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The last stand of the orangutan – state of emergency: illegal logging, fire and palm oil in Indonesia’s national parks

10 / 03 / 2009, Eldis Biodiversity

Orangutans survive only in the dwindling tropical rainforests of Borneo and northern Sumatra, being dependent on the forest for food and nesting sites. This document describes how orangutan populations are seriously affected when their forest is destroyed or logged, not least because they are often killed for meat or to protect newly planted crops. The authors have has used the latest satellite imagery and data from the Government of Indonesia to assess changes in the forests in one part of south-east Asia. The results indicate that illegal logging, fires and plantations of crops such as palm oil are now intruding extensively into Indonesia’s national parks which, for example, are the last safe-holds of the orangutan.
The report shows how in the past five years more than 90 per cent of over 40 parks have now been impacted putting at risk national and regional attempts to meet the 2010 biodiversity target. The driving forces are not impoverished farmers, but what appears to be well-organised companies with heavy machinery and strong international links to the global markets. The report describes the Indonesian government’s new initiative focusing on new and specially trained ranger units to win back the national parks. It is starting to show some promising results with illegal logging halted in two parks in 2006. But the authorities need more assistance. National parks represent a common heritage and their protection and enforcement is essential in international conservation. It is recommended that Indonesia and countries involved in processes such as FLEG consider the following actions:

substantially strengthening the Indonesian initiative of ranger units to ensure the necessary para-military skills and equipment for securing national parks, including evaluation of the combined joint operations conducted in recent years between the Ministry of Forestry, police and Joint Chiefs of Staff of Navy and Army
rapid deployment of reconnaissance units to collaborate with the relevant law enforcement and forest rangers, to secure information from the individual parks
removal of illegal plantations, mining and agricultural development inside the national parks
further strengthening international programmes of law enforcement against illegal logging and activities, including support from Interpol.

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