Major Palm Oil Traders Confirm RAN Evidence of Illegal Plantations Inside Indonesian Wildlife Refuge, Commit to Restore Destroyed Rainforest

After initially denying the evidence, Indonesia’s largest palm oil traders admit that a supplier to major global brands was operating an illegal plantation inside the nationally protected Rawa Singkil Wildlife Reserve.

Three of Indonesia’s largest palm oil traders, Musim Mas, Wilmar, and Golden Agri Resources have sent field verification teams into Sumatra’s Leuser Ecosystem to verify RAN’s ‘Carbon Bomb’ allegations of illegal palm oil production inside the globally important Rawa Singkil Wildlife Reserve. These three traders, and Apical, one of Indonesia’s other largest palm oil traders, had previously issued public statements denying RAN’s accusations. After RAN doubled down and demanded the traders confirm its evidence on the ground, the three companies have now corroborated the truth of the story and have secured commitments from one of the owners of the illegal plantations exposed in the report to deliver an ‘action plan’ that involves decommissioning the portion of the plantation inside the nationally protected reserve and returning the land to the Indonesian government for restoration. 

“This case sets a critically important precedent affirming the sanctity of the borders of the globally outstanding Rawa Singkil Wildlife Reserve,” said Gemma Tillack, Forest Policy Director at Rainforest Action Network (RAN). “But at the same time, this evidence also confirms our worst fears that the existing verification systems used by major global brands are failing to stop them from continuing to source illegally produced palm oil. And worse, we know that the violations documented by our field teams are the tip of the iceberg of a systemic crisis of illegal rainforest destruction that big consumer brands urgently need to address.”  

In a first for a major global brand, consumer goods giant Proctor & Gamble has committed to working with its suppliers to ensure the illegal plantations will be returned to the Rawa Singkil Wildlife Reserve, as well as to remediate the impacted lands. RAN welcomes these written pledges while taking a wait-and-see approach to the final outcome. 

The Rawa Singkil Wildlife Reserve is home to some of the last remaining intact habitat for critically endangered Sumatran orangutans, tigers, rhinos, and elephants and is among the top priority landscapes for conservation in the world. The lands in question are also deep, carbon-rich peatlands, which emit tremendous amounts of carbon pollution when they are cleared and developed for industrial agriculture. 

This case is seen as an important milestone because it is known that there are, at minimum, over 750 more acres of illegal plantation intrusion into the reserve that must also be identified, decommissioned, and restored. RAN is very concerned that it took a third-party non-profit to use field teams and satellite data to bring this case to light, which presents a stark example of the abject failure of existing traceability, verification, and monitoring systems used by big brands to enforce their No Deforestation, No Peatland, No Exploitation (NDPE) policies.