Thanks to international pressure on the Indonesian government, the Tripa peat forest in northern Sumatra has once again been officially declared a nature reserve. It was being burned to a cinder by palm oil companies.
The government has announced that all activities by the palm oil company PT Kallista Alam have been halted, and the company is under investigation for numerous alleged violations. These include unlawful slash-and-burn clearing, establishing illegal plantations, and offences against Indonesia’s conservation laws.
Last year, the then governor of Aceh province, Irwandi Yusuf, granted PT Kallista Alam a permit to develop a 1,600-hectare oil palm plantation in the heart of the peat swamp.
After a large-scale international protest that included a petition with more than 44,000 signatures, the Indonesian environment ministry decided to investigate the issuance of the permit.
The swamp forest is inside the Leuser Ecosystem area, which should be off-limits for conversion.
In recent months, palm oil companies have burned huge swathes of land that are home to orangutans and other endangered species.
The Tripa forest was initially included in the government’s map of areas where forestry activities are not permitted, but was then found to be absent from a revised version. It is now back on the protected list.
“Stopping the palm oil plantations in Tripa is a major success for environmental protection and animal welfare. The forest is especially rich in rare animal and plant species,” said a spokesperson for the non-governmental organisation Rainforest Rescue, based in Germany.
“There are just 6,500 orangutans remaining in Sumatra and Tripa is home to one of the densest populations. They now once again have a chance to survive.”
Photo: Carlos Quiles