Orangutans’ fate hanging in the balance as Indonesian deforestation moratorium stalls As Indonesian government ministers fail to reach an agreement on the terms of a two-year moratorium on deforestation, critically endangered species, including the Sumatran orangutan, continue to be put at risk. Said Helen Buckland, UK Director of the Sumatran Orangutan Society: “As ministers stall, logging and plantation companies continue to tear down critical habitat. Time is running out for the orangutan, and it is vital that the moratorium be enacted as soon as possible. But it is equally crucial to ensure that it protects all natural forests with conservation value – not just primary forests.”
In May 2010, the Norwegian government agreed to help Indonesia drastically cut its greenhouse gas emissions in a $1 billion deal that would include a moratorium on forest conversion for logging, mining and agricultural plantations. The moratorium was due to start on 1 st January, but has been delayed whilst Indonesian government departments debate details of the deal. Issues being deliberated include which types of forest will be included, and whether existing permits to clear forest can be revoked. No new deadline for negotiations has been announced.
In 2005 the World Bank ranked Indonesia third on a list of the world’s highest greenhouse gas emitters, after the USA and China, primarily due to high rates of deforestation. The original ‘Letter of Intent’ between Indonesia and Norway stated that ‘natural forests’ would be protected, yet recent media reports include statements from Government ministers suggesting that only ‘primary forests’ will be.
This is bad news for Sumatran orangutans many of which – like many other endangered species - live within secondary or degraded forests. Conservation experts have long recognised the importance of such forests for biodiversity, but there is a real risk that these will be excluded from the moratorium. Said Helen Buckland: “With so little natural habitat remaining, it is vital to preserve even degraded forests to ensure the survival of orangutans in the wild.” SOS is now pushing for urgent and effective action. Said Helen Buckland: “Depending on the outcome of negotiations, this moratorium could be a landmark moment for conservation and for tackling climate change, or it could fail to catalyse real action. We urge President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to ensure an agreement is reached as a matter of urgency and to commit to protecting all natural forests with conservation value, not just primary forests.”
Indonesia’s forests are not only crucial to the survival of orangutans, they also provide habitat for thousands of other species, including endangered tigers, elephants, rhinoceros, and clouded leopards. They are critical for the livelihoods of millions of people, and also play a crucial role in the global fight to prevent dangerous climate change.