Conservation news

Palm oil company caught destroying primary forest in endangered ecosystem

  • Activists have documented a palm oil company destroying lowland rainforest in Sumatra’s endangered Leuser Ecosystem.
  • Last month, Rainforest Action Network (RAN) reported that PT. Tualang Raya was clearing rainforest in Aceh Timur.
  • RAN’s allegations are supported by independent data from Global Forest Watch, a platform for monitoring changes in forests worldwide.
Photographic evidence of newly cleared forest inside the Leuser Ecosystem by palm oil company PT. Tualang Raya, Aceh Timur, August 2015. Photo: Paul Hilton for RAN
Photographic evidence of newly cleared forest inside the Leuser Ecosystem by palm oil company PT. Tualang Raya, Aceh Timur, August 2015. Photo: Paul Hilton for RAN

Activists have documented a palm oil company destroying lowland rainforest in Sumatra’s endangered Leuser Ecosystem.

Last month, Rainforest Action Network (RAN) reported that PT. Tualang Raya was clearing rainforest in Aceh Timur. The group released pictures taken by Paul Hilton as evidence.

RAN’s allegations are supported by independent data from Global Forest Watch, a platform for monitoring changes in forests worldwide.

Global Forest Watch’s data shows a significant amount of activity within Tualang Raya’s concession over the past 18 months, including a number for FORMA alerts which use NASA MODIS satellite data to provide near-real time monitoring of changes in forest cover.

According to Global Forest Watch, Tualang Raya destroyed at least 1,250 hectares of degraded primary forest between 2005 and 2014 in its 5,140-hectare concession, accounting for most of its clearing during that period. The Indonesian government had zoned the area for agricultural use even though it lies within the Leuser Ecosystem, an area of exceptionally high conservation value due to its resident populations of endangered orangutans, tigers, rhinos, and elephants.

RSPO data presented on Global Forest Watch showing land use change within PT. Tualang Raya’s concession.
Two Global Forest Watch images showing near-term (left – Jan 1, 2013-Aug 31, 2015) and long-term (right – 2001-2014) change in forest cover inside PT. Tualang Raya’s concession.

RAN didn’t specify what companies might source from Tualang Raya, but it noted that the three biggest buyers of palm oil from the Leuser Ecosystem region—Musim Mas Group, Wilmar International and Golden Agri-Resources—”have adopted policies that commit to halting forest destruction in their supply chains.”

“We need these buyers to take urgent action to intervene and secure the permanent protection of the priceless Leuser Ecosystem,” the group said.