Minister lives up to promise on action against peatland violators in Leuser Ecosystem

JAKARTA (foresthints.news) - The Singkil peat swamp forests situated in the Leuser Ecosystem, which cover an area greater than that of Singapore and form an important habitat of the Sumatran orangutan, have been found to mostly comprise intact landcover.

A day after completing joint monitoring, together with Greenomics Indonesia, of landcover and encroachment in the Singkil Wildlife Reserve, part of an important peatland block in the Leuser Ecosystem (Oct 28), Indonesia’s Environment Ministry and Forestry along with the police caught perpetrators of illegal clearing in the act on Saturday (Oct 29).

This photo shows the sting operation carried out by the ministry.

“I explicitly instructed my law enforcement team to apprehend anybody engaging in illegal logging or clearing in the Leuser Ecosystem. The monitoring goes on. I’m also continuing to receive reports from the public about the situation on the ground,” the Environment and Forestry Minister, Dr Siti Nurbaya, told foresthints.news on Sunday (Oct 30) in Jakarta.

Even though the majority of the Singkil peat swamp forests remain intact, the minister continued, encroachment still poses a serious threat, in particular for the illegal development of palm oil plantations.

The following video (taken on Oct 28) demonstrates that most of the Singkil peat swamp forests remain intact. This monitoring forms part of the implementation of the palm oil expansion moratorium in the Leuser Ecosystem declared in April this year.

The two photos from the monitoring show illegal clearances for that very purpose - the development of palm oil plantations.

“We are undertaking parallel efforts in terms of on-the-ground monitoring and law enforcement, including in the Leuser Ecosystem,” the minister explained.

Caught red-handed

The law enforcement measures that the minister has been promising were truly put into action on the scene, with the perpetrators of the illegal clearing in the Singkil peat swamp forest caught red-handed.

The minister related how events unfolded. “We caught the perpetrators operating an excavator to clear and create canals in the Singkil wildlife reserve. This, of course, causes losses to the state. As such, we’ve already reported this matter to the police and it is being dealt with by them. We’ll keep monitoring this case.”

Minister Siti Nurbaya underlined that her ministry would continue taking as much action as deemed necessary, especially in an effort to save the three important peatland blocks situated in the Leuser Ecosystem.

“The President’s commitment to this issue is clear. The saving of the peatlands, including those peatlands in the Leuser Ecosystem, is a non-negotiable.”

The three important peatland blocks in the Leuser Ecosystem, which are spread along the west coast of Aceh and in southern Aceh, are the Tripa, Kluet and Singkil peat swamp forests, all of which are key areas in which the Sumatran orangutan can be found.