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Permitting Crime: How Palm Oil Expansion Drives Illegal Logging in Indonesia

The clear-cutting of forests to make way for oil palm plantations is driving a wave of illegal logging in Indonesia, fundamentally undermining efforts to bring much-needed reform to the nation’s forestry and timber sectors.  A new report released by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), Permitting Crime: How palm oil expansion drives illegal logging in Indonesia, reveals how a widespread culture of corruption and poor law enforcement is generating a flood of illicit timber as plantations surge into frontier forests. In-depth case studies of blatant violations of licensing procedures and other laws in Central Kalimantan – a hotspot for forest crime – detailed in the report include: outright violations of plantation…

MANTARAY

Manta parts worth $615 million to Indonesian tourism industry intercepted

The  Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries of the Republic of Indonesia and the WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society’s) Wildlife Crimes Unit have made their largest seizure of manta ray gills and arrested one person. The 103kg of gill plates represented 85 manta rays and each was worth $7.8 million to the Indonesian dive industry over its lifetime. The raid took place on 7th November when officials, working on part of a larger investigation, at a house near to the  Pengambengan Negara fisheries landing area in Bali. The latest raid follows on from follows three arrests earlier this month and in October involving illegal trade of manta ray meat and gill…

United Nations launches emergency appeal for Sumatran elephants

United Nations launches emergency appeal for Sumatran elephants

The Rapid Response Facility of the United Nations Education, Scientific and Culture Organisation (UNESCO) has launched an emergency appeal to help protect the critically endangered Sumatran elephant. A significant increase in poaching of the animals in Aceh, Indonesia means that local conservation group HAkA is in urgent need of more resources. With just 500 Sumatran elephants remaining in  the Leuser Ecosystem in northern Sumatra, Indonesia, any loss of an individual threatens the long-term survival of the species. The animals live in part of a World Heritage Site that is currently on the in danger list. Rising levels of poaching is just the latest in a range of threats to the…

Indonesian cop is jailed for eight years for major timber smuggling racket

Indonesian cop is jailed for eight years for major timber smuggling racket

Timber-smuggling Indonesian police officer Labora Sitorus has been jailed for eight years after a legal appeal overturned the shockingly lenient verdict handed down earlier this year by a court in West Papua. Low-ranking Sitorus was originally charged with illegal logging, fuel smuggling and money laundering but the Sorong-based officer was in February found guilty of just one charge – illegal logging – and was sentenced to just two years in prison with a US$4,000 fine. He was acquitted of money laundering, despite evidence showing US$127 million passed through his accounts. An appeal filed by the Prosecutors trying the case has now led to Sitorus being convicted of money laundering and jailed…

Indonesian clerics issue Fatwa against killing endangered species

For the first time a muslim council have issued a Fatwa against the illegal trade in wildlife and illegal hunting. A fatwa is an opinion on muslim law made by a teacher or scholar in the muslim faith. The fatwa issued by the Ulema council determines that illegal hunting and wildlife trading is “unethical, immoral and sinful”. “All activities resulting in wildlife extinction without justifiable religious grounds or legal provisions are haram [forbidden]. These include illegal hunting and trading of endangered animals“, said Asrorun Ni’am Sholeh, secretary of the council’s commission on fatwas. “Whoever takes away a life, kills a generation. This is not restricted to humans, but also includes…

Indonesia to become safe haven for manta rays

Indonesia have announced that two enigmatic ray species – the giant manta ray and the reef manta ray – are to become protected throughout the country’s territorial waters. 2.2 million square miles of waters will be protected under the new regulations that will ban fishing for the species. Over the last 10 years the reef manta ray has dropped in number by 33% and the giant manta ray has seen numbers drop by 57%. Manta rays were most at risk in Indonesia around the coast of Nusa Tenggara where traditional fishermen used to take between 900 and 1,300 rays each year. The rays were caught to meet demands for fish gills…

