February 19, 2018

RAN reacts strongly to palm oil company initiative

JAKARTA ( - San Francisco-based environmental NGO Rainforest Action Network (RAN) has firmly declared that an initiative taken by PT ABN - a supplier linked to global palm oil supply chains - to rehabilitate the habitat of the Sumatran elephant in part of its concession in the Leuser Ecosystem which was cleared two years ago is too late. 

“PT ABN's latest comments about the need to restore the home range of the local herd of elephants is a position that the company needed to hold in June 2016 when it accelerated deforestation instead of halting clearance following the declaration of a moratorium on palm oil expansion by Acehnese leaders and Indonesia’s Environment and Forestry Minister in April 2016.” 

These blunt words were delivered by Gemma Tillack, RAN’s Forest Policy Director in early February, in response to PT ABN’s initiative, as previously reported by (Jan 22).

Tillack didn’t stop there, also taking the opportunity to caution stakeholders that “PT ABN is one of the worst offenders in the palm oil industry. This palm oil company is responsible for destroying a critical forest corridor for endangered Sumatran elephants in the Leuser Ecosystem.”

The Google Earth images below, presented by the spatial team, depict an area more than 400 soccer fields in size that was cleared by PT ABN after the Leuser Ecosystem palm oil expansion moratorium declaration had been made.

Tillack went on to emphasize that earnest efforts to identify, protect and restore elephant territories within palm oil concessions are desperately needed. 

“But in the case of companies like PT ABN, with such a well-documented history of non-compliance, the more important precedent to set is to cancel the permit and hold the company accountable for failing to abide by government instructions and for its role in the destruction of the Leuser Ecosystem,” she asserted. 

The declaration of a moratorium on palm oil expansion in the Leuser Ecosystem was made as a follow-up to the announcement of a national-scale moratorium by President Joko Widodo in mid-April 2016. Nonetheless, by the time this news report was posted, there still existed no legal basis for implementing this announcement. 

Plan moving forward 

When asked about the progress of its initiative to restore the Sumatran elephant’s home range in part of its concession, PT ABN confirmed that it had already identified part of the home range concerned, as earlier conveyed to (Feb 14).

“What has been identified at this early stage are 17 elephant trail coordinates supplemented by (appropriate) evidence at each coordinate point,” a PT ABN spokesperson explained by telephone.

The following four photographs represent examples of the evidence from the 17 coordinates identified by PT ABN at an early stage. These areas form the initial priorities for protection.

The PT ABN spokesperson added that the company owner’s message is clear in that all elephant crossing routes identified at this early stage should receive immediate protection. 

“If there are palm oil trees on these routes, they will have to be removed,” the spokeperson stated.

In his discussion with in the second week of January this year, PT ABN owner Mawardi pointed out that his initiative seeks to ensure that no elephants will die in his concession due to any disruption of their crossing routes associated with the presence of the PT ABN concession.

Mawardi also gave further justification of his company’s plan, saying “Naturally there will be pros and cons with this initiative. However, we are making sure that we will continue to make progress and move forward because we really do not want to hear of any elephants dying due to (the existence of) our palm oil concession."