Forest Concession May Give Indonesia's Orangutans Shelter

Jakarta Post: 20 November 2009: Ulma Haryanto
Orangutans may find a new home once the Forestry Ministry grants private companies and nongovernmental organizations forest concessions covering over two million hectares for ecosystem restoration purposes.

The Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation aims to reserve 106,000 hectares of those areas for their orangutans.

"We have 638 orangutans in our conservation area in Central and East Kalimantan and we want to release them into the wild," Bungaran Saragih, head of the BOS board, said on Thursday.

"Releasing them in our own forested area will enable us to better monitor their condition. We shall release five orangutans early next year. If they survive, we will release another five."

The regulation, issued in October last year, will enable companies to rehabilitate forest areas with expired or expiring concession rights.

"The government aims to restore two million hectares of its forests by 2015. To reach this goal, we invited private enterprises to join our forest rehabilitation and conservation efforts," Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan said on Thursday.

But Sundari Rahmawati of the Indonesian Environmental Forum (Walhi), balked at the initiative. "The government is giving away our forests for private exploitation because it sees our forests as an economic resource," she said.

The Ministry plans to grant concessions to approved applicants by year's end. At Rp 35,000 ($3.68) per hectare, the license would be valid for 60 years, and could be extended for an additional 35 years.