One of my favorite wildlife conservation organizations is Kalaweit which rescues and rehabilitates Gibbons and other wildlife in Sumatra and Borneo. I have a special place in my heart for Gibbons since first seeing them swinging from tree to tree in the Borneo rainforest and living next to one that was, unfortunately, being kept as a pet in the place I stayed at in Thailand while working in a nearby refugee camp. So when the head of Kalaweit, a French citizen named Chanee who’s been working in Indonesia since 1988, issued this press release I read it with alarm.
Read this and if you too wish to help the first thing you can do is stop buying products with palm oil and secondly give to organizations like Kalaweit: http://www.kalaweit.org
Indonesia is killing the planet
Paris, October 2nd, 2015 : While France prepares to receive the COP 21 in order to fight climate change, Indonesia is facing the worst fires since 1997, becoming one of the biggest polluters (by emitting greenhouse gasses) of the planet. Chanee, founder of Kalaweit, lives in the south of Borneo where the situation has become “unbearable” .
Borneo and Sumatra under clouds of smoke each year because of palm oil:
Each year, during the dry season, giant fires ravage the islands of Borneo and Sumatra. These fires are set deliberately in order to quickly convert forests into palm oil plantations. In 2015, they started as early as the month of May in the peat bogs, releasing thick, toxic smoke over entire regions.
The provinces most affected are Kalimantan Tengah, Kalimantan Barat, Kalimantan Selatan in Borneo and, in Sumatra, those of Riau, Jambi and Sumatra Selatan. In Jambi, the local Environmental Agency announced that the index of measure for air quality had reached “very dangerous levels” and a state of urgency had been declared in the province of Riau, situated in front of Singapore.
In Palangkaraya, Kalimantan’s central region’s capital in Borneo where Chanee lives, all primary
schools have been closed for the past month. The city now holds the record for most polluted city in the world. According to Chanee, who has lived there since 1998, “the situation is unbearable”.
At the Kalaweit center at Pararawen in Borneo, the animals are showing signs of respiratory problems and concern is growing with regards to the more fragile ones.
According to the Indonesian government, 40 000 hectares have been destroyed. (Official site: http://www.menlh.go.id/areal-kebakaran-hutan-diperkirakan-40-000-ha/). But organizations like Kalaweit believe the numbers are more likely to be in the thousands with a possible 200 000 hectares of forest annihilated.
An industry that pushes farmers to grow oil palms:
The rains that might have stopped the fires arrive normally in October. Because of El Nino, which
has brought about the worst droughts and fires since 1997/98, they are expected to fall in Indonesia at best in January 2016. Millions of hectares of forest will have been reduced to ashes by then.
The fires, which are deliberately started, have had time to spread, creating more room for future
palm oil plantations. It is the palm oil companies as well as the land owners, pushed by the palm oil industry, who burn the forests in order to transform them into plantations.
According to Chanee, Kalaweit’s founder, the government should have acted as of May as the fires are now out of control and the situation is of a scale unheard of before.
More than 75% of the Tripa region in the south of Sumatra is covered in palm oil plantations. The number of orangutans has decreased from more than 1 000 in the 1990’s down to 200 today. They share, along with gibbons and other species, a territory of 17 000 hectares of forest that have resisted the plantation of oil palms.
Can the COP 21 change anything?
Malaysia and Singapore have just lodged a complaint against Jakarta concerning the poisonous gases that have reached them. But will the arrogant attitude of the Indonesian government with regards to its neighbours and its own population change during the COP 21 summit? The stakes are colossal concerning both economy and climate. Indonesia, one of the biggest polluters on the planet, is a developing country that wishes to continue its economic growth despite the environmental damage done.
Only a real change in the Indonesian’s government’s attitude with regard to the palm oil companies can reverse the trend and stop the deforestation. In Europe and elsewhere, consumers have a role to play by refusing to use products containing palm oil.
Some words about Kalaweit:
The organization was created in 1997 by Chanee, a frenchman passionate about gibbons. Gibbons are members of the great apes and live in Southeast Asia. They are threatened by
massive deforestation that destroys their habitat to enable the production of palm oil.
In Indonesia, the organization acquires gibbons kept illegally, protects the forests and helps
raise awareness in the local people thanks to Radio Kalaweit FM and a TV series, “Kalaweit Wildlife Rescue”. Muriel Robin is Kalaweit’s ambassador. The organization exists only through donations.
(For now Kalaweit reserves are safe from forest fires)
A great overview of the problem from Vice entitled Indonesia is Killing The Planet For Palm Oil: https://news.vice.com/article/indonesia-is-killing-the-planet-for-palm-oil