Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Orangutans WILL go home!

Subject: RE: Press release - Orangutans will go home!

53 of 61 smuggled orangutans will be sent home soon

April 23, 2006

On Saturday the 22nd of April 2006, officials from Thailand's Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plants announced their decision to allow 53 smuggled orangutans to go back home to the forests of Indonesia. The decision was made during a meeting between Thai and Indonesian officials in Bangkok. A large group of NGO's worldwide campaigned hard to have the Apes repatriated after two and a half years being kept in sub-standard conditions at Safari World, Bangkok and wildlife breeding centers in Thailand. The pressure of the campaign, which was stepped up only six months ago, finally bears fruit.

Although the Thai authorities still want to check DNA of all the orangutans to verify that the animals originate from the Indonesian part of Borneo, scientists and experts believe all but two are from this area. Two of the orangutans might be Sumatran orangutans and therefore also Indonesian. The Indonesian authorities have agreed to allow the second DNA test so long as it does not delay the repatriation process. The animals will be returned to Indonesia before the results of the DNA check are available. Two years ago, DNA tests, financed by the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOSF) in cooperation with the Thai Forestry Police, were conducted to prove that these same orangutans were not born of the legal orangutan stock at the zoo.

The 53 orangutans will all be moved to the Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Rehabilitation Center, run by the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation. It is expected that the first half of the orangutans will be shipped back to Indonesia within the next eight weeks; a second group should follow within four weeks after the first. Due to the level of care required for each individual animal, transporting too large a group at one time will be too stressful for the animals.

Veterinary and orangutan experts from BOSF and the Indonesian government will soon begin a thorough health assessment to check all the orangutans for zoonotic diseases such as tuberculosis and hepatitis, as well as the presence of parasites, bacteria and fungi. Local Thai universities such as Chulalongkorn and/or Mahidol might be asked for assistance with this process. If animals are not 100% healthy, the stress of transportation might be detrimental and, in some cases, fatal. The healthiest ones will be returned with the first lot.

At Nyaru Menteng, all facilities are ready to welcome the orangutans back home; a quarantine area and new living quarters have all been constructed in the past two years awaiting the return of these orangutans.

The fate of eight additional orangutans held by the Thai authorities confiscated from Lopburi zoo and two slaughterhouses in 2003 is not yet known.

For more information and pictures:

Edwin Wiek
Monitoring unit for cross-border illegal wildlife trade
Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation
Wildlife Friends of Thailand (www.wfft.org)
Tel +6690600906 (Thailand 0906-00906)

Dr. Willie Smits
Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation / Gibbon Foundation

Lone Droscher Nielsen
Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Rehabilitation Center
Tel: +62-8125154702 (Indonesia 081-25154702)

All photographs Copyright Nick Lyon & Evie Wright
The Orangutan Film Protection Project
Tel: +44 (0)1823 451 790

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Better Late than Never

Well done Sainsburys for joing the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil! After an announcement at the end of January, Sainsburys have finally filed their application for the RSPO and, in doing so, joins the likes of ASDA, Waitrose and Marks & Spencer in the growing list of retailers that recognise the importance of taking responsible action on sustainable sourcing of products.

This announcement follows shortly after the publication of a scientific study of latent extinction hotspots that identified the Indonesian-Malaysian forests as being under the greatest threat in the world. Sustainable Palm Oil means an end to conversion of high conservation value forest. Please do your part to support the retailers who take up this innitiative.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Mega Plantation Border Project!

Demand for palm oil triggers massive expansion in Borneo

Source: Friends of the Earth: Apr 12 2006

A new report released today (Wednesday 13 April) reveals how the Indonesian government could develop up to three million hectares of oil palm plantations on the island of Borneo, threatening wildlife and local livelihoods to cater for international demand for cheap palm oil [1].

One of the justifications given for this huge plantation project is the increasing international demand for palm oil to be used in food, feed and biofuels.

The report reveals how earlier plans to develop a two million hectare plantation on the Indonesian side of the border with Malaysia, are not yet off the table. Indonesia's initial proposals to develop the border area had met with international protest. The Indonesian president Yudhoyono acknowledged there were conservation concerns to be taken into account. But the Indonesian Ministry of Public Works appears to have responded to this in January 2006 by simply enlarging the area defined as the "border zone". In this broader area, up to 3 million hectares of oilpalm could be planted, according to the Ministry.

The project still threatens mayhem, damaging wildlife including threatened populations of orang-utan and elephants, and the livelihoods of local people in the Kalimantan region. Friends of the Earth Indonesia (WALHI) and local palm oil organisation Sawit Watch ('Oilpalm Watch') are calling on the Indonesian government to officially cancel the border mega-plantation plan.

The new report reveals that the area deemed suitable for oil palm includes forests used by thousands of people who depend on them for their livelihoods. In new larger border zone, a special regulation (Presidential Decree No. 36/2005) would allow the government to take land away from communities that do not want oil palm plantations in the name of 'public interest'. The report shows that those communities who are aware of the new proposals are strongly opposed to the plans.

Evidence shows that in the last decade, many areas have been deforested supposedly to make way for oil palm plantations but have then been abandoned after the timber has been sold. In East Kalimantan alone, 3 million hectares of forest disappeared for oil palm concessions. Of those, only 300.000 hectares have actually been planted with oil palm.

Sixty per cent of the forests converted into oil palm plantations in 2004-2005 were still good forests, despite the commitment made by the Indonesian government in 2000 that no more forests would be converted to palm and pulp plantations.

"Communities should not be forced to change their livelihoods simply for the benefit of oil palm companies and consumers overseas. They have not been consulted on these proposals and certainly have not agreed to abandon their land," said Rudy Lumuru of Sawit Watch, in the Netherlands to present the report.

'European importing countries should not increase their imports of palm oil until environmental and social issues are solved,´ added Anne Van Schaik of Friends of the Earth Netherlands. 'This also means we should be very hesitant to embrace palm oil as a biomass-solution to the current energy crisis. To start with, companies and governments should ensure that palm oil used in food and feedstock is in line with the criteria laid out by the so-called Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil as soon as possible," said Van Schaik.


[1] The Kalimantan Border Oil Palm Mega Project (PDF)

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Marks & Spencer Join the RSPO

Thank you Marks & Spencer for taking a positive step forward for orangutan conservation by signing up to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil.

M&S are following in the steps of other major retailers such as ASDA and Waitrose to show concern for SE Asian environmental impacts and moving towards not purchasing unsustainable palm oil that leads to forest conversion. We hope this is the first step in a number of measures that can be taken by companies to minimise their impact on our endangered red cousins.