UK launches new programme to reduce demand for Tiger parts

The UK Government today announced its support for a programme to protect and recover wild Tigers by reducing the demand for their bones and other body parts. The commitment is part of the UK Government’s ongoing support for the Global Tiger Recovery Program (GTRP), endorsed by all 13 Tiger range countries at the ‘Tiger Summit’ held in St Petersburg in 2010 and was made ahead of the London Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade currently taking place and hosted by UK Foreign Secretary William Hague. “Today’s conference is about bringing together world leaders to find real answers to the devastation of wildlife crime. This is something that brings untold misery to…

Major tiger traders arrested in Indonesia

Police in Aceh, Indonesia on Monday arrest 2 major players in the illegal tiger trade and wildlife smuggling. The two are thought to be behind the co-ordination of 5 tiger poaching gangs operating in the country. A number of wildlife products were seized at the time of the arrests. Sr. Comr. Joko Irwanto, director of special crimes unit Aceh Police, said that two stuffed Sumatran tigers, a honey bear, a leopard, a hornbill, a clouded leopard, a muntjac deer, antelopes, two golden cats and eight bear teeth were recovered when police made their move. The two arrested have not been named but are aged 33 and 38. More arrests are expected…

Major tiger sanctuary announced for Indonesia

Indonesia’s forestry department has announced plans for the establishment of a major tiger sanctuary for illegally trapped and captured Sumatran tigers. With just 300 individual tigers left in the wild the new plan will be a major contribution towards helping prevent the extinction of the species. The tiger sanctuary will be developed in Riau province and will consist of semi-natural land that will be developed to replicate a true tiger habitat. The Forestry Ministry are working with experts from Yogyakarta’s Gadjah Mada University (UGM) to get the tiger sanctuary established and it is hoped to be completed next year. Speed is of the essence if the  Sumatran tigers are to…

Former timber kingpin a threat to orangutans and investors

Potential investors should steer clear of a US$90 million initial public offering (IPO) in an Indonesian palm oil company due to the involvement of a former illegal logging kingpin and the potential impact on precious orangutan habitat, the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) warned today. The company, Sawit Sumbermas Sarana (SSMS), currently holds a land bank of 78,000 hectares in the Indonesian province of Central Kalimantan and is seeking investment to expand its palm oil plantation area through an IPO on the Jakarta stock exchange scheduled for today (December 12). The founder of SSMS is Abdul Rasyid, who currently controls all of the shares in the company through family members.…

Orangutans prepare for their travel in advance

When it’s time to move on it seems that male orang-utans are not so impulsive but will prepare and plan their route in advance. A team of scientists studied the calls of orangutans and discovered that males will make certain calls in the direction of travel the day before they make their move. If an orang-utan decided to change their mind then they would emit the calls in the new direction before starting out on their new journey. Carel van Schaik and his colleagues from the Anthropological Institute and Musuem in Zurich, Switzerland spent time studying wild orangutans in Indonesia. While it’s been known that great apes can plan for future needs this was the first…

Crack anti-corruption team turn their sights on loggers

Indonesia’s crack anti-corruption agency are set to investigate financial dealings between police officers and arrested timber trader Labora Sitorus. The trader is suspected of handing over millions of dollars to police officers at all levels as part of his illegal logging, money laundering and fuel smuggling operations. Sitorus was an Adj. First Inspector in the Indonesian police force when he turned to trading in illegal timber. He was involved in major logging operations on the island of Papua which has the last remaining large-scale natural forests in the Indonesian archipelago. Last month papers were passed to the prosecuting authorities in Papua following police investigations. On his arrest in May National Police Commissioner M. Nasser criticised the…

450000 water monitor lizards killed each year for handbags

A team of Indonesian and German researchers have recently published a comprehensive study into the current state of south-east Asia’s giant lizard populations. Despite all the species of the giant lizards having protection under CITES they are under threat from an un-controlled trade. The pet trade is the biggest threat to the giant lizards-  such as monitor lizards -but the luxury goods market in the west is also driving illegal killing of vast numbers of wild monitor lizards. The study published in Herpetological Conservation and Biology highlighted how as many as 450,000 water monitor lizards each year are killed in Indonesia to provide skins for the luxury goods markets of Western countries.…

