Photos highlight level of Bornean orangutan habitat destruction

(foresthints.news) - An expanse of land in a palm oil concession (PT PSM) in West Kalimantan’s Ketapang regency covering an area equivalent to 17,000 soccer fields, which is dominated by high carbon stock (HCS) forests and forms a habitat for the critically-endangered Bornean orangutan, continues to be bulldozed.

Genting Plantations (GenP), the former owner of the PT PSM concession, previously made a commitment not to develop the HCS forests in the concession. However, this leading Malaysian palm oil company has since gone back on its commitment by selling the concession, triggering a series of news reports from foresthints.news questioning the company’s integrity.

In fact, the ease with which GenP simply sold PT PSM to one of its joint venture partners makes it seem as if the company never actually made a public promise to protect the HCS forests in the palm oil concession, and has resulted in the ongoing bulldozing of these forests.

Having made this public commitment, which was regularly posted in Wilmar’s grievance update reports, GenP seems instead to have turned ‘numb’, apparently unconcerned that its commitment has effectively been thrown in the trash can.

The photos below, which were taken on November 2017, were shared with foresthints.news by Eric Wakker, co-founder of Aidenvironment Asia (Jan 9). They clearly highlight the level of destruction of the HCS forests, which are also home to the Bornean orangutan, scattered across the PT PSM concession after Genting Plantations broke its public promise.

Moreover, a spatial analysis performed by Greenomics Indonesia using USGS Landsat 8 images confirmed that, as of December 2017, the clearing of HCS forests and Bornean orangutan habitat in the PT PSM concession was still underway in line with company targets.

Legal verifications conducted by both foresthints.news and Aidenvironment Asia on the back of evidence of ongoing destruction in the concession came to the conclusion that PT PSM remains closely associated with PT BHD, a supplier to Apical (Asian Agri), ADM Global, Cargill, IOI and Wilmar.

In light of this, Wakker emphatically told foresthints.news (Jan 7) that these global palm oil players should immediately sever their supply chains with PT BHD.

Just letting it happen?

The following photos, also shared by Aidenvironment Asia, further demonstrate the extent to which the HCS forests, which play host to the Bornean orangutan, continue to be cleared for new palm oil plantation development in PT PSM, the permit for which was originally obtained by GenP in May 2013.

More disturbing is how the sections of HCS forest in the PT PSM palm oil concession which are still visibly intact and in good condition seem destined for more clearing. This is bad news as it further entrenches the link between the clearing of HCS forests and world palm oil supply chains.

If the five top palm oil business groups mentioned above, all of which are supplied by PT BHD, continue failing to take a stand and acting impotently, their supply chains will go on being linked to the destruction of the Bornean orangutan’s habitat.

What’s more, should these five top palm oil business groups carry on exhibiting a lack of power in this situation, they would in effect be purposely violating their own policies aimed at cleaning up their supply chains, particularly from the deforestation of HCS forests.

Assuming that a legal basis for the moratorium on the expansion of palm oil plantations is issued - to back up the moratorium announced in person by President Joko Widodo in mid-April 2016 - the clearing of HCS forests in PT PSM would be subject to proper evaluation.

On the other hand, if by April this year such a legal basis for implementing the moratorium is yet to be issued, it will mean that after two years the moratorium on the expansion of palm oil in areas which retain good forest cover merely remains at the level of the President’s announcement.