Indonesia’s Environment Ministry will investigate a permit issued for an oil palm plantation in heart of Tripa peat forest on the island of Sumatra, reports The Jakarta Globe. The decision comes after the head of the country’s REDD+ Task Force called for a probe into the concession, which spurred international outcry led by orangutan conservation groups and local environmental NGOs.
On Monday, Sudariyono, the head of the Environment Ministry’s law enforcement unit, said the agency would investigate whether the palm oil company PT Kallista Alam had secured the proper permits and conducted an environmental impact analysis prior to draining and clearing the contested area. Sudariyono added that the ministry would evaluate whether the company had the right to operate in the peat swamp, which should be protected under a national moratorium implemented last year as well as its status as part of the Leuser Ecosystem. Tripa is home to an important population of critically endangered orangutans.
Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, the head of the REDD task force, said separately that updated moratorium map, which will be issued May 20, will include the peat forest area PT Kallista Alam is attempting to convert. A statement from his agency added that the Ministry of Environment and Federal Police would need to take “appropriate action to bring to a halt these activities.”
The news of the Ministry’s investigation comes just days after a letter from prominent primate researchers called for immediate intervention by Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to intervene in the destruction of Tripa’s peat forest.
“We respectfully ask that the Government of Indonesia: enforce the laws that protect the orangutans and habitat of the Leuser Ecosystem, suspend all activities by oil palm companies on recently cleared and burned lands in the Leuser Ecosystem, [and] ban further land drainage and forest clearing in the Tripa peat swamps,” Patrons of the Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP) wrote in a letter last week.
GRASP Patrons include Jane Goodall, Founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and U.N. Messenger of Peace; Richard Leakey, Professor of Anthropology at Stonybrook University;
Richard Wrangham, Professor of Anthropology at Harvard University; and Russell Mittermeier, President of Conservation International and Chair of the IUCN/SSC Primate Specialist Group.
Plea from orangutan researcher Ian Singleton: