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News articles on southeast asia
Mongabay.com news articles on southeast asia in blog format. Updated regularly.
Timber 'mass graves' uncovered as Malaysian authorities pursue illegal loggers
(05/21/2015) A crackdown on illegal logging in Peninsular Malaysia's largest continuous forest complex has uncovered three timber 'mass graves' – burial sites where valuable logs have been stashed beneath tons of earth to hide evidence. The loggers apparently made haste in fleeing the hilly terrain where they left the timber. A joint operation by Malaysia's antigraft agency and Forestry Department found parts of logs sticking out of the ground and the red earth still unsettled, indications their quarry had hurriedly concealed the felled trees.
Indonesia sinks 41 foreign vessels in a single day to counter illegal fishing
(05/21/2015) The Indonesian Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry redefined fireworks yesterday. In coordination with the national navy, it blew up 41 illegal foreign fishing vessels to commemorate National Resurgence Day, the birthday of the country's first native political party. The mass sinking brings to 60 the number of boats new administration of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has scuttled on charges of illegal, underreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.
Sumatran tiger found dead in a pig trap
(05/20/2015) Authorities in the Indonesian province of West Sumatra buried the rotting carcass of a critically endangered female tiger that died after being ensnared by a pig trap on a rubber plantation earlier this month. The creature, a mother who was probably teaching her young to hunt, was found covered in wounds, its neck entangled in wire.
Golden Agri takes another hit as sustainability guru suspends its membership
(05/20/2015) The charity that Indonesia's Golden Agri-Resources has enlisted to devise and implement its zero-deforestation and community-engagement commitments suspended its cooperation with the palm oil giant yesterday, following breaches of the policies they had designed together. A few hours later, Golden Agri announced the resignation of its chief sustainability officer.
Price trends a reliable, cheap indicator of wildlife declines, finds study
(05/15/2015) Market prices can provide an equally reliable indicator of wildlife declines as field data for a thirtieth of the price, according to a new study analyzing Sumatra's pet bird trade. The researchers found that species that were increasing in price but decreasing in trade volume were likely to have been identified by the ornithologists they surveyed beforehand as undergoing population declines.
Geckos, moths and spider-scorpions: Six new species on Mount Tambora, say Indonesian researchers
(05/14/2015) Indonesian researchers believe they have identified six new animal species in the newly declared Mount Tambora National Park on the island of Sumbawa. Their haul includes two bent-toed geckoes, two moths and and two amblypygids, a type of arachnid that resembles a scorpion crossed with a spider.
Indonesia's partial forest-clearing moratorium extended, but activists wanted more
(05/14/2015) Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo extended the country's partial forest clearing moratorium yesterday on the day of its expiration, leaving largely intact a policy civil society groups had demanded be strengthened. The environment and forestry minister said the government greatly appreciated the calls from organizations like Greenpeace, Walhi, Kemitraan, Sawit Watch, World Resources Institute and others, and would address the proposed changes.
Non-bank financiers ready to help Indonesian fishermen
(05/13/2015) The Indonesian Financial Services Authority has organized dozens of non-bank financial institutions to support the country's maritime and fisheries sector, a key priority for President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo. Smaller operators in the sector have struggled to adapt to a new ban on trawlers and seine nets, and one of the government's goals is to make credit for environmentally friendly fishing gear more widely available, as industry groups have requested.
Wilmar, Musim Mas supplier caught clearing elephant habitat for palm oil in Aceh
(05/12/2015) A new report provides evidence that a supplier of palm oil giants Wilmar and Musim Mas is bulldozing valuable forests in Indonesia’s Leuser Ecosystem in violation of the companies’ zero-deforestation policies as well as the Indonesia Palm Oil Pledge (IPOP), a high-profile, joint sustainability pact that also includes Golden Agri-Resources, Asian Agri, Musim Mas and the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin).
Twitter campaign prompts Indonesians to free captive cockatoos in droves
(05/11/2015) Days after police at a port in Indonesia’s second-largest city arrested a passenger with 24 rare birds stuffed in plastic water bottles, a public outcry has prompted the government to set up shelters to accommodate people who wish to return more of the creatures, which have up to now been highly sought after by collectors and breeders.
Golden Agri's wings clipped by RSPO in West Kalimantan
(05/08/2015) The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil has prohibited Golden Agri-Resources, one of its most prominent members, from "acquiring or developing any new areas" pending the resolution of a formal complaint against the palm oil giant in Indonesia's West Kalimantan province. The decision is a stern directive from an organization that has been criticized for failing to take action against companies that flout its standards.
Hai Fa controversy just a hiccup in Indonesia's illegal fishing crackdown
(05/07/2015) Despite resistance from some quarters, Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo and his hard-charging maritime affairs and fisheries minister have shown no signs of abating their crackdown on illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing in the archipelago.
