June 6, 2018

AP news report on orangutan forest prompts response

JAKARTA ( - Coinciding with World Environment Day, The Associated Press (AP) has posted a report concerning the findings of a Greenpeace investigation that exposed illegal logging operations in the Sungai Putri landscape, one of the few remaining areas inhabited by the critically-endangered Bornean orangutan, which lies in Ketapang regency in the Indonesian province of West Kalimantan.

AP included references to a news report by (Jun 1), thereby compelling us to respond in kind.

Peat forests still dominant despite confined illegal logging 

The illegal logging practices uncovered by Greenpeace based on its March 2018 investigation took place in a very small part of the PT MPK concession. The size of this logging concession is roughly equal to 37 thousand football fields, or half the area of Singapore. It goes without saying that such illegal operations represent a real threat that needs to be addressed.  

However, in reality the majority of the land cover in this logging concession still consists of relatively intact peat forests. Furthermore, the facts show that the illegal logging operations - which if still ongoing must be stopped - only happened in a very small section of the PT MPK logging concession.

This explains why, as previously mentioned, most of the land cover in the PT MPK logging concession remains dominated by relatively intact peat forests. This is verifiable by any party interested in doing so, both by satellite data as well as ground-checks, as seen in the following photos.

Debt of gratitude

Even if illegal logging operations took place on a tiny portion of the PT MPK concession, this in no way negates the efforts of President Joko Widodo’s administration to stop any new clearing and drainage in this logging concession. 

On the contrary, the President and Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya are owed a debt of gratitude for preventing such practices which had been targeted in the PT MPK concession on a massive scale. 

There is no doubt that any peat ecosystem drainage must be prevented in the PT MPK logging concession. This would entail ending illegal logging operations in several sites in this concession. 

This notwithstanding, it is clear that without the legal move by Minister Nurbaya, which halted PT MPK’s operations through the imposition of a severe sanction, the vast majority of the peat forests in the logging concessions, as depicted in the photos below, would have been both cleared and drained to a significant extent by PT MPK.  

Greenpeace claim denied

press release from Greenpeace in late March 2017, which was referenced in its new press release (Jun 5), claimed that it played a part in the law enforcement actions taken by the Environment and Forestry Ministry, including ending the operations of PT MPK. This claim has been refuted by the ministry

In a previous report by also posted in late March last year, which included the original Greenpeace press release (pdf) before it was revised, the ministry strongly asserted that the law enforcement actions it carried out against PT MPK had no connection whatsoever with the Greenpeace report. 

Unapproved use of ministry logo 

Furthermore, the new Greenpeace press release included a reference to an assessment report supposedly from the Center for the Conservation of Natural Resources (BKSDA), a provincial-level unit of the Environment and Forestry Ministry. This report contains the ministry’s logo

The ministry was asked about this matter, and it turns out that the use of the ministry logo in the report referred to by Greenpeace was done without the permission of BKSDA. 

This was confirmed by Wiratno, the Ministry’s Director General of Nature Conservation and Ecosystems, (Jun 5) who forwarded the following text message from Sadtata Noor Adirahmanta, the head of BKSDA in West Kalimantan. 

“There was no coordination with us (BKSDA). The report was published without any communications with us. The inclusion of the logo was also done without any coordination. We have asked, both verbally and in writing, that it be removed.”