Critical orangutan habitat under threat as forest fires encircle Gunung Palung National Park in Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo

Jakarta– Shocking UAV footage captured by Greenpeace Southeast Asia field researchers shows the massive underground peat fires burning across Indonesia.The footage was shot around the edge of the Gunung Palung National Park, a major reservoir of biodiversity in West Kalimantan, Indonesia. It shows fires burning in the deep peat surrounding the National Park and in nearby palm oil concessions – the result of decades of illegal logging and deforestation for oil palm and pulp plantations. Gunung Palung National Park contains one of the world’s largest surviving populations of wild orangutans.

In July and August 2015, fires were widespread across Tesso Nilo National Park in Riau, Sumatra, an area of vital tiger habitat that has been devastated by illegal encroachment including palm oil development. Fires have also been reported around Tanjung Puting National Park in Central Kalimantan.

“As governments prepare to meet in Paris to save the world from catastrophic warming, the earth in Indonesia is already on fire. Companies destroying forests and draining peatland have made Indonesia’s landscape into a huge carbon bomb, and the drought has given it a thousand fuses. The Indonesian government can no longer turn a blind eye to this destruction when half of Asia is living with the consequences,”  said Bustar Maitar, Indonesian Forest Project Leader for Greenpeace Southeast Asia,

Indonesian forest fires pose a huge threat to people’s health across Southeast Asia, and are estimated to result in 110,000 deaths each year from respiratory and other illnesses [1]. They are also a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions that threaten the world’s climate.

The Indonesian government’s own data show that deforestation and peatland destruction are responsible for nearly two-thirds of Indonesia’s GHG emissions [2]. Severe peatland and forest fires in Indonesia in the El Niño year of 1997 produced carbon emissions estimated to be equivalent to up to 40% of global fossil fuel emissions [3]. 2015 is forecast to be the biggest El Niño year since 1997.

“These fires are a harsh reminder of the pulp and palm oil industry’s legacy of destruction. Companies need to rise to the challenge and work together to break the link between commodity production and forest destruction. Unilateral no-deforestation policies are not working. Companies must eliminate the economic incentive to trash forests with an industry-wide ban on trade with anyone that clears forest,” Bustar Maitar said.

Deforestation rates have increased dramatically between 2010 and 2013 despite the introduction of a 2011 moratorium on new permits to clear primary forest or peatland [4]. In recent years, many companies that produce, trade or use palm oil and other commodities from Indonesia have pledged to take action on forest destruction. Yet deforestation indicators provided by the World Resources Institute strongly suggest the upward trend is continuing.


Notes to the Editor:


[1] Johnston, F., Henderson, S., Chen, Y., Randerson, J., Marlier, M., DeFries, R., Kinney, P., Bowman D & Brauer, M. 2012. Estimated global mortality attributable to smoke from landscape fires. Environmental Health Perspectives 120: 695-701.
[2] Minister of Environment and Forestry. Indonesia’s lntended Nationally Determined Contribution
[3] Page, S.E., Siegert, F., Rieley, J.O., Boehm, H-D. V., Jaya, A. & Limin, S. 2002. The amount of carbon released from peat and forest fires in Indonesia during 1997. Nature 420: 61-65
[4] The latest annual forestry statistics of Indonesia, released by the Ministry of Forestry of Indonesia, show a 36% increase in the period 2012-2013 over the period 2010-2012. The only more recent data available are satellite image based FORMA deforestation alerts provided by the World Resources Institute – these show a dramatic upward trend for Indonesia since 2010.

Media Contact:

Sol Gosetti, International Communications Coordinator, Indonesia Forest Campaign
E: [email protected], M: +447380845754


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