Police probe ship's crew after nabbing smuggler with 24 rare birds in plastic bottles
(05/07/2015) Police at a major port in Indonesia's second city of Surabaya, where 24 rare birds of paradise were found stuffed in plastic water bottles aboard a passenger vessel yesterday, are coordinating with the authorities at the creatures' place of origin to tighten security.
Bribery a matter of course for illegal Thai fishing ships in Indonesia
(05/06/2015) A convoy of blue Thai fishing boats slowly entered the mouth of the Kapuas River near Pontianak, the capital of Indonesia's West Kalimantan province, escorted by an Indonesian warship. The boats were directed to moor at the local Navy base, about 62 nautical miles from the site of their capture. The crew were transferred to the warship. There they sat on the deck. A naval personnel pointed to a fisherman in a rumpled blue shirt. His name was Sam Phong, 28. He could speak a bit of Indonesian, though not fluently. Still, his speech shed a bit of light on why he had so diligently been fishing illegally in Indonesian waters.
Aru, Mentawai peoples hit the big screen in Oslo
(05/06/2015) A pair of documentaries about small-island indigenous peoples in Indonesia were screened in Oslo on Tuesday as part of a global roadshow leading up to the UN Climate Change Conference to be held in Paris in December. The shorts, "Oil Palm Free Islands" and "The Warden of Jagarian Forest," are part of the If Not Us Than Who series, an initiative of UK-based Handcrafted Films.
West Papua 'oil palm atlas' portrays industry's explosion in region
(05/06/2015) There's a saying in the Indonesian palm oil industry: Sumatra is yesterday, Kalimantan is today, and Papua is tomorrow. Tomorrow might well have arrived. A new report sheds light on the industry's rapid expansion in Indonesia's Papua and West Papua provinces – and on the companies behind the plantation drive. The result is a portrayal of a frontier region's early encounters with a crop that has come to dominate the Sumatran and Bornean landscapes – a portrait made that much starker by the central government's foreign media blackout in the territory.
30 illegal orangutan pets seized in West Kalimantan
(05/05/2015) Thirty orangutans being kept as household pets in Indonesia's West Kalimantan province have been seized and placed in a rehabilitation center, where they are learning to fend for themselves so they can be released into their natural habitats, local conservation authorities report.
Riau forum asks Jokowi to help business save forests
(05/04/2015) A sustainable-business forum in Indonesia's Riau province urged the government to support companies' zero-deforestation commitments, which remain hampered by policies that prevent firms from preserving forests in their concessions. Under the current legal regime, if a plantation company decides to set aside land for conservation, the government reserves the right to take it back and give it to a firm that will develop it.
94 trafficked pangolins released into Sumatran wilds after massive bust
(05/04/2015) Following a major seizure of illegal wildlife goods in North Sumatra, the Indonesian authorities released 94 critically endangered pangolins into the wild last week, including a newborn whose mother died shortly after the authorities caught up with the traffickers. Five tons of pangolin meat were burned in the wake of the bust.
Ongoing overkill: loss of big herbivores leading to 'empty landscapes'
(05/01/2015) Ten thousand years from now, human historians—or alien ones—may view the current wave of biodiversity loss and extinctions as concurrent with the Pleistocene extinction. At that time, peaking around 11,000 years ago, many scientists argue that human hunters killed off the majority of the world's big species. According to a paper today in history may be repeating itself.
Palm giants ask Indonesian gov't to clear path toward sustainability
(05/01/2015) Executives from palm oil giants Wilmar, Cargill and Golden Agri Resources appeared at a green investment summit in Jakarta this week, providing a window into the nature of a high-profile, joint sustainability pact the companies have entered into together with Asian Agri, Musim Mas and the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The agreement, known as the Indonesia Palm Oil Pledge, has been lauded in some quarters for its potential to transform the sector and dismissed in others as mere lip service to protecting the environment.
Indonesia to zone its seas in bid to become 'global maritime axis'
(04/30/2015) The Indonesian government is preparing a spatial plan for its marine territory, the beginning of a blueprint to transform the archipelagic country into a “global maritime axis” in line with new President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s platform. Mapping the nation’s seas will support the alignment different programs and the integration of various marine sources of economic growth.
Help on the way for 'green investment' in Indonesia
(04/29/2015) The Indonesian government plans to expand the list of incentives for "green investment," cabinet members said at a summit in Jakarta on Monday. On the table are tax breaks for imports of equipment that reduces pollution; and longer permits and favorable interest rates for companies with environmentally friendly policies.
