Save the last orangutan refuge

Flames, as far as the eye can see. More than 100 fires have blazed across Tripa within a week. The forest, one of the last refuges for the endangered Sumatran orangutans, is at great risk. If the accountable palm oil corporation is not stopped, they could disappear completely by the end of 2012. Please help the orangutans.

Two young orangutans in the rainforest on Sumatra, Indonesia The Sumatra orangutans are in great danger (Photo: Jay Ullal)

Flames, as far as the eye can see. More than 100 fires have blazed across Tripa within a week. This forest, which is one of the last refuges for the endangered Sumatran orangutans, is at great risk. If the accountable oil palm corporation is not stopped, these great apes could disappear completely by the end of 2012. They need our help urgently. 

The Tripa forest is home to many rare species, including the densest population of the last remaining 6,600 Sumatran orangutans that enjoy feeding on the lucious vegetation here. But Indonesia is about to sound the death knell for the Tripa forest.  

This court decision is literally about life and death

Tripa

Three quarters of this conservation area have already given way to oil palm plantations. And the destruction is moving along. One of the main actors is oil palm corporation PT Kallista Alam, who is cutting down and burning the precious forest as you read these lines. Kallista even received an official permission – despite a two year moratorium on forest clearance. 

Indonesia's environmental NGO Walhi, along with local people, have filed a lawsuit against these cut-and-burn activities. The court hearing is currently taking place.

Update: The case is set to move to High Court.

This case could set a precedent. Reconfirmation of the oil palm corporation could resemble a death sentence for the remaining forest. 

More information: Carbon sink Tripa swamp 

Please help to save Tripa and the Sumatran orangutans.

Carbon sink Tripa swamp

Tripa is one of the last peat swamp forests on the west coast of Aceh in Sumatra. Demolishing this swamp results in the release of vast amounts of carbon dioxide. This violates the international agreement signed by Indonesia. Due to the rampant destruction of its forests, Indonesia currently ranges among the worst climate offenders.

Enormous release of greenhouse gas

For agricultural use, oil palm corporations drain the soil and let the turf dry out. Earth-bound carbon oxidizes and turns into carbon dioxide. This becomes part of the atmosphere and contributes to the heating up of the planet. Logging and draining effectively produce up to 25 percent of all global greenhouse gases.

Overall, the release of 120 million tons of CO2 could be prevented if no new plantations were built in Tripa for the next 30 years.

The forgotten moratorium

Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has issued a moratorium on logging for the entire state. This was part of a one billion dollar deal with Norway in order to reduce the emission of greenhouse gas. The local authorization for the current deforestation that oil palm corporation Kallista Alam received, was granted by Governor Irwardi Yusuf. The same man who had formerly pronounced a moratorium on logging for the whole of Aceh. A variety of sources have reported that the oil palm company exerted great pressure on the decision makers in Aceh and Jakarta.

Animals and people are suffering

The peat swamp forests are home to elefants, tigers, rhinos and of course orangutans. Furthermore they provide drinking water and fish as well as plants for food and medicine for the local people. Increasingly occuring floods and droughts, as a result of a disrupted ecosystem, pose a great challenge to the locals. The next tsunami could turn out a deadly threat for thousands as the natural protective barrier has disappeared. Here is a short documentary voicing the worries of the people concerned:

Further information and links

Many thanks to Peter Jaeggi for providing us with vital information.

a orangutan baby These orangutans need our protection

Apr 4, 2012

Aceh judges refuse to rule over Tripa Case

In the case of the deforestation of the protected Tripa peat swamps, the indonesian court announced on Tuesday, 3rd of April, that it was unable to rule as the parties involved should have attempted mediation first. The conservationists who brought the case to court fear for the fate of the orangutans and have announced to appeal to the High Court.

In the case of the deforestation of the protected Tripa peat swamps, the Indonesian court announced on Tuesday, 3rd of April, that it was unable to rule as the parties involved should have attempted mediation first. The conservationists who brought the case to court fear for the fate of the orangutans and have announced to appeal to the High Court.

