Orangutans in trouble after rejection of palm oil moratorium



Orangutan in Borneo

Orangutans may be in more danger after palm oil companies reject the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, say activists.

Credit: iStockphoto

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JAKARTA: A decision by Indonesian palm oil companies to reject a moratorium on land clearing is threatening to wipe out more than 8,000 orangutans in the next three years, activists said on Thursday.

The decision last week to reject the moratorium call by Greenpeace means there is no effective mechanism for protecting thousands of orangutans living outside conservation areas, said Novi Hardianto from the Centre for Orangutan Protection (COP).

COP teams have observed land clearing by two major palm oil companies in orangutan habitats in Central Kalimantan province on Indonesia's side of Borneo island, Hardianto said.

Subsidiaries of companies IOI Group and Agro Group have been clearing orangutan habitats despite signing up to voluntary standards under the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), he said.

The Indonesian Palm Oil Producers Association, in rejecting the moratorium, argued RSPO standards were enough to protect species.

However, Hardianto said land clearing by the companies showed the voluntary standards would do little to arrest the rapid decline in the number of orangutans living outside Central Kalimantan's conservation areas.

"If it keeps going at this rate, we'll see orangutans in this environment wiped out within three years," he said.

COP estimates 20,032 orangutans live in the wild in Central Kalimantan province and that close to 3,000 of them die every year.

High global demand for palm oil, which is used in a wide range of products from biscuits to soap and biodiesel, is driving massive deforestation in Indonesia's equatorial forests.