Deforestation inside a pulpwood concession that overlaps with key orangutan habitat in Indonesian Borneo has escalated in current months.Concession holder PT Mayawana Persada cleared 14,000 hectares (34,600 acres) of forest between January and August, or 40 instances the scale of New York’s Central Park, of which 13,000 hectares (32,100 acres) have been areas recognized as orangutan habitat.In July alone, the corporate cleared 4,970 hectares (12,300 acres), the very best month-to-month deforestation determine recorded.
BALIKPAPAN, Indonesia — The deforestation charge has surged in a key habitat for critically endangered orangutans in Indonesian Borneo, with an space of forest 40 instances the scale of New York City’s Central Park cleared this 12 months alone, unbiased monitoring reveals.
The habitat overlaps with the pulpwood concession of the corporate PT Mayawana Persada, which cleared 14,000 hectares (34,600 acres) of forest between January and August this 12 months. That makes the corporate the most important deforester of any forestry concession holder in Indonesia this 12 months, in accordance with monitoring by the analysis consultancy Aidenvironment.
In July alone, the corporate cleared 4,970 hectares (12,281 acres), the very best month-to-month deforestation determine, and greater than the full land space cleared within the concession within the 5 years from 2016 to 2020. In whole, Mayawana Persada has cleared 34,039 hectares (84,112 acres) of forest since 2016 —almost twice the realm of Washington, D.C. — out of its 136,710-hectare (337,818-acre) concession.
Deforestation inside Mayawana Persada’s concession in West Kalimantan from July to September 2023. Image courtesy of Aidenvironment.
Mayawana Persada’s forest clearing has intensified in current months regardless of rising public scrutiny of the concession, which largely overlaps with important orangutan habitat and carbon-rich peatlands.
Nearly 65% of the concession is formally acknowledged as appropriate habitat for the critically endangered Bornean orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus); of the 14,000 hectares deforested this 12 months, 13,000 hectares (32,100 acres) have been areas recognized as orangutan habitat.
The pattern has sparked alarm as a result of the nice apes already face “a particularly excessive threat of extinction within the wild,” stated Aidenvironment Asia program director Chris Wiggs.
The Bornean orangutan inhabitants has declined quickly prior to now few many years, with almost 150,000 people misplaced between 1999 and 2015. By 2016, it was estimated that solely 57,350 Bornean orangutans remained within the wild.
A 2011 research estimated that between 2,000 and three,000 Bornean orangutans are immediately killed yearly, and a brand new research discovered they proceed to be killed, with 30% of 79 villages throughout Indonesian Borneo having proof of killing within the final 5 to 10 years.
As lengthy because the orangutans proceed to be threatened by killing and a shrinking habitat, it’s essential to protect the habitat that’s left and cease deforestation inside concessions like Mayawana Persada’s, Wiggs stated.
“Considering that orangutans are categorized as critically endangered on the IUCN’s Red List, with a continued declining inhabitants pattern, it’s of utmost significance that we defend remaining orangutan habitat on Borneo, with a give attention to halting deforestation,” he advised Mongabay.
While an orangutan inhabitants estimate for the concession doesn’t exist, there may be proof of the species inhabiting the realm, Wiggs stated.
The concession is surrounded by areas which can be confirmed to have an orangutan presence. It neighbors the 108,000-hectare (267,000-acre) protected space of Gunung Palung National Park, residence to an estimated 2,500 orangutans.
To the south of the concession is the Sungai Paduan protected peat forest. The 6,788-hectare (16,774-acre) space consists principally of peat swamp rainforest and has been recognized as one of many pockets of orangutan populations.
All these point out the presence of orangutans inside Mayawana Persada’s concession, Wiggs stated.
There are additionally different elements that point out the presence of orangutans within the concession, in accordance with the Palung Foundation, an NGO that helps orangutan conservation efforts in Gunung Palung National Park and the Sungai Paduan protected peat forest. For one, 60% of the concession is classed as peatlands. Peat forests are recognized to be an essential habitat for orangutans, as they supply a comparatively steady year-round provide of meals for the apes.
