Forest clearing for plantations in Riau, Sumatra. Photo taken in May 2012 by Rhett Butler.
An NGO alliance in Riau urged the Indonesian government to investigate 14 companies following the conviction of several officials for corruption in issuing permits. The NGOs said if the 14 companies are implicated, Riau could save nearly 60 thousand hectares of forests planned to be transformed into plantations. The 14 companies are associated with Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper (RAPP) and Asia Pulp & Paper (APP).
The Eijkman Institute for Molecular Biology is becoming a bridge between genetic research and law enforcement. The Forestry Ministry provides the institute with samples of animal body parts that the agency has seized from poachers. The institute then uses forensic DNA tests to identify body parts of protected endangered species. These are used as evidence to prosecute the poachers. Animals barcoded by the institute include fish, birds, insects and marine organisms.
Teuku Muhammad Zulfikar, Director of the Aceh branch of the Indonesian Environment Forum (Walhi), said the palm oil industry has caused a clean water in North Sumatra and the Leuser ecosystem zone in Aceh through the destruction of watersheds and forests. Thousands of people in Aceh are threatened by this crisis, which has the potential for to worsen conflict between communities as well as humans and animals. The Orangutan Information Center (OIC) said the total number of orangutans killed and captured in the Leuser ecosystem for illegal trading reached 300 annually. Other primates, such as gibbons and macaques are also affected.
Fires continue to burn across Indonesia due to lack of rainfall, strong winds, and widespread burning of forests and land. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) satellites detected 133 hot spots last week.
The land grabbing case in Indragiri Hulu, Riau has been elevated by the Ministry of Forestry and Directorate General of Agriculture. Local representatives have asked the local government to stop all the activities in Duta Palma plantation until they fulfill their obligation and return the contested land to the people.
Air quality in Riau province is declining due to haze from fires burning in peatlands and forest areas. Dumai saw more than 50 cases of people with acute respiratory infections.
The parliament of East Kalimantan will report the former Minister of Forestry MS Kaban to the authorities due to the decree he released in 2009 that led to increase deforestation in the province. Vice Chairman of Commission III of the DPRD East Kalimantan, Andi Harun says he found irregularities in SK Menhut No 577/2009, including grants to mining companies inside Taman Hutan Raya Suharto Conservation area.
CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) released a report showing that the level of ivory poaching reached the worst level in decades. According to their records, in 2011 there were 14 cases of large scale ivory trading (an average of more than 800 kilograms in a single transaction). Organized crime is believed to be facilitating the increase in illegal trade.
Indonesia’s Constitutional Court heard a legal expert’s opinion on a judicial review of the 1999 Forestry Law petitioned by the Alliance of Indigenous People in the Archipelago (AMAN). Dr. Maruarar Siahaan told the court that the rights of indigenous people, including their cultural identity, must be respected. “The Indonesian Constitution recognizes indigenous people’s rights. It’s also recognized by international conventions.”
Sanggau regency in West Kalimantan is preparing a regional spatial plan which recognizes customary lands and village space. It is going to be the first master plan which recognizes the land of the Dayak indigenous people in Kalimantan.
The hunting of endangered turtle eggs in Paloh, Sambas regency, has declined 95 percent from 2009 to 2012, following a government program to employ egg hunters as sea turtle guardians.