Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Make Way Jungle - We Want Oil !!!

On Location: Central Kalimantan, Borneo, July 2005

The New Forest of Indonesia - Oil Palm, Kalimantan 2005

This is the nursery for a new oil palm plantation. In the distance you can see the forest still standing. This nursery is smack in the middle of 30,000 hectares of primary forest that has been given as a concession to a PT Oil Palm group for conversion into an Oil Palm plantation.

This means that by the end of the year this land will have been logged of all its valuable hard wood trees. The land will then be totally clear cut, and the topsoil turned over. Not a tree will be left standing. The whole landscape will be empty. Then the palm oil will be planted.

This photo is tragic, not sweet. These orangutans should be with their mothers, but their mothers are dead. They are now cared for and in the process of rehabilitation through the dedicated work of BOSF. We are concerned however that there will be nowhere to release them if things don't change now.

The Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation rescue orangutans from the plantations in this area. They estimate that around 600 orangutans inhabit this area, earmarked for imminent conversion. The fragments of natural forest left are saturated - i.e. they have reached their carrying capacity for orangutans. Orangutans need large home ranges for their survival. Many of the animals living in this area will undoubtably die. Many more are likely to enter a life of misery in the illegal pet trade.

Driving through the rough jungle track on the back of a tractor we are surrounded by the doomed forest. I smell the sickly sweet smell of fermenting fruit. I look over to Melky from the rescue team: he nods - it is the smell of orangutan. It is right there in the trees nearby, or had been very recently. A rusa deer crosses our path and maroon leaf monkeys move in the trees. All this is about to be lost.

Eko, BOSF paramedic, logs a future rescue location

The situation is incredibly sad. Eko, a BOSF paramedic logs the position of the camp in his GPS system. He knows he will be returning in the months to come to rescue orangutans. But where will they go? Habitat is dissappearing too fast now. We are told at the rescue centre that they are reaching maximum capacity - too many orangutans are coming in. Their forest home needs to be protected right now.

The situation is simply crazy. It is not that land is at a premium for development. There are vast areas of land standing empty in Kalimantan. Huge expanses of grasslands that were once forest. No crops have been planted here, but still, the little primary forest left standing is at risk of conversion to oil palm. The simple reason for this is the value of the hardwoods these forests contain. It is a one time windfall, it is not sustainable, and it is a tragedy. Orangutans are not the only animals to suffer. We have chosen just one species as an example, a flagship, one of our closest cousins, and one with an uncertain future.

Things are not hopeless, but we need to make things change. Help us get this message heard.

Friday, September 23, 2005

The Oil for Ape Scandal - New Ape Alliance/FoE publication

"Palm-oil production is linked to species extinction, human rights abuse and worker exploitation. But there is not a single British supermarket that can guarantee that its products aren't fuelling the destruction. Most haven't even worked out where the palm oil in their products comes from."

Friends of the Earth's Executive Director (UK), Tony Juniper

"Governments in countries providing finance or a market for palm oil must legislate to make their corporations responsible and accountable for their impacts. If not, it is we who will have to explain to our children in a few years' time that the orang-utan became extinct, not because of a lack of knowledge, but because of corporate greed and a lack of political will."

Ian Redmond, Ape Alliance's Chairman and Chief Consultant to GRASP (UNEP/UNESCO Great Ape Survival Project)

"The orang-utan is endangered because of habitat loss. Today the greatest threat to orang-utan habitat is the continued expansion of oil-palm plantations. Palm oil is the greatest enemy of [the] orang-utan and their continued survival in the wild."

Professor Birute Galdikas, Orangutan Foundation International

Quotes taken from Helen Buckland's (BOS-UK) new report for Friends of the Earth:
The Oil for Ape Scandal, how palm oil is threatening the orang-utan

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Working in Sumatra - huge thanks to the STCP

We spent a fortnight working together with the Sumatran Tiger Conservation Program. Having travelled up from Jakarta through West Java and via ferry to southern Sumatra, we then embarked on an uncomfortable but enjoyable journey - crammed like sardines amongst all our kit - that took us half way up the bumpy roads of Sumatra, interviewing people and filming wildlife and palm oil along the way. Finally we arrived in the beautiful natural forests that the Tiger Protection Units patrol. With the help of STCP we filmed elephants, gibbons, hornbills and a beautiful variety of Sumatran wildlife. This incredible biodiversity demonstrates all that is in jeopardy through the growth of palm oil - the mono-crop main character of the film - that is replacing these natural forests at a rapid rate throughout Sumatra and Kalimantan.

