Category Archives: Forest Fires

Spare a few minutes to help save habitat of critically endangered great ape

Please sign this petition to the Indonesian President to halt the destuction of the Tripa Swamps, home to a few hundred critically endangered orangutans.

Press release from “Coalition to save the Tripa peat swamps”

Increase in fires burning in Tripa highlight Indonesian Government failing to cease deforestation; orangutan population doomed unless illegal activities halted immediately.

Tripa aerial flyover June 27 2012, 2pm

Another massive wave of fires currently sweeping across the Tripa peat swamp forests has highlighted the accelerating destruction and ongoing disregard of Indonesian National Law by palm oil companies inside the protected Leuser Ecosystem, despite a high level National Investigation launched months ago, which is yet to report on findings.

A recent spike in the number of fires was recorded by satellites monitoring fire hotspot activity in Sumatra, and confirmed by field staff yesterday who filmed and photographed numerous fires burning in the palm oil concessions operating right across in Tripa.

The five companies at present actively operating in Tripa have responded to the increased media scrutiny and current investigation by increasing security on their plantations. Some are even being guarded by military and police personnel stationed along access routes while illegally lit fires burn inside.

“The ongoing destructive activities of these companies during the investigation indicates their complete disregard for Indonesian law and the authority of the ongoing investigation, and the government is allowing this to happen.” Stated Kamaruddin, lawyer for the Tripa community.

“A direct Presidential Instruction is urgently required to bring an immediate halt to the rampant and illegal destruction of Tripa, not a speech telling the world deforestation is a thing of the past.” Kamaruddin added.

“There is no doubt that each of these companies is breaking several laws. Whilst we realize, and very much appreciate and support the investigation going on (by the Department of Environment), it’s proving to be too little too late. These companies simply have to be ordered to stop immediately, and that order to be strictly enforced, otherwise the Peat Forests and inhabitants of Tripa will be lost forever”, he added.

One of the five companies operating in Tripa, PT. Kallista Alam, was challenged in court and its concession area recently reinstated as off limits to deforestation and degradation in the 2nd revision of Moratorium Map on May 25th, 2012. This particular concession has been the subject of an ongoing legal battle as it clearly contravenes National Spatial Law No 26/2007 and Government Regulation 26/2008, since it was granted inside the Leuser Ecosystem National Strategic Area for environmental protection, in which no concessions can be granted that damage the environmental protection function of the ecosystem, and in which all activities that do damage the ecosystem must be halted, and damaged areas restored.

Fires continued to rage late yesterday in the northern stretches of the PT Kallista Alam concession. Likewise, numerous obviously deliberately set fires were also observed in the concessions of PT. Surya Panen Subur 2, PT. Cemerlang Abadi, PT. Gelora Sawita Makmur , PT. Dua Perkasa Lestari and an area known as the PT Patriot Guna Sakti Abadi concession, even though the latter was never formally granted.

“The situation is indeed extremely dire” reports Dr Ian Singleton of the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme. “Every time I have visited Tripa in the last 12 months I have found several orangutans, hanging on for their very survival, right at the forest edge. Its very easy to find them and we have already evacuated a few lucky ones to safer areas. But when you see the scale and speed of the current wave of destruction and the condition of the remaining forests, there can be no doubt whatsoever that many have already died in Tripa due to the fires themselves, or due to starvation as a result of the loss of their habitat and food resources”, he explained.

The Tripa peat swamp forests have received considerable international attention, much of it focusing on the fact that the burning of Tripa’s peat swamp forests made a mockery of a 1 billion USD agreement between the Governments of Indonesia and Norway to reduce carbon emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, also known as the REDD deal, since the peat alone in Tripa sequesters huge amount of carbon that is being released into the atmosphere even now .

