October 1, 2019

Action plan for orangutans revoked for upgrade

JAKARTA ( - A recently-published Indonesian strategy and action plan for orangutan conservation (Apr 26) was legally revoked by Indonesian Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya in mid-September because its substance needs to be upgraded on the back of various recent developments.

This was confirmed by Wiratno, the Ministry's Director General of Nature Resources and Ecosystem Conservation, to (Sep 30) at the ministry building.

He stressed that it was imperative to incorporate President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo’s order on a permanent moratorium - which ended the granting of new permits in primary forests and peatlands - into the action plan revision process.

"Nearly 7 million hectares of orangutan habitat, equivalent to more than 43 times the size of London, are covered by the permanent primary forest and peatland moratorium map, which includes habitat for Sumatran, Tapanuli and Bornean orangutans," explained the director general.

"Our minister has ordered the integration of the permanent moratorium map into the process of revising the action plan as this represents a concrete move to ensure long-term efforts for the benefit of orangutan conservation in Indonesia," he added.

Recent law enforcement actions

In response to September’s haze-causing peat fires, the ministry’s law enforcement team has sealed several palm oil concessions inside and around West Kalimantan’s Sungai Putri landscape, the world’s largest habitat for Bornean orangutans, due to evidence of peat fires in these concessions.

The following USGS Landsat 8 images, prepared by the spatial team, show how the Bornean orangutan-inhabited peat forests, most of which lie in the PT MPK logging concession (delineated in yellow), are enshrouded in haze from peat fires.

The PT MPK logging concession, home to more than a thousand Bornean orangutans, was among the concessions sealed by the ministry even though relatively minor parts of it contained evidence of peat fires.

The actions taken by the ministry, in addition to their law enforcement function, were also largely aimed at ensuring that the companies concerned step in and take full responsibility for putting out fires as quickly as possible.

Orangutan habitats in existing concessions

Furthermore, Director General Wiratno will also oversee the incorporation of remaining orangutan habitats in existing palm oil and forestry concessions which have been earmarked for conservation.

“The extent is significant enough to be part of long-term conservation efforts for orangutans and their habitats from the corporate sector,” Wiratno asserted.

He also reminded that in September 2018, President Jokowi signed an order for a moratorium on palm oil expansion in areas that retain good forest cover, pointing out that this will also potentially add to the orangutan habitat area set aside for conservation purposes.

“We are talking realistically about saving the remaining orangutan habitat, even if it is unlikely that 100% of this remaining habitat can be maintained,” he explained.

“However, as the authorized ministry, we guarantee that Sumatran, Tapanuli and Bornean orangutans will not go extinct. One of the elements underlying this guarantee is that core parts of their habitats are covered in the permanent primary forest and peatland moratorium map,” the director general emphasized.