May 9, 2019

Fate of 108 Bornean orangutans depends on listed company

JAKARTA ( - The fact that many existing palm oil concessions spread across Indonesian Borneo are still inhabited by the critically-endangered Bornean orangutan should be looked at by the EU with regard to its delegated act which seeks to phase out the use of palm oil for biofuels.

This news report focuses on one such relevant case of high conservation value (HCV) areas covering 2,330 hectares belonging to a subsidiary of Indonesian-listed company PT ANJT (PT KAL) in Ketapang regency, West Kalimantan Province.

These HCV areas, which were set aside several years ago by means of an RSPO procedure, are home to 108 Bornean orangutans according to a joint survey conducted by International Animal Rescue (IAR) and local forestry authorities.

This study represents clear evidence that parts of many existing palm oil concessions, such as the PT KAL concession, play host to Bornean orangutans.

The following photos, taken by the team in late May 2018, show that almost all the forests in the HCV areas in question, exceeding 70% the size of Brussels, remain relatively intact.

This case should serve as a lesson learned for the EU as it pertains to its delegated act which could discourage palm oil companies from protecting Bornean orangutan habitat in their existing concessions.

At this point, it needs to be emphasized that the EU delegated act should not be an instrument that is counterproductive to efforts to protect Bornean orangutans living in HCV areas scattered across many palm oil concessions.

The Planet Explorer images below, analyzed by the spatial team, depict the latest land cover situation in PT KAL’s HCV areas (delineated in yellow), demonstrating that they consist almost entirely of relatively intact forests. 

Survival of orangutans at stake

It is clear that the survival of around 108 Bornean orangutans found in these HCV areas lies in the hands of PT ANJT, the parent company of PT KAL and a member of the RSPO.

Rather than enacting its counterproductive delegated act, the EU should be looking, among other things, to establish a regulation that works to ensure the long-term protection of Bornean and Sumatran orangutans still living in the HCV areas distributed across many palm oil concessions.

Indeed, if the EU Delegated Act is implemented it will gradually create a situation whereby existing Bornean and Sumatran orangutan habitats, which were set aside by palm oil companies and have been protected for years, will no longer be managed seriously because the delegated act leaves no incentive to do so. This would become a destructive lesson learned for the EU.   

The enforcement of NDPE policies adopted by palm oil supply chains, which has led to the setting aside of high carbon stock (HCS) and HCV areas to some extent, including orangutan habitats, should also be incentivized, whereas the recently-adopted EU delegated act does the opposite.

Both President Joko Widodo and Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad have expressed their firm opposition to the EU Delegated Act. Moreover, the two leaders promised in a joint letter to the EU that they will review their relationship with the EU as a whole if the delegated act comes into force.