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Tripa Update

I decided to do a little bit of investigating of the Tripa situation whilst at work the other day, and was almost serendipitously presented with an email doing just that! An email had been sent around highlighting ways in which we could help the cause, and I found two petitions it mentioned particularly interesting.

Currently there is a petition circulating on change.org, urging the Indonesian government to properly protect the Tripa Peat Swap Reserve, and the orangutans who call it home. I was particularly moved by the description of the

Over the last week a man made firestorm swept through a huge area of the remaining peat swamp forests of Tripa, devastating Critically Endangered Sumatran orangutan (Pongo abelii) to the very brink of extinction, possibly within months.

Critically important, the Tripa peat swamp forests of Aceh, Indonesia, have long been recognized as a UNEP/UNESCO Great Ape Survival Partnership Priority Site for Great Ape Conservation.

In the early 90’s these forests are estimated to have contained between 2,000 and 3,000 but today only a few hundred survive, and if the current rate of forest destruction and burning continues, even these will be gone completely within a matter of months.

All the result of the illegal activities of a small number of rogue palm oil plantation companies.

Of one of these companies, PT. Kallista Alam, is actually right now being challenged in court, as it clearly contravenes National Spatial Planning Laws and the Indonesian President’s moratorium on new permits in primary forests and peatlands, supported by Norwegian taxpayers money.

The whole of the Tripa peat swamps lie within the Protected Leuser Ecosystem, a National Strategic Area for Environmental Protection in Indonesia’s National Spatial Plan established in 2008.

If this legal initiative fails, and if the current rate of destruction is not halted IMMEDIATELY, there will be no more forest and no more orangutans (and many other legally “protected” species) in Tripa by the end of 2012. This represents the death nell for this important orangutan population, the final nail in the coffin.

An Illegally Lit Fire in the Tripa Peat Region
Photo Courtesy of The Guardian UK

Sounds awful doesn’t it? They still need quite a few signatures to reach their goal of 15,000, so if this causes you to feel any of the countless negative emotions it evoked in me, please, sign the petition! You can already see how much it is helping on their update feed.

The second petition is one that targets palm oil buyers, specifically Goodman Fielder, and although it’s outcome has already been realised, I think it deserves a mention because of the clever name, and the incredible back story of its instigator. “Meadowlea, We Don’t Think You Ought To Be Congratulated”, a Community Run petition, is aimed at Goodman Fielder, Australia’s leading importer of fats and oils, to commit to 100% certified sustainable palm oil in their products by 2015. This petition was created by Chloe Nicolosi, who, at the tender age of twelve, stood before the Senate Committee at Parliament House and stated her case for why the Truth In Labelling Bill should be passed. I don’t remember what I was doing at twelve, but it certainly wasn’t campaigning for the protection of rainforests and the survival of an endangered species (I’m pretty sure I was watching NickCartoons on ABC and writing passionate love letters to Zack Hanson. I all of a sudden feel very much behind the eight ball).

Photo Courtesy of Orangutan.com

Chloe currently has 428 signatures, just 72 shy of her 500 mark. However, Goodman Fielder released a statement on their website in February this year, which states:

Goodman Fielder Limited shares community concerns regarding the ecological and environmental impacts of palm oil production in some areas of South East Asia, such as Borneo and Sumatra, and is pro-actively responding to these concerns.

The company supports the production of sustainable palm oil and is a member of the industry group, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). Goodman Fielder commenced purchasing Green Palm certificates in September 2010, and intends to cover all palm oil used in the company’s Australian and New Zealand retail branded products by 2015. Our Integro Foods division has established a sustainable palm oil working group, which is investigating the feasibility of sourcing and supplying certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO) through alternative RSPO-endorsed supply chain models, such as Mass Balance and Segregated CSPO (see www.rspo.org).

To the best of the company’s knowledge, any palm oil contained in our products in Australia and New Zealand is sourced from legally developed plantations and not from any party that, as far as we are aware, has engaged in illegal deforestation.

This is great news! The only thing that worries me about this statement is the “best of the companies knowledge” part. If you read my post that features the “Sustainability Lie” video, you would have read how Wilmar is claiming to use Certified Sustainable Palm Oil, whilst illegally clearing prime rainforest for palm oil plantations, and lots of other nasty things. Wilmar currently owns 10% of Goodman Fielder; perhaps this “to the best of the companies knowledge” part is a way to cover their butts on this issue? I guess it’s something to think about.

