Good News for Species on the Brink of Extinction in Tripa

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Photo: David Gilbert

UPDATE, 9.26.12: 

BREAKING: Within the next 24 hours, Kallista Alam, 1 of the 5 major palm oil companies operating in Tripa, will have their operating permit WITHDRAWN.

This is a highly important precedent-setting case, as this is the first in Aceh’s (Sumatra, Indonesia) entire governmental history.

RAN members like you have helped to keep the pressure on the Indonesian government to hold palm oil companies accountable for their massive deforestation.

This imminent historic decision sends a strong message to the palm oil & pulp industry that the status quo of operating illegally with impunity will no longer be tolerated as business as usual. It is CRUCIAL now to keep the international spotlight on other instances of rainforest destruction and human rights abuses so this milestone case becomes a pattern and not an anomaly.

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In a huge turn of events last week and a massive step in the right direction for the Tripa peat forest of Sumatra, the Administrative High Court of Medan has commanded the Governor of Aceh to withdraw the permit of palm oil company PT Kallista Alam.

This is the very same palm oil company that played a role in the tragic illegal burning of the Tripa rainforest last Spring, which threatened this delicate peat swamp, home to the highest population density of the critically endangered Sumatran orangutan anywhere on Earth.

PT Kallista Alam’s permit was originally issued by former Governor Yusuf in August 2011 to allow 1,605 hectares (just under 4,000 acres) of deep peat in the Tripa forest to be converted into oil palm plantations. The permit was issued despite the fact that the area of Tripa covered by the permit is protected by national laws that prevent any development that causes environmental degradation or destruction. A police report was filed by the local community to the National Police in Jakarta, and Indonesian environmental group WALHI sought legal justice by filing a case against Governor Yusuf and PT Kallista Alam for the illegal expansion into the Tripa forest.

Photo: Carlos Qulies

But the story only thickens from there. This past March, hundreds of fires raged through the Tripa peat swamp as palm oil companies rushed to clear the forest before the verdict was announced—with none other than PT Kallista Alam leading the pack. To the dismay of environmentalists and orangutan lovers alike, the Indonesian court decided to throw out the case and WALHI filed for an appeal. RAN and Tripa supporters from all around the world sent thousands of emails, faxes, letters and petitions to the Indonesian government, and Tripa became the subject of a National Police investigation into the crimes and illegal burning by the expanding oil palm plantations.

That brings us to today. Since the appeal was filed, the world has witnessed continued burning of Tripa— fires so bad that they created a regional air quality crisis and made the extinction of the critically endangered Sumatran orangutan a more imminent reality.

The High Court’s decision to grant the appeal and its order to the Governor of Aceh to withdraw PT Kallista Alam’s permit is not just an achievement for WALHI, but also a victory for the communities of Aceh and the hundreds of national and international groups concerned with the conservation of Tripa. This decision sets a new precedent that law enforcement is key for the protection of Indonesia’s forests. WALHI expects this may be the beginning of “momentum of law enforcement in a broader sense” concering environmental issues in Indonesia.

Photo: Carlos Quiles

But this is not the end of the road for saving the threatened rainforests of Tripa. Rather, it’s only a small step in the right direction. Now it’s up to Governor Zaini Abdullah to follow through with his instructions and cancel PT Kallista Allam’s permit. Beyond revoking the permit, other necessary action is needed by the courts in order to protect Tripa: evaluate the licenses of the other palm oil companies operating illegally and revoke any permits in violation of legal procedure, and punish the guilty parties who issued any illegal permits. Tripa is an important test case to see if Indonesian Police and Government really can uphold the law—the survival of Tripa depends on it.

This small but meaningful win for Tripa was made possible with the help of the thousands of people worldwide who took actions to put a spotlight on Tripa and created international pressure to save this peatland. There’s still a long road ahead, but we will continue to call for support and together we can continue to gain significant victories towards saving Tripa once and for all.

8 Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. Bud Wilson says:

    Chelsea, Thank you for bringing this important message into the light. I personally love Orangutan’s – there is something about their gentle nature that stirs my imagination. Could we humans learn from their behavior? With your good work and RAN’s dedication to the preservation of biodiversity, perhaps our destructive, extractive practices will be held in check long enough to allow for a transformation of our society.

  2. Krista O. says:

    Thank you, RAN, and everyone who is fighting to save the rainforest and the incredible wildlife for whom it is home. Every little bit of good news helps.

  3. Imagine, a country that holds its offenders accountable… finally! Thank goodness we have people like you Chelsea to spread the word and keep people informed. These wonderful and unique creatures deserve better and it is sad that they have fallen victim to our seemingly unyielding greed.

  4. josiane de angelis says:

    laissons en paix ces fabuleuses creatures

  5. Marko Reinikainen says:

    Good work! These are very important steps against arrogant palm oil companies which are used to operate like this all the time. It must come to an end like any illegal and eyes closed decisions around these subjects around the world. Thanks!

  6. Berty says:

    It seems regional governments only take action when their global image recieves unlicsensed media scrutiny. Regardless of borders these rainforests are galactic heritage. So when law enforcement offices fail so atrociously to practice their function a PR guiltwash will not suffice. This campaign must continue!

  7. Berty says:

    Indeed once the journalist return from their beachside huts Kalista will most likely have their license renewed. Let’s keep the spotlight on their desks and not be fooled by the media circus.

  8. Joan M says:

    Bud, you are so right, the Orangutan is of a much gentler nature than the human beings that are in the middle east. Perhaps they could take a lesson from them. RAN does a great job with all the wildlife reporting and protection of our nature and resources.

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