Indonesia President Urged to Take Immediate Action to Protect Orangutans

Indonesia President Urged to Take Immediate Action to Protect All Remaining Orangutans and Their Habitats Following Extensive Population Decline

Washington, DC – Indonesia’s president must act now to prevent the irreversible decline of Asia’s only great ape, warns a new report by the Washington, DC-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA).

EIA’s report reveals that Indonesia’s orangutan population is on a steady march to extinction due to a combination of habitat loss, illegal killings, and wildfires. In just four years, from 2016-2019, more than 1.825 million acres of intact orangutan forest was deforested according to EIA’s analysis. EIA’s findings are alarming in light of a 2018 study that found the island of Borneo alone lost an estimated 148,500 orangutans between 1999 to 2015.

Orangutans in Crisis describes the Government of Indonesia’s systematic failure to protect orangutan habitat, enforce existing wildlife laws, and reverse the decline of these iconic species. EIA’s analysis of concession data reveals that an estimated 1.1 million hectares of oil palm concessions, 1.2 million hectares of pulpwood concessions, and 5.1 million hectares of selective logging concessions all overlap with orangutan habitat in Indonesian Borneo (Kalimantan) and Sumatra. Two recent developments, the expiration of Indonesia’s moratorium on new palm oil concessions and the adoption of weakened forest protection policies in the 2020 Omnibus Jobs Creation Law, have heightened the risks to orangutan habitat. By 2050, an additional 45,300 orangutans will be lost based on current rates of habitat destruction according to orangutan conservation experts.

“The confluence of threats facing orangutans is nothing short of a crisis,” said Taylor Tench, EIA Policy Analyst. “For decades, Indonesia has prioritized industry and profit over environmental health and biodiversity protection, and orangutans have paid the price.” 

Indonesia currently has no conservation strategy and action plan in place to guide national, provincial, and local actions to conserve orangutans. “The future of Indonesia’s orangutans requires immediate action at the presidential level. Anything less will be too late for these iconic species,” said EIA President Allan Thornton.

EIA is calling on President Joko Widodo and his administration to act immediately to protect Indonesia’s remaining orangutans with a comprehensive strategy including:

  • Adoption of an Orangutan Conservation Strategy and Action Plan that fully protects all three native orangutan species, including those outside designated protected areas, and seeks to achieve their full recovery;
  • Protection of all orangutan habitat including primary and secondary forest and forest fragments;
  • Improved fire prevention programs and the prosecution of companies and individuals that set fires which destroy orangutan habitat.

EIA’s report also reveals that the government has failed to prioritize the prosecution of orangutan-related crimes such as killings, possession, and trade. “That no perpetrator convicted of killing an orangutan has ever received the maximum allowable penalty under Indonesian law of five years imprisonment is a strong indictment of Indonesia’s efforts to tackle one of the major threats to orangutan survival,” said Tench.

Orangutans are the only great apes found in Asia. All three species — Bornean, Sumatran, and Tapanuli — are classified as Critically Endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and all are predicted to experience continued population declines under a business-as-usual scenario. EIA urges Indonesia’s government, including law enforcement agencies, to work with local communities and companies that share orangutan habitat to protect this iconic species.

“Indonesia has a pivotal role to play in contributing to global efforts to overcome the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss, and securing the protection of orangutans and their habitat would go a long way toward overcoming both,” said Tench. “Indonesia must abandon its apathetic attitude toward orangutan conservation and act now to protect these rapidly disappearing species before it’s too late.”

Contact: Taylor Tench, Policy Analyst, [email protected]