Orangutans die after clearing by burning | Der Spiegel

The perpetrators are threatened through high sentences:  One must pay a lot of fines and count up to 10 years in prison for burning Indonesian forest. Yet, two palm oil companies in Sumatra have set a large area of peat swamp on fire. More than a hundred orangutans could find their ends.

Jakarta – Dozens of orangutans could have died after clearing by burning in the northern part of Sumatra – Indonesian authorities have now initiated an investigation against two palm oil companies. Those were accused to have set a large area of peat swamp forest on fire in order to gain more space for their plantation, said a spokesman of the Ministry of Environment on Tuesday.

According to local environmentalists, about hundred orangutans died in Tripa Forest, only 200 were alive. All great apes in this area could by the end of this year eliminated.

A total of 6600 orangutans are estimated in Sumatra. Environmentalists have sent warning for months. Only 14,000 of an initially 60,000 ha forest in this region were intact.

Clearing by burning is restricted in Indonesia and can be penalized for 10 years in prison and fined up to almost 800,000 Euro. Still, burning of forest is common to rapidly clear large areas. Thereby, climate damaging carbon dioxide emerges in peat swamp forest such as in Tripa, since not only tress but also the soil of meters deep are burned out.

The accused companies should have burned 1600 ha (16 km2). The companies Die beschuldigten Unternehmen sollen 1600 Hektar (16 Quadratkilometer) abgefackelt haben. The companies reject the allegations and make local farmers responsible.

Just by the beginning of April failed a lawsuit filed by the environmentalists. They have tried to stop a permit through the court that allowed palm oil producer PT Kallista Alam to clear 1600 ha of Tripa Forest for oil palm plantation. The court declared of being unauthorised. The parties would first have to reach an amicable agreement, so stated in the verdict.

“If the court had explained this earlier that it is not authorised, the case could have been filed in higher court,” criticised the biologist Ian Singleton, who leads the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme (SOCP) and fights for years for the preservation of the forest. “One can call the Judges’ behaviour as ridiculous, if it was not so fatal for at least 200 critically endangered orangutans.”

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About endoftheicons

The Leuser Ecosystem on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia is in grave danger. Local politicians want to allow logging, mining and palm oil plantations in this vulnerable area. Sumatran orangutans, rhinos, elephants and tigers are already hanging on by a thread. They will not survive the destruction of the Leuser Ecosystem.

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