Leuser Park authorities still trying to move thousands of squatters
(04/28/2015) The Indonesian government will take another stab at relocating thousands of squatters from Mount Leuser National Park, most of whom were dispaced by the decades-long insurgency in Aceh province and whose presence has fueled deforestation in the protected area.
Two more Sumatran elephants found dead in Aceh
(04/27/2015) A pair of critically endangered Sumatran elephants were found dead this month in Indonesia's Aceh province, just the latest casualties for a species that has been brought into increasing conflict with humans amid the country's oil palm boom. One was shot through the head by a poacher. The other was injured by a snare trap and perished shortly thereafter.
Jokowi must strengthen Indonesia's forest moratorium, not just extend it: activists
(04/25/2015) Less than a month before the expiry of a moratorium on new licenses for land-based exploitation in primary forests and on peat, environmentalists are calling for the Indonesian president to not only prolong the policy but strengthen it too, hampered as they say it has been by chaotic implementation, weak enforcement, standards that don’t go far enough and, some suggest, a lack of political will to see it through.
Conservation in Myanmar: a cause for optimism?
(04/24/2015) Fifty years of relative political and economic isolation have yielded slow economic growth and contributed to the conservation of many of Myanmar’s native species. However, the dissolution of Myanmar’s military junta in 2011 marked the beginning of a new age of increasing political and economic liberalization and international engagement. Many experts fear that possible rapid development fueled by international investment, improved infrastructure and expanded transport networks, pose a grave risk to Myanmar’s biodiversity and forests.
Thailand, Indonesia join forces against illegal fishing amid EU ultimatum
(04/24/2015) Amid EU threats to blacklist Thai seafood if the industry fails to clean up its act by October, the Southeast Asian country and its neighbor Indonesia agreed on Thursday to form a joint task force to combat illegal fishing, which remains in the spotlight in the wake of an Associated Press investigation into slavery aboard Thai-run ships in Indonesian waters.
Officials: Sumatran rhino is extinct in the wild in Sabah
(04/23/2015) There are no Sumatran rhinos left in the wild in the Malaysian state of Sabah, confirmed Masidi Manjun, the Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister, over the weekend. In 2008, conservationists estimated there were around 50 rhinos in the state. Five years later, it dropped that estimate to just ten. Now, it's admitted the awful truth: the wild rhino is very likely gone.
In Indonesia, making REDD+ about carbon won't help biodiversity: study
(04/23/2015) Areas important for carbon correlate poorly with areas important for biodiversity in the country, a reality future REDD+ planning must take into account, a new study contends. The research was meant to address claims that REDD+ offers huge opportunities for biodiversity conservation.
Indonesian ombudsman asks minister to offer fishermen ‘exit strategy' from seining
(04/22/2015) On Sunday, the Indonesian ombudsman asked the maritime affairs minister to help fishermen adapt to the government's new ban on seine and trawl fishing, a response to locals' complaints that they had already made big investments in procuring and installing the now-prohibited gear.
Farmers fall short in legal challenge to Java cement plant
(04/20/2015) A grassroots movement to halt construction of a cement factory and mine in Indonesia's Rembang regency suffered a major setback last week when a Central Java court rejected a lawsuit against a permit held by state-owned Semen Indonesia, the country's largest cement producer.
Indonesia's public water movement consolidates after two of its biggest wins
(04/17/2015) With the tide of privatized water in Indonesia as close to turning since the dictator Suharto was president, an entire spectrum of stakeholders is scrambling to chart a path forward on the heels of two landmark – and unexpected – court decisions. First, the Constitutional Court struck down the main governing law on water resources. Then a Jakarta court annulled the city's contract with private operators Palyja and Aetra, which have run the city's piped network since 1998 amid continual allegations of corruption and mismanagement.
Fishermen's ire over trawler ban pushes Indonesia to form special task force
(04/15/2015) Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo will form a new task force to deal with fishermen’s concerns about the new ban on trawlers and seine nets, the result of a meeting between him and fishermen’s representatives who stated their case against the swiftness of its imposition.
Americans join in protesting reclamation of Bali's Benoa Bay
(04/14/2015) Americans and Indonesians demonstrated in Washington D.C. last week in protest of a massive land reclamation project in Bali’s Benoa Bay, to which opposition, activists say, is coming from increasingly international circles. Meanwhile, the governor of East Java rejected a proposal to dredge sea sand for the project off the coast of his province.
Faulty impact assessments plague Indonesian mines: Komnas HAM
(04/10/2015) A member of Indonesia's National Human Rights Commission held up the Rembang cement factory case as an example of how environmental impact assessments are frequently manipulated by the companies required to undertake them.
Kaiduan dam in Borneo meets fierce opposition
(04/06/2015) Activists are calling on the government of Sabah, Malaysia, to reconsider the proposed Kaiduan dam, saying it has not considered other solutions to Sabah's looming water crisis and has failed to consult with the indigenous people who will be displaced if the project proceeds.
