For the first time ever, a palm oil company has been forced to restore rainforest and peatland in order to continue supplying the global market.
Under pressure from customers and civil society, Malaysian palm oil company FGV has promised to restore over 1,000 hectares of the peat forest in West Kalimantan, Indonesia.
FGV is a subsidiary of FELDA, the world’s largest palm oil grower.
Bagus Kusuma, Forest campaigner with Greenpeace Southeast Asia, said it was a sign that corporate ‘no deforestation’ policies were finally starting to bite.
"It sends a serious warning that other destructive palm oil companies should heed: deforestation has consequences,” Kusuma said.
The good news couldn't come at a better time for Indonesia's forests and its inhabitants.
A report released last week by Indonesia’s Environment and Forestry Ministry confirmed that the number of orangutans has plummeted since 2004.
Thirteen years ago there were an estimated 45 to 76 great apes per hundred square kilometres in Borneo. Today, that number has fallen to 13 to 47 individuals per hundred square kilometres, the survey said, adding that habitat destruction is one of the main causes.
The news won’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s been following the fate of one of the planet’s cutest (and smartest) animals. Orangutans have long faced the threat of extinction in Borneo and Sumatra due to habitat clearing across Indonesia.
But unfortunately, the latest survey proves in tangible terms the toll forest clearance and peatland drainage has been taking on the orangutan population.
The survey also found that of the 52 orangutan meta-populations surviving across Sumatra and Borneo, only around a third (38%) are expected to remain viable over a 100 to 500-year time frame.
It wasn’t a good week last week for the much-loved orangutan.
An Associated Press investigation also revealed that an Indonesian company and its Chinese partner are pushing ahead with an industrial wood plantation in a tropical forest and (you guessed it) orangutan habitat.
Seemingly in total contravention of government regulations, photos and drone footage show heavy earth moving equipment and an extensive drainage canal full of water in Sungai Putri forest, AP reported.
The area is home to as many as 1,200 orangutans -- the third largest population in Indonesia.
“The government is clearly failing to protect Indonesia’s most iconic animal species, as companies continue to develop plantations in forests and peatland that are some of the last homes for orangutans,” Greenpeace Forest Campaigner Ratri Kusumohartono said.
Drainage canals are used to dry out the peatland, releasing carbon emissions and creating the right conditions for forest fires.
"If the government is serious about stopping fires it must stop this company from developing on peatland and protect this critical peatland forest," said Kusumohartono.
“Protecting this landscape is vital both for preventing the fires of the future and to save Indonesia’s crucial orangutan habitats. All deforestation must stop immediately.”