“I may predict that there are orangutans [in the concession] as a result of it types a single panorama [with Gunung Palung National Park and the Sungai Paduan forest], and it has peat forests, that are appropriate for orangutan habitat,” Palung Foundation area director Edi Rahman advised Mongabay.
Palung Foundation employees have additionally heard male orangutans’ distinctive calls from the path of the concession whereas they have been conducting surveys in Sungai Paduan, Edi stated. The males make lengthy calls to let the females know the place they’re positioned and to warn different males in opposition to coming into their territory.
The NGO employees additionally discovered proof of different species dwelling within the concession, such because the sound of the Bornean white-bearded gibbon (Hylobates albibarbis), the sight of helmeted hornbills (Rhinoplax vigil), and the claw marks of the solar bear (Helarctos malayanus), all threatened species.
Edi stated the employees couldn’t affirm the presence of the orangutan within the concession as a result of they didn’t have entry to the realm.
Forest clearing by Alas Kusuma’s PT Mayawana Persada in Kalimantan, Indonesia. Image courtesy of Aidenvironment.
Call for cooperation
The Palung Foundation has despatched a letter to Mayawana Persada, inviting the corporate to cooperate on orangutan conservation throughout the larger panorama, together with the concession, Edi stated.
But the corporate hadn’t responded, he stated. A Palung Foundation official visited Mayawana Persada’s workplace within the metropolis of Pontianak to debate potential collaboration, however the firm official answerable for conservation wasn’t there on the time.
Edi stated his employees additionally attended a conservation workshop held by Tanjungpura University in Pontianak earlier this 12 months, at which a Mayawana Persada consultant had been scheduled to talk.
“We thought the workshop was an ideal second to satisfy and focus on [with the company], however as soon as we have been there, the corporate didn’t attend [the workshop] regardless that its administration was presupposed to be among the many audio system,” Edi stated.
Collaboration with Mayawana Persada would allow conservation employees to hold out joint surveys of the orangutan inhabitants within the concession, he stated. That’s essential to guard any of the remaining nice apes dwelling within the space, which the corporate is legally required to do anyway, Edi stated.
The continued lack of orangutan habitat contained in the concession means the apes may have much less house to stay, roam and search for meals, he stated.
“When the corporate clears [forests], a few of the wildlife will run [to neighboring forests],” Edi stated. “This implies that the Sungai Paduan forest will turn into crowded with orangutans, which may result in elevated conflicts among the many apes.”
These neighboring forests may additionally not have sufficient meals to maintain the orangutan inhabitants displaced from contained in the concession, he added.
The ongoing deforestation additionally threatens to chop off corridors that the apes use to maneuver from one space to a different, Edi stated. At the identical time, the clearing will allow larger entry for folks to enter into the encircling forests and orangutan habitat that had remained intact up to now, he stated, placing additional stress on the orangutan inhabitants within the Sungai Paduan protected forest.
Besides being a key habitat for orangutans and different wildlife, tropical peat ecosystems play a important local weather position due to the carbon they retailer: double the CO2 present in all of Earth’s temperate and tropical forests.
Clearing these would ecosystems imply releasing huge quantities of carbon into the ambiance and accelerating the speed of worldwide warming, Wiggs stated.
Peatlands additionally play a vital position in water regulation by performing as a sponge, absorbing and retaining extra water and lowering the danger of downstream flooding.
“Thus, safeguarding remaining peatlands, particularly these with substantial peat domes, just isn’t solely important for preserving biodiversity but in addition for shielding human communities in opposition to flooding occasions and mitigating local weather change by sequestering carbon,” Wiggs stated.
Both intact and logged forests are essential habitats for Borneo’s inhabitants of orangutans. Image by Rhett A. Butler/Mongabay.
Mayawana Persada’s pulpwood concession additionally overlaps with the ancestral territory of the Indigenous Dayak group of Kualan Hilir, rights activists say. According to Indonesia’s principal alliance of Indigenous peoples, AMAN, the concession occupies 3,650 hectares (9,019 acres) of Dayak territory.
