies of the Dayak people. His brother, Pak Maju, is the last man of Nanga Matu refusing to convert to one of the five state approved faiths of Indonesia and still clinging to Kaharingan – the traditional Dayak religion. He is also the father of Yayorin’s cook Ani, the youngest of his seven daughters.

Pak Maju lives outside Nanga Matu and, on our last day in Belantikan, we went to visit him at his ladang tucked away inside the forest. He’s 58 years old and still working in the fields. We found him sat under a tarpaulin sheet in the centre of his ladang, a thin line of smoke twisting to the sky from the fire he was sitting by chewing tobacco rolled in leaves, a rifle and a long knife by his side. I got a little perturbed at one stage during our conversation when he turned to me and mimed pulling off my head and drew his knife. Although it turned out, via translation, that he was just explaining that when a Dayak is angry they can pull off an enemy’s head with their bare hands without recourse to a blade.

Pak Maju

Pak Maju - Nanga Matu's last adherent of the Kaharingan religion in his ladang

Pak Maju also told us how the villagers of Nanga Matu and Bintang Mengalih still come to see him and ask him to summon the spirits to grant their wishes. Nevertheless, it seemed to me that he could accept the end of the Kaharingan culture, religion being in his mind a matter of personal choice. He could not, however, accept the destruction of the forest. When we asked him what he thought of it he told us that the balance of life has been upset and ‘when the trees and the hills are all gone [to logging and mining] the people will all die.’. The world around Pak Maju is changing so fast that his fears for the forest, and everything that lives within it, could be realised within his lifetime.

We left Belantikan full of great memories. The work of the Orangutan Foundation, Yayorin and the local communities to protect this area for the benefit of people, orangutans and the forest continues.

Thank you,


Volunteering in Belantikan - The Morning Commute

Its 6:30 on the 3rd December and we’re on our morning commute to work. Our boat is cutting its way through the rapids of the river and we’re on the look out for crocodiles lurking on the banks. morning commute - belantikan

Morning commute - the rapid at Nanga Matu the starting point for the morning commute to work!

On the river - Belantikan

On the river - mist over the Belantikan river on the early morning journey to work.

On this early morning a mist still hangs over the top of the forest-covered hills on either side of the river. All around us the forest still thrives, providing sufficient sustenance for both the huge range of wildlife and the small village communities that have made this beautiful corner of Kalimantan their home. We are on the way to teach in one of these villages, Kahingai, and it’s the most incredible commute to work I could ever imagine, but sad too to think what this might be like in five years time if the fate of the forest here follows much of the rest of Kalimantan.

Our journey up to Belantikan from Pangkalan Bun, one month ago, showed us what the future might hold for the forest here. Passing us on the road heading back to town were the biggest trees I’ve ever seen, all stacked up two by two on the trucks that filed past in a long procession. Further piles of enormous dead trunks, neatly stripped of all unnecessary leaves and branches, lay by the side of the road awaiting transportation.

Logging concession - destruction of the forest on the road to Belantikan

Logging concession - destruction of the forest on the road to Belantikan

Rampant logging was only part of the problem; most of the journey out was through oil palm plantations, with the neat ranks of oil palm advancing into the former territory of the wild forest. The new plantation is a parody of the original forest, providing no home to the orangutan or other animals, and when the planters have finished they leave a land degraded that can never become forest again. If Borneo was once a Garden of Eden then what has been done to the trees here makes stealing a bit of fruit look very innocent indeed.

oil palm plantations en route to Belantikan

Oil Palm Plantations on the way to Belantikan (Photo: Orangutan Foundation)

We were fortunate enough on our journey up to Belantikan to have an unscheduled overnight stop off in a richer part of the jungle when our van, swerving to avoid a fallen tree, got stuck in the mud.

Van stuck in ditch

Our accomodation for a night in the jungle, a van stuck in a ditch.

The accommodation, on the back seat of a van sunken on one side into a deep muddy ditch, wasn’t the most comfortable, but it was amazing to wake up with the dawn to a chorus of gibbons in the trees overhead. We were also lucky enough to see a deer flash across our path to disappear into the trees on the other side of the road. We were still in the territory of the logging concession that envelops Belantikan, but in a relatively untouched part of the forest. A well-policed logging concession can actually be considered the lesser of three evils, and there are fears of what might happen to Belantikan when the concession expires in 2012 if the twin terrors of illegal logging and palm oil move in en masse. It raises the question, what will be left when the children we are teaching today have grown up?