Tripa was also high on the agenda at the first meeting between the newly inaugurated Governor of Aceh and the European Union, just a few days ago. Furthermore, on June 13th at a global policy address on the future of Indonesia’s forests, ahead of Rio+20 summit, at CIFOR, President SBY himself proclaimed that “deforestation is a thing of the past” and “Losing our tropical rain forests would constitute the ultimate national, global and planetary disaster.  That’s why Indonesia has reversed course by committing to sustainable forestry.”

Yet the ongoing destruction witnessed by the coalition team in recent days is a clear indication that these are simply empty words, and that Indonesia is giving no reasons for its international commitments to be taken as anything more than mere rhetoric.

Dr Singleton also pointed out, “There is still a decent orangutan population in Tripa, however hard and fast it is being extinguished, and there are also large tracts of land that have been cleared of forests but never used. If these companies were immediately instructed to stop all their destructive operations while the legal investigation process continues, and then removed, ideally with prosecutions and appropriate punishment, Tripa, its orangutan population, and many of the contributions it once made to local community livelihoods could still be restored.”

“But without an immediate halt it will all be lost, to the ultimate benefit of only a handful of already incredibly rich people based elsewhere. This whole thing makes absolutely no sense at all, not environmentally nor even economically. It is simply greed, on a massive scale. A simply staggering scale in fact.” Stressed Dr. Ian Singleton. 

Notes for Editors:

Further Hi-res photos available on

Please find map below with satellite monitored fires from the period 17/06/12 – 26/06/12 new data will become available over the coming days

For Further Press inquiries, Please Contact:


Kamaruddin (Bahasa Indonesian Only)

Tripa Community Lawyer



Dr Ian Singleton

Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme

Email: [email protected]

Mobile: +62811650491


Also, for further media statement, please contact:


Saud Usman Nasution

Spokesperson for Indonesian National Police

+62 811 979 2222


PT. Kallista Alam

  • Komp. Taman Setiabudi Indah II, blok V (ruko) No. 11-14, Medan 20133 Phone: 061 – 8216541

Fax: 061 – 8216532

  • Jl.Cycas II Blok UU, No.55 Taman Setia Budi Indah, Medan, North Sumatera

Phone: 061-800200, 812380

Fax: 021-812380


PT. Surya Panen Subur 2

  • Jl.Pulo Ayang raya,Blok OR Kav.1 Kawasan industri Pulogadung Jakarta13930

Phone: (021)4616555

Fax: (021)4616550


PT. Cemerlang Abadi

  • Central Plaza, 3rd Floor, Jl.Jend.Sudirman Kav.47 Jakarta 12930

Phone: 021-5255414,5255413

Fax: 021-520748


PT. Dua Perkasa Lestari

  • Rasuna Office Park ZO 10-11 Rasuna Epicentrum, Jakarta

Phone: 021-83703232, 031-5925239

Fax: 021-83704488, 031-5925387


PT. Gelora Sawita Makmur

  • LENDMARK Centre,Tower A, 8th floor,Jl. Jend sudirman No.1 Jakarta 12910

Phone: (021)5712790, 5712853

Fax: (021)5712716

Save the Tripa Peat Swamp forests and its critically endangered orangutans

Aceh Judge slammed over Indonesian court’s inability to make a just ruling over simple legal case.

Read full press release here and sign an online petition to enforce the law protecting Tripa Peat Swamp and its orangutan populations.

Please support this important action.

Thank you,

Orangutan Foundation



The water’s getting lower…

During September (dry season) the Sekonyer river, which flows through Tanjung Puting National Park (Central Kalimantan Indonesian Borneo) was very low. We are also noticing that the low tides, year on year, are getting worse. Some people believe the root cause of the low tide are illegal logging and illegal mining. 

River in dry season

Tanjung Puting National Park. Photo by Fajar Dewanto, Orangutan Foundation International 

When fire fighters from Tanjung Puting National Park (BTNTP), Central Kalimantan Agency for Conservation of Natural Resources (BKSDA Kalteng), Orangutan Foundation, Orangutan Foundation International, Friends of National Park Foundation tried to damped the forest fires in park the extreme low tide prevented the speed boat from getting through.