Photo Courtesy of Orangutan.com

So please, if this is an issue that concerns, upsets, or angers you, please sign the petitions and help these fabulous people in their fight to save this beautiful species from extinction!

Happy Birthday Menyaru!

So it was Menyaru’s 9th Birthday on Sunday! Happy Birthday Malu!!!! I hope they gave you some extra special treats on your special day!

Courtesy of Zoos Victoria

Not only is Menyaru one of Melbourne Zoo’s gorgeous orangutans, he’s also one of the orangs born in the zoo as part of our captive breeding program! The success of this program is a critical part of replenishing the drastically low numbers of wild Sumatran Orangutans, and since then there have been a number of births, including the newest addition (and cutest baby ever!), Dewi. Seriously, if you can you should go and see her now, she’s learning to climb ropes and slowly gaining independence from mum and dad. So cute!

As well as all the extra attention and fruity treats, Zoos Victoria also gave a gift to the orangutans of the Tripa Peatland Forest, on behalf of Menyaru. They donated funding for two motor bikes to enable conservationists there to seek out and assist injured or orphaned orang-utans. How great is that? Makes you feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside doesn’t it?

Well, I really do hate to bring you down, but there sure are a lot of orangs out there that aren’t as safe and secure as dear Malu, or Dewi, or any of our other Sumatran orangs. Those who call the Tripa Peat Reserve home have to deal with assaults on many fronts; n the past six months, approximately 15% of the remaining 10,000 hectares has been illegally cleared, almost definitely for palm oil plantations, and more than 20 fires are raging in the reserve (Zoos Victoria).

When reading these dark truths, it almost seems like their fates have been decided. However, there are things we can do to help! You can join me in my boycott of palm oil in packaged foods, join the Zoos Victoria Don’t Palm Us Off campaign, and you can also visit the website of and donating to the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program, which focuses on the problems in the Tripa region.

In 22 years, over 70% of the Tripas’s peat swamp forest has been cleared and burned for oil palm plantations. The remainder is being drained, cleared and burned illegally if nothing is done, wiping out the 200 surviving orangutans, and causing massive carbon emissions. We are fighting a battle against ignorance, greed and vested interests to uphold the Indonesia’s laws that protect these vitally important peatland forests, save the orangutans, and stop carbon emissions.

Good work guys! Together we can make a difference *cue obnoxious inspirational powerballad*

It’s Sustainable! Or is it?

This video was brought to my attention by the lovely people over at Milk Relief Soap. I urge you to have a look at it, it raises some very important points and questions about sustainability and how it is measured.

This certainly raised a lot of questions for me, so I decided to do a little bit of research. Wilmar International, the company in question, is the number one palm oil trader and palm biodeisil manufacturein the world. A report conducted by Friends of the Earth Netherlands, they have been illegally logging rainforests, setting them on fire, and violating the rights of local communities in Indonesia.

And yet they have been granted a sustainability certificate?
I was really hoping that the sustainability certificate that Wilmar has obtained was not from the Round Table for Sustainable Palm Oil. So I was rather distressed to find that Wilmar is a member of the Round Table itself. Even though they’re responibly for illegally clearing acres of rainforest, and forcing local communities off their rightfully owned land without compensation.

I don’t want to give up palm oil entirely, and not just because it will limit my choices at the supermarket. Palm Oil is an enormous industry that provides jobs for thousands people in South East Asia, most of whom have little to no other alternatives for employment. However, as a consumer, I don’t appreciate being led to believe that something is sustainable when it is clearly not. My own naivety certainly comes into play here, in that I was taking companie’s sustainability status at face value, mainly because I was clinging to the hope that there were actually large companies out there doing the right thing (and thus I can allow myself to eat them). Well, I certainly won’t be doing this any more, nor will I be partaking in any products supplied to or owned by Wilmar. But this sure does make it hard when Wilmar has just bought a 10% piece of Australia’s biggest bread manufactuer, Goodman Fielder earlier this year.

I would love to hear what you have to say on this issue. Please leave me your thoughts, comments and or questions below.