Orangutans – victims of “sustainable” palm oil

An unconscious orangutan is being carried on the shoulders of an activist Rescue of an orangutan by IAR activists ( © International Animal Rescue Indonesia )

The wholesale destruction of rainforests on Borneo for the palm oil plantations of Bumitama Gunajaya Agro (BGA) is threatening the survival of orangutans. BGA is a member of the RSPO – the organization issuing the label for supposedly "sustainable" palm oil. Please call for a stop to deforestation and an end to palm oil imports NOW!

Flattened rainforests, orphaned proboscis monkeys, emaciated orangutans – the Indonesian palm oil company BGA is leaving a trail of destruction in its wake. In West Kalimantan province, the company is clearing irreplaceable primary forest – the habitat of protected orangutans and proboscis monkeys – in violation of the standards of the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).

In April 2013, the NGOs Friends of Borneo and International Animal Rescue Indonesia filed an official complaint with the RSPO. We launched a petition at the time in support of their complaint.

In mid-November 2015, we received a letter from BGA requesting that we take down the petition. The problems of rainforest destruction that we criticized had allegedly been resolved and the company was now in compliance with RSPO standards. BGA assured us that it would "try" to do things right in future. The reports from our partners in Borneo paint a rather different picture.

Despite the promise to “do things right”, BGA continues to violate RSPO rules: on September 26, 2015, the NGO Link-AR Borneo and the community of Keklipor lodged a further complaint against unlawful activities by BGA on their land in West Kalimantan.

These and other cases are ample evidence that the RSPO seal is mere greenwashing. It does not prevent deforestation, loss of biodiversity, or even brutal land grabs against indigenous communities.

Please call for a stop to the destruction of Borneo's rainforests and the unbridled expansion of oil palm plantations.

Despite its ruthless practices, palm oil producer BGA has been a member of the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) since 2007. BGA’s customers include IOI, Wilmar and Sinar Mas, companies that sell the palm oil to European food and consumer goods manufacturers and biodiesel producers.

Additional information and images

Orangutans and biodiversity

The habitat of orangutans and the immense biodiversity of tropical rainforests are being irreparably destroyed for ever-larger palm oil plantations. The animals are not welcome on the plantation clearings, and would not be able to survive there. When summoned, the staff of International Animal Rescue Indonesia (IAR) therefore has no choice but to tranquilize the orangutans, capture them, and take them elsewhere.

Video report of the orangutan rescue by International Animal Rescue

Yet hardly any replacement habitats remain for the animals. Beyond the cleared rainforest, endless oil palm monocultures extend to the horizon. Throughout Indonesia and in neighboring Malaysia, rainforests are being cut down for ever more oil palm plantations. 

RSPO – "sustainable" palm oil

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) is an association on nearly 1,200 businesses – plantation companies, palm oil mills and traders, as well as their customers, including European food and consumer products companies such as Nestlé, Unilever and Henkel. A further dozen organizations with close ties to the industry, such as the WWF, serve as a fig leaf for the certification.

The RSPO does not rule out the destruction of rainforest land for new oil palm plantations. Only “high conservation value areas” (HCVAs) may not be cleared.

Rainforest Rescue is calling for the protection of all rainforest areas. The rainforests of Southeast Asia are home not only to orangutans, but to other endangered species such as proboscis monkeys and other primates, big cats such as tigers and clouded leopards, pygmy elephants, Sumatran rhinos, and many more. Many indigenous peoples and small farmers also rely on rainforests for their homes and livelihoods.

256 environmental, human rights and development organizations from around the world reject the RSPO as fraudulent labeling and greenwashing.

BGA: Bumitama Gunajaya Agro

The Bumitama Gunajaya Agro (BGA) palm oil company is part of the notorious Indonesian Harita Group, a conglomerate with mining (nickel, bauxite, coal), palm oil, tropical timber and cargo shipping interests. The Malaysian palm oil giant IOI, which also operates a major palm oil refinery in Rotterdam (Loders Croklaan) for the European market, holds a one-third stake in BGA.