The plaintiffs, local environmentalists, were far from convinced by the court's arguments: "I suspect the judge was feeling caught in the middle between heavy political pressure in Aceh and the massive campaign overseas, and effectively did a 'Pontius Pilate' and just washed his hands of the case", landscape protection specialist Graham Usher says. “If this legal challenge had no legal basis, then why wasn’t it rejected at the beginning?” fumed T. Muhammad Zulfikar, Director of the environmental oragnization WALHI.  “There is no doubt we will be appealing this appalling decision."

Public protest is now more important than ever   

WALHI is now moving on to the High Court. Cause for complaint was the official concession the oil palm corporation PT Kallista Alam received from the governor of Aceh. This allows the company to cut-and-burn the precious forest and thus to threaten one of the last habitats of the endangered orangutans. Public outrage is now more important than ever, to ensure that Indonesia's environmental laws finally are enforced, WALHI pointed out. So far more than 30,000 people from all over the world have protested and signed a petition.

The deforestation is a blatant contradiction of Indonesia's proclaimed climate protection goals. In fact, the emission of climate gases was supposed to be reduced by 26 percent. The one billion dollar package Norway had promised to Indonesia in return for climate protection, might be put into question.

While the jurisprudence has chosen a very leisurely pace, huge man made fires have blazed across Tripa in the last days. This area has long been recognized as a UNEP/UNESCO Great Ape Survival Partnership Priority Site for Great Ape Conservation. If the deforestation in favour of oil palm plantations is not stopped, the critically endangered Sumatra orangutans might disappear forever by the end of 2012. 

Take action now.

To
The Council of Judges at the
Pengadilan Tata Usaha Negara (PTUN)
Di Banda Aceh
Fax: + 62 651 27883

Copy
President of the Republic of Indonesia
Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono
JL. Veteran No. 18
Jakarta 10110, Indonesien
Fax. +62 21 34834759

Attn: The competent judges for the case No. 19/G/2011/PTUN-Banda Aceh

Dear Sirs,

in relation to the case of the destruction of the Tripa peat land ecosystem, filed by the Nongovernmental Organization Walhi against the governor of Aceh, Irwandi Yusuf, concerning his official permission to build an oil palm plantation in the peat swamps (No. 525/BP2T/5322/2011), I would like to convey the following:

1. My strong support for efforts to save the Tripa peat lands in Nagan Raya and Aceh Barat Daya Districts as an area for environmental protection that supports the livelihoods of the local people of Tripa in particular, and the people of Aceh in general, and also provides important ecosystem services such as protection against tsunamis and floods, as well as carbon sequestration, as an important component of the Government’s general commitment.

2. That the Tripa peat swamps have been designated as a National Strategic Area for Environmental Protection (as part of the Leuser Ecosystem) in the National Spatial Plan, and as an Area for Environmental Protection in the Regional Spatial Plan of Sumatra, and these plans mandate their protection;

3. My great concern at the condition of the Tripa peat swamps that continue to be unilaterally destroyed by oil palm companies with no consideration for the safety of local people of Tripa and the sustainability of the environment. Further we would like to stress that, based on the findings of Sawit Watch that oil palm companies regularly have deleterious impacts, for example at least 28 cases of social conflict were recorded in 2011, forest destruction, and pollution, we do not wish to see such conditions repeated in the Tripa peat swamps.

Based on the above, we respectfully request the President’s consideration of, and support for, efforts to save this area, both for the sake of the safety of the local communities and the preservation of the local environment, and as a contribution to the commitment to the reduction of carbon emissions that you have so forcefully made.

In summary I would like to ask the honourable judges of the court of Banda Aceh, who are appointed to decide the case No. 19/G/2011/PTUN which was filed by the complainant Walhi against the governor of Aceh, Irwani Yusuf, who issued the official approval 525/BP2T/5322/2011, to strive for a righteous verdict. This has to guarantee the safety of the local people and stipulate the conservation of the area in question.

I would like to thank you for your kind attention to the above matters,

yours faithfully,

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