The EnvironmentaLIST: 14 Reasons We Need to Save Indonesia From Deforestation

by Joao Talocchi

October 22, 2013

An orangutan at the Melbourne zoo. The decline of orangutan populations in Sumatra and Borneo has been driven by the destruction of their rainforest habitat, mainly due to the expansion of pulpwood and oil palm plantations.

© Greenpeace / Tom Jefferson

For most of the last year, Greenpeace has been investigating and documenting gross acts of environmental destruction in Indonesias last remaining forests. What these investigations reveal is a story of one massive, faceless company with links to illegal, and irresponsible behavior and the rapid disappearance of critically endangered animals such as the Sumatran Tiger. If that wasnt bad enough, we are all part of the problem.

Our License to Kill report shows how the makers of Oreo biscuits, Gillette shaving products and Clearasil, source palm oil through trader Wilmar International and are effectively making consumers – that’s you and me – unwitting accomplices in the destruction of Indonesias forests.

Like the actions of the Arctic 30 our activity here is designed to highlight the destruction of our environment by global corporations.

Here are 14 reasons why we should tell those companies to adopt zero deforestation policies and make sure their ingredients are coming from truly responsible sources.

14. Of all of the world’s land species, around two thirds call forests their home.

Tiger's Eye Tour in Indonesia

13.Tigers are an indicator species, a vital marker of the health of the forest. When tigers can no longer live within it, the survival of the forest itself and the many other species that depend upon it is also at risk.

Sumatran Tiger in Indonesia

12. As few as 400 Sumatran tigers are thought to remain in the wild in the rainforests of Sumatra, which are vanishing at a staggering rate a quarter of a million hectares every year. Expansion of oil palm and pulpwood plantations, to make shampoo, toothpaste, chocolate, glossy magazines and toilet paper, was responsible for nearly two-thirds of the destruction of tiger habitat from 2009 to 2011.

Forest Fires in Sumatra

11. Today, Sumatran tigers are classed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The next category is extinct in the wild.

Sumatran Tiger at Melbourne Zoo

10. Deforestation increases conflict between tigers and humans, and makes tigers more vulnerable to poaching. Between 1998 and 2011, 638 human-tiger conflicts were recorded in Sumatra, in which tigers killed 72 people and wounded 63 more. These conflicts resulted in the deaths of 59 tigers.

Trapped Sumatran Tiger

9. Its not only for the tigers. Indonesias forests are also home to many other endangered species including the Pygmy Elephant, the smallest elephant in Asia, and one of the least understood elephants of earth.

Pygmy Elephants in Borneo

8. The tree kangaroo is very agile in trees, being able to leap up to 30 feet from one tree to the other.. These endangered and solitary creatures live in the rainforests of Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Australia and are quickly losing their homes.

Tree Kangaroo at Melbourne Zoo

7. “Person of the forest is the translation of the Malay word orangutan, a great name, since they share around 97% of their DNA with humans. With an enormous arm span (a male may stretch his arms some 7 feet from fingertip to fingertip) these formidable primates spend most of their lives in trees, what makes them extremely vulnerable to deforestation. Both Sumatran and Bornean orangutans could become extinct in the wild as biologically viable populations within ten to twenty years.

Orangutan at Melbourne Zoo

6. A lot of the forests in Indonesia are located on peatlands, which are one of the worlds richest stores of carbon. Riau is estimated to hold 40% of Indonesias peatland carbon, equivalent to more than a years worth of global greenhouse gas emissions. Peatlands are often drained to provide suitable conditions for palm oil plantations, what causes significant carbon emissions and contributes to climate change.

Forest Destruction in Sumatra

5. A decade ago, a scientific survey found that the Tesso Nilo National Park in Indonesia was the most biodiversity rich spot on earth for plants. Our report shows how, since 2011, wholesale illegal destruction of Tesso Nilo – largely for palm oil – has destroyed almost half of its remaining forest cover. In June 2013, only 39,000ha of natural forest remained a mere quarter of the area of the forest complex.


4. Greenpeace recognizes palm oil, if sustainably produced, has many uses and benefits. This farming activity, which include zero burning, no herbicide use and improved water management to maintain the peatland water system, includes an innovative, independent small-holder approach to palm oil production that has delivered social and economic benefits and helped protect the remaining forest.

Small-holder Oil Palm Harvest in Sumatra

3. Wilmar and the household brands that buy its palm oil must acknowledge the true costs of irresponsible palm oil production. They need to ensure that their palm oil supply makes a genuine contribution to Indonesias development, rather than destroying the future for its people, its wildlife and the global climate on which we all depend.


2. We dont need the guilt of contributing to tiger extinction and deforestation when shaving or eating cookies.

Action at Globoil Conference in Mumbai

1.The forests, like the Arctic, are crucial to a balanced global environment. We believe no one has the right to destroy this ecosystem, and certainly not for short term commercial gain instead of long term sustainable development that benefits all Indonesian people.

Tropical Rainforest in Sumatra

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