Evie filming confiscated skins, bones and teeth at STCP Field Station

We also spent valuable time on the oil-palm plantations whilst working in Sumatra. They're everywhere you look and hard to avoid. Even many private gardens house a mini nursery of palm oil saplings to sell. Wildlife conflict was in evidence wherever we went. Simpai (leaf monkeys) in stranded tree stands deep within oil palm plantations, elephant damage in the plantations where they had been driven out of their forests by the illegal loggers (able to penetrate the valuable timber forests), unusual pets found in the plantation tethered up round every corner.

Nick with field coordinator Pak Yunus (left) and some members of the TPUs

We would like to thank Pak Waldemar, Pak Daniel, Pak Yunus and Pak Neil, along with all the dedicated members of the Sumatran Tiger Conservation Program and their Tiger Protection Units for their immense help and good humour whilst we were shooting with them in Sumatra. Thanks to their shared enthusiasm for the project we managed to shoot a huge amount of great material that will be invaluable in telling the palm oil story. Please visit the site of the Sumatran Tiger Conservation Program - the work they are doing is incredibly important, and they are tirelessly committed in their efforts to protect the critically endangered Sumatran Tiger. They deserve our support.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

First Images from the Film: Another Crude Oil

We're back in England now, and are reviewing our footage and working quickly to get the documentary together. Here are some of the first images we have reviewed since our return. Still frames from "Another Crude Oil":

Film Frame from "Another Crude Oil" copyright Cockroach Productions 2005

Above: A female orangutan in shock. Here her head is cradled by a BOSF paramedic as the team work to stitch up her knife wound from an attack on the oil palm plantation.

Film Frame from "Another Crude Oil" copyright Cockroach Productions 2005

Above: Eko, a BOSF paramedic, draws blood for routine tests for Hepatitis A, B, C; Herpes Simplex 1 & 2, HIV and Tuberculosis.

Film Frame from "Another Crude Oil" copyright Cockroach Productions 2005

Above: Eko works to close a wound on the female orangutan's hand.

Post-production for the film is now underway. We are entering our second round of fundraising and sponsorship negotiations. Please contact us if you would like to become a part of this effort by supporting our film, and making these images of suffering a thing of the past.


Thursday, September 08, 2005

Meet the characters: Chanee - Radio Kalaweit

On Location: Radio Kalaweit, Central Kalimantan, Borneo
July 2005

"Thousands of orangutans, gibbons and other animals are now exterminated by bulldozers to create enormous palm oil concessions. Every day, our radio station (Kalaweit FM) broadcasts messages to sensitise people about the oil palm issue in Indonesia" Chanee, Radio Kalaweit.

Nurpradawati, Chanee and their son, Andrew outside Radio Kalaweit

One of the characters you will meet in the documentary is Chanee. Originally from France, Chanee now lives and works in Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan,where he and his wife, Nurpradawati, founded the radio station 99.1 Kalaweit FM. Radio Kalaweit mixes popular and mainstream Indonesian music with an environmentally-friendly and educational focus - regularly broadcasting messages informing the listeners about the negative impacts of the illegal animal trade and the detrimental impacts of capturing wild animals to keep as pets, as well as providing advice on what to do if you do come across an illegally captured animal. The station has massive popular appeal - particularly with the young of Kalimantan - and the number of listeners continues to grow. Chanee is now planning the to extend the geographical range of the station's broadcast capabilities across Kalimantan. Chanee's idea to establish Radio Kalaweit stemmed from his long term involvement in, and committment to, saving the gibbon. Chanee started out working in zoos in France, until, becoming disillusioned with idea of keeping animals in captivity, he travelled to Thailand in order to help with gibbon conservation in the wild (it was here that he got his name - "Chanee" means "gibbon" in Thai). Following the huge forest fires that destroyed vast quantities of forest in Kalimantan and kept much of South East Asia under a blanket of thick smog for months in 1997, Chanee successfully gained permission from the Indonesian government to establish a gibbon sanctuary in central Kalimantan. His gibbon island, near to Palangkaraya, has provided a sanctuary for gibbons confiscated from those keeping them illegally as pets ever since.

A victim of the illegal trade in gibbons

With financial support from the Arcus Foundation, Chanee then established Radio Kalaweit (kalaweit meaning gibbon in Dayak) having perceived the importance of education amongst ordinary Indonesian people in the struggle to protect the gibbon from extinction. The station now has so many committed listeners that Chanee often receives animals from owners who have felt pressurised into giving them up by the sheer weight of disapproval from their friends, neighbours, and relatives. Through providing listeners with information, encouragement, and advice, Radio Kalaweit is taking very positive steps in developing a public awareness of, and aspiration towards, wildlife and forest conservation in Kalimantan.