Ongoing Destruction Found in ‘Orangutan Capital of the World,’ yet Aceh Governor Sends Positive Signals for its Protection

Between August 21st and September 13th, 2017, a total of 49 hectares of forest were cleared in the Tripa peatland, located in Aceh’s Nagan Raya district and part of the endangered Leuser Ecosystem. A total of 12 hectares were cleared inside the PT. Kallista Alam (KA) concession, and the remaining 37 hectares were cleared inside the PT. Surya Panen Subur II (SPS) concession. A fire hotspot was also identified inside PT. SPS II. While a government moratorium on forest clearance for palm oil development has been in effect for over a year, the destruction of this critical carbon sink continues unchecked.

KA_Sept_2017_Coordinates.jpgForest loss in the PT. Kallista Alam concession in the month leading up to September 13, 2017

SPS2_Sept_2017_Coordinates.jpgForest loss in the PT. SPS II concession in the month leading up to September 13, 2017. Destruction in this concession, including fire hotspots, has been ongoing despite continual exposure by RAN.

In addition to its important carbon storage role, the Tripa peatland has been called “the orangutan capital of the world” as it is home to some of the highest known densities of the critically endangered Sumatran orangutan found anywhere. Although Tripa has experienced a dramatic rate of destruction, it still contains vital orangutan habitat that must be protected.

IMG_1776.JPGOn October 24th, 2017 two fire hotspots were found inside the PT. SPS II concession. An estimated 12 hectares of land were burned from these two hotspots. GPS coordinates: 3°46’25.2”N, 96°35’56.4”E and 3°45’52.5”N, 96°36’09.8”E.

This destruction shows that PT. KA and PT. SPS II are failing to adequately monitor their concessions and engage with parties that are developing the land. Forest clearance has been particularly consistent inside PT. SPS II since June 2016 when a government circular letter demanded that palm oil companies halt forest clearance. Since the circular letter, a total of 228 hectares of forest have been destroyed inside the PT. SPS II concession.

i-MCjP3jk-X3_(1).jpgAerial view of peat drainage canals cutting through the remaining forest in the PT. SPS II concession.

Despite the ongoing destruction, the new Governor of Aceh, Irwandi Yusuf, recently sent a positive signal for the protection of Tripa. During his inauguration speech on October 9th, 2017, Irwandi suggested that the Nagan Raya District Government temporarily stop granting new permits for palm oil developments that would destroy Aceh’s nature and pass on destruction to future generations.

Time will tell how the district government responsible for the management of the Tripa peatland will respond to this passionate appeal from the Governor. It is our collective hope that governments will work together to secure the long term protection of Tripa by  stopping new permits for palm oil development and investing in solutions to secure both land rights and the restoration of peat forests. This fragile yet crucial part of the Leuser Ecosystem cannot await further delays in action.

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