To date, BGA has established 124,000 hectares of oil palm plantations at the expense of Indonesian rainforests in Borneo (West and Central Kalimantan) and Sumatra (Riau). The company has secured a further 65,000 hectares of land and is currently clearing around 13,000 hectares a year in order to cultivate oil palms.

Pictures

(Source: International Animal Rescue Indonesia IAR)

 

 

 

 

These photos were taken in March 2013 during IAR’s rescue of four orangutans on the BGA palm oil plantation concession in West Kalimantan.

Dec 9, 2015

The opaque tactics of the palm oil company BGA

We received a letter from the Indonesian palm oil company Bumitama Gunajaya Agro (BGA) requesting us to take down a petition our website. The company claimed that the issues of rainforest destruction we addressed in the petition had been resolved and compliance with the standards of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) had been assured. Our local partners tell a different story, however.

In April 2013, the organizations Friends of Borneo and International Animal Rescue Indonesia (IAR) lodged an official complaint with the RSPO. The reason: BGA had violated RSPO standards by clearing valuable rainforest habitat of protected orangutans and proboscis monkeys.

BGA, the palm oil division of the Indonesian corporation Bumitama Agri Ltd., has been an RSPO member since 2007.

Two and a half years (!) after the complaint, BGA now considers the case to be closed. Bremen Yong, BGA Group Head of Sustainability, wrote us claiming that the company had “taken necessary action to resolve the concerns raised”.

The RSPO audit apparently took place behind closed doors.The organizations that filed the complaint were neither consulted nor invited to contribute to the investigation. They therefore do not consider the issue to be resolved.

A meeting of various organizations with Bremen Yong on November 17, 2015, did not shed any further light on the matter. “BGA is now ‘trying’ to do things right”, a spokesperson of the environmentalists observed. “We don’t know if the actions they are planning will become a reality, but we will try to help wherever we can. But the fact remains that they have done a lot of bad and a lot of damage in the past.”

This includes the illegal clearing of 7,000 hectares of primary rainforest in Central Kalimantan, for which BGA was sentenced to a fine by the Indonesian Supreme Court in 2014.

The same year, the IAR was called to save a helpless orangutan from starving. He had spent months trapped on a tiny island of forest surrounded by a water-filled ditch in the middle of a newly planted BGA plantation.

Despite the promise to “do things right”, BGA continues to violate RSPO rules:on September 26, 2015, the NGO Link-AR Borneo and the community of Keklipor lodged a further complaint against unlawful activities by BGA on their land in West Kalimantan.

These and other cases are ample evidence that the RSPO seal is mere greenwashing. It does not prevent deforestation, loss of biodiversity, or even brutal land grabs against indigenous communities.

For more information, please read the current study by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA). A summary can be found here.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

“Sustainability seals” such as certification by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) cannot stop the clearance of rainforest land and destruction of biodiversity.

Most recently, Bumitama Gunajaya Agro (BGA), an Indonesian palm oil company, cut down vast tracts of rainforest in Borneo. The destruction of the ecosystem also means the demise of endangered animals such as orangutans.

In March 2013, four half-starved orangutans were rescued by International Animal Rescue Indonesia activists from a new clearing for oil palm plantations – as documented by the organization’s shocking photos and videos.

BGA is a member of the RSPO. BGA’s customers include IOI, Wilmar and Sinar Mas, companies that sell the palm oil to European food and consumer goods manufacturers and biodiesel producers.

The EU has recognized the RSPO as a certification system for sustainably produced biofuels, permitting RSPO palm oil to be used as an additive to diesel fuel.

Please put an end to rainforest deforestation and palm oil imports. In light of its environmental impact, palm oil has no place in our food, cosmetics or cleaning products, nor in the tanks of our vehicles.

Sincerely,

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