Indonesian environmentalists step up legal battle to save orangutans

Indonesian environmentalists step up legal battle to save orangutans

05 April 2012

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Indonesia — Indonesian environmentalists said Thursday they had filed an appeal in a dispute over a palm oil plantation in a protected peat swamp where orangutans are believed to have died because of forest fires.

The state administrative court in Aceh province on Tuesday threw out a lawsuit brought by the Walhi group and other conservationists demanding the Aceh governor withdraw a permit allowing PT Kallista Alam to convert the Tripa peat swamp forest into a palm oil plantation.

Deddy Ratih, Walhi’s forest campaigner, said his group had filed an appeal with the higher court in the province.

“The area is critical to conservation of rare species including orangutans, many of whom have died because of continuing fires there,” Ratih said.

Ratih said satellite images showed more than 40 hot spots indicating fires in March as a result of land conversion in Tripa, located in northern Sumatra.

There were about 2 000 to 3 000 orangutans in the area in the 1990s but only a few hundred are left today, conservationists said.

There are currently about 6 600 Sumatran orangutans in the wild.

“Land clearing using fires is driving orangutans to extinction,” he said. “Unless action is taken, orangutans in the area could disappear this year.”

In August, Aceh’s then governor, Irwandi Yusuf, signed a permit to allow PT Kallista Alam to convert 1 600 hectares of land in Tripa into a palm oil plantation.

Environmentalists said the concession was part of the Leuser ecosystem, which is protected from development under Indonesia’s 2008 national planning law.

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