There’s a little glimmer of hope for the orangutans living in the rainforests of Indonesia. Back in February 2007 Vicki told us about the critical situation of these animals in Borneo and Sumatra: “their habitat is under constant attack from illegal logging, forest fires and mining… not to mention the ever-encroaching oil palms and the growing interest in their use as biofuels” (read Vicki’s blog for more information). Now, according to The Jarkarta Post, palm oil companies operating in Indonesia have pledged to stop clearing forests for new oil palm plantations as a response to growing criticism that oil palm expansion is destroying biologically-rich rainforests and contributing to global warming.
Didiek Hadjar Goenadi, executive director of the Indonesian Palm Oil Association (GAPKI) has said that palm oil companies would only develop "idle land", of which he estimates there are 7 million hectares (mha) in Indonesia – that’s a lot of available land to add to the 6.7 mha of oil palm plantations currently in the country (the total land area of Indonesia is ~192 mha, with forests covering ~60% of the country). It is estimated that Indonesia lost more than 1.8 mha (4.7 m acres) of forest annually between 2000 and 2005. "We realize the environmental impacts by opening all our forests so we will stop touching the forest and just concentrate on abundant lands which have not been cultivated yet," Didiek told reporters during a break in a seminar on climate change, agriculture and trade.
To find out more read the original news story, "Palm oil firms vow to stop using forests". To find out more about the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), who promote cultivation techniques for sustainable growth of palm oil, click here.