May 14, 2019

Another palm oil concession key to the fate of Bornean orangutans

JAKARTA ( - Peat forests blanketing an area almost twice the size of Brussels stretching across a palm oil concession controlled by BGA Group (PT DAS) provide another example of the many palm oil concessions in Indonesia that are still home to Bornean orangutans and essential to their survival.

A survey by International Animal Rescue (IAR) indicates that there are around 100 Bornean orangutans living in the BGA palm oil concession that lies in part of the Sungai Putri landscape, one of the last strongholds of Bornean orangutans in the world.

This is another case that should be studied by the EU so that its recently adopted  delegated act is not counterproductive to ongoing efforts by palm oil companies to protect Bornean orangutans and their habitat in numerous palm oil concessions.

As previously reported by (May 9), a Jakarta-listed company called PT ANJT controls a palm oil concession (PT KAL) which set aside an area greater than 70% the size of Brussels consisting almost entirely of relatively intact forests and inhabited by 108 Bornean orangutans

Both the BGA and ANJT palm oil concessions are located in West Kalimantan’s Essential Ecosystem Area in Ketapang regency, which was designed mainly to protect this huge landscape inhabited by critically-endangered Bornean orangutans.

Forests remain relatively intact

In early April 2017, Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya sent a letter to the province's governor requesting the ending of peat violations in the PT DAS concession, as reported by

Major parts of the BGA palm oil concession were still composed of relatively intact peat forest when documented by the ministry's law enforcement team in March 2017. The situation, as shown in the following photos, remains fairly similar today.

In September 2017, in a technical discussion with foresthints.newsBGA confirmed that it would not carry out new peat development for palm oil expansion in the PT DAS concession, a company acquired in December 2016, as also reported by

The latest forest cover situation in the BGA palm oil concession, home to around 100 Bornean orangutans, shows that it is still significantly forested with parts fragmented by previously built-canals (delineated in yellow), as demonstrated in the Planet Explorer images below which were analyzed by the spatial team.

Efforts to protect Bornean orangutans and their habitat, as are taking place in the BGA palm oil concession and the aforementioned ANJT-controlled palm oil concession, should be acknowledged and appreciated.

Similarly, in an area almost twice the size of Brussels, Sumatran orangutan-inhabited peat forests are also being protected in a Saratoga-controlled palm oil concession in the Leuser Ecosystem, as previously reported by (Apr 29)

EU missing last opportunities 

The EU actually has a great opportunity to work with the Indonesian government and palm oil industry to ensure the survival of orangutans which are still extensively found in palm oil concessions, both those set aside for protection as well as those still targeted for clearing. 

Nonetheless, it is no exaggeration to say that the EU is failing to take advantage of the momentum of change in Indonesia, especially in light of President Joko Widodo's order to protect areas with good forest cover in existing palm oil concessions.

Furthermore, the EU is also abandoning its opportunities to collaborate with President Jokowi's administration in no longer issuing new palm oil permits in high carbon stock (HCS) forests. As it turns out, the EU seems more focused on deforestation from 2008-2015 as the basis for adopting its delegated act which seeks to phase out the use of palm oil for biofuels. 

It is thus completely reasonable and understandable why President Jokowi, in his joint letter with Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, finally underlined to the EU his strong opposition to the delegated act which, among other things, wholly undermines the ongoing forest preservation efforts being made by his administration.