Fransiskus Padma, an Indigenous activist at AMAN’s youth wing in West Kalimantan, stated the Dayak group has lengthy protected the forest, however is now susceptible to dropping the rights to its ancestral lands.
“Right now, the Indigenous peoples of Kualan Hilir are underneath immense stress,” he stated.
Fransiskus stated the group met with Mayawana Persada’s representatives on May 11, 2020, throughout which the corporate agreed to relinquish a part of its concession to the group. The Dayak group additionally imposed customary sanctions and fines on the corporate in September 2022.
However, Mayawana Persada ignored the settlement and refused to pay the fines, prompting the Indigenous group to stage plenty of protests.
On June 29 this 12 months, native NGO LinkAR Borneo reported that group members blocked a fleet of bulldozers trying to clear timber within the firm’s concession.
With no signal of forest clearance actions stopping anytime quickly, Fransiskus stated, Mayawana Persada should halt all actions and respect the settlement and the rights of the Dayak folks.
“We ask [the company] to instantly get off of [our] ancestral lands,” he stated.
Indigenous Dayak group of Kualan Hilir protests in opposition to industrial forest concession Mayawana Persada in West Kalimantan. Image courtesy of AMAN.
Palm oil connection
Mayawana Persada’s concession was once held by Alas Kusuma, a secretive Indonesia timber and oil palm concession developer. In the newest SPOTT evaluation, which evaluates transparency amongst commodities firms, Alas Kusuma got here away with a low rating of 14.8%.
The firm underwent a change of possession in January 2023, with 50% of the shares now belonging to a Malaysian holding firm referred to as Green Ascend (M) Sdn. Bhd. The remaining 50% of shares stay with Alas Kusuma.
Green Ascend is linked to a different Malaysian holding firm, Acapalm Plantation, by way of key personnel.
Acapalm Plantation is itself concerned within the administration of Nusantara Fiber, which is linked in numerous methods to Singapore-based paper and palm oil conglomerate Royal Golden Eagle (RGE), owned by Indonesian billionaire Sukanto Tanoto.
RGE’s pulp and paper arm, APRIL (Asia Pacific Resources International Limited), stated it had no provider relationship with Mayawana Persada.
Besides working the pulpwood plantation in Mayawana Persada’s concession, Alas Kusuma additionally has a big footprint within the palm oil trade, with an estimated 12,400 hectares (30,600 acres) of planted oil palms in West Kalimantan.
This implies that any purchaser of palm oil from Alas Kusuma’s oil palm plantations can also be uncovered to deforestation from Alas Kusuma’s pulpwood plantation managed by Mayawana Persada, Aidenvironment stated. For the consumers, this places them in violation of their very own zero-deforestation insurance policies, also referred to as “no deforestation, no peat and no exploitation,” or NDPE.
That’s why it’s essential to use NDPE insurance policies at a company-wide stage, not at commodity stage, since there are circumstances the place firms can nonetheless promote palm oil to consumers regardless that they’re clearing forests for his or her pulpwood plantations.
Applying NDPE insurance policies at a company-wide stage implies that palm oil consumers must act in opposition to firms with a deforestation threat on industrial forest concessions, Aidenvironment stated.
It pointed to precedents the place palm oil consumers efficiently prevented deforestation this manner. In 2020, palm oil consumers warned Malaysian firm United Malacca that its plan to clear a densely forested space within the central a part of Indonesia’s Sulawesi Island could be a violation of NDPE commitments. The warning succeeded, as United Malacca determined to halt forest clearing pending an evaluation to determine areas with excessive conservation worth (HCV). To date, clearing has nonetheless not resumed.
“Buyers uncovered to Alas Kusuma’s deforestation ought to present an analogous stage of NDPE coverage dedication,” Aidenvironment stated.
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Massingham, E., Meijaard, E., Ancrenaz, M., Mika, D., Sherman, J., Santika, T., … Dean, A. J. (2023). Killing of orangutans in Kalimantan — Community views on incidence and drivers. Conservation Science and Practice. doi:10.1111/csp2.13025
Banner picture: Borneo orangutan at Sepilok Rehabilitation Center in Sabah, Borneo. Image by Rhett A. Butler.
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