Aceh's purge of illegal oil palm at 3,000 hectares and counting
(04/06/2015) A joint effort to eradicate illegal oil palm in an area of Indonesia's Aceh province that was devastated by flash flooding in 2006 has passed the 3,000-hectare mark. The plantations lie within the protected Leuser Ecosystem, the last place on earth where the Sumatran rhino, elephant, tiger and orangutan coexist in the wild.
Blockade at Wilmar mill could erupt into full-blown strike
(04/03/2015) Local people blocked the road to a Wilmar palm oil mill in Indonesia’s West Kalimantan province, demanding the release of nine day laborers who were arrested during an earlier protest over delayed wages. Trucks carrying fresh fruit bunches from nearby plantations were unable to deliver their cargo.
Reservations about Indonesian 'land reform' as details unclear
(04/02/2015) Indonesian civil society groups and experts welcome President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's campaign promise to redistribute nine million hectares of land to farmers – in principle. But they remain wary of what the program, whose details have yet to be made clear, might look like in practice. These reservations were expressed at a discussion on the plan held in Jakarta on April 1.
Illegal deforestation driven by EU appetite for beef, palm oil, soy, say new reports
(04/01/2015) A new report finds that the European Union is driving international trade in commodities grown on land cleared outside of the law. In 2012 alone, the report says, the EU imported $6.5 billion worth of illegally sourced beef, leather, palm oil and soy, which amounts to nearly one-fourth of all global trade and some 2.4 million hectares (59.3 million acres) of forest illegally cleared.
Pollution from East Asia affecting air quality in Borneo's rainforests
(04/01/2015) A study published in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics finds that industrial activities in East Asia are polluting the air in the rainforests of Borneo and that, once there, the pollutants could be traveling into the upper atmosphere and impacting Earth’s ozone layer.
Chinese-backed smelter plan causes concern among Sulawesi fishermen
(03/31/2015) As a pair of Chinese-owned miners companies proceed with plans to construct nickel smelters in Indonesia's Central Sulawesi province, in line with a national edict to increase in-country mineral processing capacity, locals fear the factories will only intensify environmental degradation from the same firms' mining operations and harm fishing communities that rely on the area.
Locals revolt against gold miner in Sulawesi
(03/30/2015) Residents of Indonesia's Buyat Bay and a national legal aid institute are preparing a case against a gold miner they say began operating in secret without locals' consent. They also accuse the company, owned by a prominent politician, of failing to acquire the proper licenses, clearing forest in a protected area and damaging the environment.
Aceh unveils protected area in beleaguered Tripa peat swamp
(03/27/2015) As Indonesia's Supreme Court prepares to rule on an appeal from oil palm developer Kallista Alam, ordered to pay Rp366 billion in fines and reparations for cut-and-burning forest in the Tripa peat swamp region, the Aceh government has established a protected zone in the company's former concession, the culmination of a months-long program to rehabilitate the area.
Indonesia's biodiversity-protected areas no match for encroachers, finds study
(03/26/2015) Indonesia's biodiversity-focused protected areas are failing to slow deforestation, while other categories have achieved mixed results, finds a new study. The coupling of poor law enforcement with the presence of high-value timber seems to be the main culprit.
Study finds roads in Southeast Asia may be devastating forests, wildlife
(03/20/2015) Habitat loss and illegal hunting are leading drivers behind mammal population decline and extinction in the tropical forests of Southeast Asia. But what's driving these drivers? Road infrastructure, according to research. Researchers conducted the first-ever comprehensive study examining the impacts of road infrastructure on mammal populations in Southeast Asia; their findings were recently published in PLOS One.
Minister explains sustainability claims behind Indonesia’s boat bombing
(03/17/2015) Boat bombing has been one of the most visible (and internationally controversial) elements of the new Indonesian fishery minister’s policies. But recently, Fishery Minister Susi Pudjiastuti explained that the bombings were really based on the concept of sustainability.
Conservationists catch-and-release record-smashing freshwater fish
(03/17/2015) Conservationists and scientists have managed to catch-and-release what could be the world's biggest freshwater fish ever for an upcoming episode of Ocean Mysteries. Naturalist and host of the show, Jeff Corwin—along with wildlife veterinarian, Nantarika Chansue, and the tourist fishing group, fishsiam.com—managed to reel in a giant freshwater stingray.
Proposed law could decimate Indonesia's remaining forests
(03/14/2015) A seemingly well-intended law that aims to turn forests over to traditional users could instead lead to large-scale destruction of Indonesia's native ecosystems, warns a prominent conservation biologist.
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