The travelling dolphin circuses of Indonesia

The travelling dolphin circuses of Indonesia

Indonesia is the last bastion of one of the worst examples of treatment of dolphins in the world. It is here that the last three travelling dolphin circuses exist, despite being declared illegal by authorities. The three companies are left unchallenged by the government to transport dolphins around in unsuitable and harmful conditions despite Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan declaring that travelling shows are illegal and his ministry has a ‘zero-tolerance’ policy to the industry. Three companies currently operate travelling dolphin shows in Indonesia –  Wersut Seguni Indonesia (WSI), Taman Safari Indonesia and Ancol.- all operating out of the main island of Java. They all have permits to run dolphin shows…

Indonesian courts orders land ownership back to tribes

In 1999 a new law was bought into effect in Indonesia which saw vast swathes of forest taken into state ownership. That law was over-ruled yesterday by the Constitutional Court and following its judicial review, the land ownership was ordered to be returned to local indigenous people. The move will have major impacts for development in some areas of Indonesia where state ownership of forests is no longer valid. The decision by the court was made public yesterday.  The review examined the Act No. 41/1999 on Forestry (Undang-Undang Kehutanan or UUK. The Judicial Review was initiated in March last year by the Indigenous Peoples’ Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN). The ruling…

Is Bali about to ban shark fishing?

There are hints that a new shark and manta ray sanctuary is about to be formed at Bali. Last month the underwater paradise of Raja Ampat in West Papua, Indonesia banned the fishing of sharks and rays in it’s coral reefs and set up a shark sanctuary – the first in the so called Coral Triangle of South East Asia. Now there are hints that Bali is about to follow suit and ban shark fishing from it’s waters. A report in the Jakarta Post published today covered the campaign by Conservation International (Indonesia) to get the Bali provincial government to establish a shark sanctuary. The campaign was started in 2011…

Palm oil rush comes to an end in East Kalimantan

The provincial administration of East Kalimantan in Indonesia has announced that they will be issuing a moratorium on new palm oil plantations later this year. While no date has been set the administration has said that with less than half of the permitted plantations actually planted and under cultivation no new permits will be issued until all existing ones are operational. Even after the currently permitted plantations are all operational new palm oil plantations will take second importance to food crops such as rice. “There have been already so many permits issued, therefore we will temporarily halt the issuance of new permits for new palm oil plantations,” said Yayan Sabianoor,…

Cautious hope for rare Indonesian macaques

Researchers are beginning to have tentative hopes that numbers of a rare black macaque of Indonesia has stopped declining and populations levels are beginning to grow again. A recent study suggests that populations of the Sulawesi black macaques are heading back to levels last seen 20 years ago. The researchers from the US and Indonesia have been monitoring the levels of black macaques (Macaca nigra) in the Tangkoko Nature Reserve. The macaque is classed as critically endangered by the IUCN. The long-term surveys have been undertaken since 1997. The latest findings have been published in this months edition of American Journal of Primatology. Lead author and UW research professor of psychology, Randall…

Kenya makes biggest ever ivory bust

Kenya makes biggest ever ivory bust

Customs officials at Kenya’s Mombasa port made the country’s biggest ever interception of ivory yesterday. Over 2 tons of illegal ivory was intercepted on it’s way to Indonesia. The value of the ivory was estimated to be around USD1.1 million and consisted of over 630 pieces of elephant tusk. While the interception was made in Kenya it is thought that the ivory originated from elephants in Tanzania and Rwanda. “This is a big catch, the biggest ever single seizure of ivory at the port of Mombasa,” said Kiberenge Seroney, the port’s police officer in charge of criminal investigations. “We fail to understand where one gathers the courage to park such…

6 juveniles offer hope to the Javan rhino

6 juveniles offer hope to the Javan rhino

There are only an estimated 50 Javan rhino left in the wild but new camera trap footage shows there at least 6 juveniles under the age of 2. These young rhino offers a real hope for the survival of the species which are concentrated in the Ujung Kulon National Park of Indonesia. The information about the young rhino was released as the Ujung Kulon National Park (TNUK) and Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) renewed their partnership agreement for a second year. The partnership aims to help the park meet its aim of increasing the population of the highly endangered species from 50 to 75. The Indonesian government is pushing private companies to increase their role in protecting…