River in dry season

Tanjung Puting National Park. Photo by Fajar Dewanto, Orangutan Foundation International

 River in dry season

Water level on the jetty of Pondok Ambung Tropical Forest Research Station. Photo by Devis, Orangutan Foundation

This is a worrying trend. Thankfully, October has had rain reducing the fire risk.

Thank you,

Hudi Dewe

Programme Co-ordinator Orangutan Foundation

Fires still burn in Borneo

Dr Suwido Limin sent this email today with photos – we hope the rain continues to fall. Last week Orangutan Foundation sent out £5,260 to CIMTROP (Centre for International Co-operation in Management of Tropical Peatland) to support their ongoing efforts.  

Dear Jack, 

Fire situation particularly in Kalampangan is the worst during the el Niño this time.  

The TSA KALTENG team does work since 8 Aug 2009 to overcome the fires. In the period 18 to 27 September 2009, a fire broke out in Kalampangan is extremely worse and caused all of our reforestation areas and one tower burned down. This condition is very bad for us, and I personally felt very shocked, as if we were not able to handle it well. The entire team members were trying to extinguish the flames maximum. But due to limited manpower and people involved slightly, that we unable to fight the widespread fires.

Kalampangan tree on fire

Images: forest fires in Kalampangan, Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo CIMTROP©

  Fires in Kalampangan, Kalimantan , Indonesian Borneo

In Kalampangan is very difficult to enter the forest areas due to the thick smoke and haze. The entrance access to the forest inside has been damaged, so two teams tried to enter through the canal using a wooden boat and the other team went through the Sabangau river by boat and then walking around 2 hours to reach the area. This is really hard work and high risk.  

 Firefighter in Kalampangan, Indonesian Borneo

Fire fighter Kalampangan, Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo CIMTROP©

Meanwhile, fires in the Sabangau could be stopped by Patrol Unit Team and some of TSA member. Nevertheless most of people don’t care and unaware with this disaster, probably caused they think that the forest/land burned is not their own personally so they do not feel loss.  There is only 1 tower that can be secured, while 2 base camps which founded from Helsinki and Hokkaido Univ, both have been burned. Until now (8 Oct 2009) some of team members had not returned from the forest inside (in Kalampangan area), they are still working extinguishes the fire at some point because the fire occurred at the bottom layer of soil (ground fire).

Fires in Kalampangan, Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo

Kalampangan, Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo CIMTROP©

Since 4 days ago (2 Oct 2009) conditions in Central Kalimantan, Palangka Raya in particular, Kalampangan and Sabangau having occurred several times a heavy rain. This is very helpful, and the condition getting better. Hope that these good conditions continue, so that our environmental damage can be reduced. On behalf of Cimtrop and whole of members of the TSA KALTENG, I’m very grateful for the infinite care and support from various parties who have helped us financially. Forest and land is ours and for the life of our generations in the future.  

Best wishes,

Suwido H. Limin 

Forest Fires Flare Up Again – Your Help Needed!

Fires in Sabangau, Borneo (CIMTROP Sept 09)

Fires in Sabangau -CIMTROP© Images should not be used without permission 

We have just received the following communications from Professor Jack Rieley, a world expert on tropical peatlands, about the fire situation in Sabangau, which has worsened over the last few days. To help support the efforts of CIMTROP (Centre for International Cooperation in the Management of Tropical Peatland) the organisation on the ground tackling the fires, please use our general donation button and leave a comment stating your donation is for CIMTROP/Sabangau

Thank you for your support,

Orangutan Foundation

An SMS message from Dr Suwido Limin, director of CIMTROP, sent earlier today (24th Sept) from inside the major fire area in the upper Sabangau

  “Big fire started from our research transect, spread across middle of Taruna canal and trans Kalimantan highway up to dams 3&4. Fire speed is around 1 km per hour supported by strong wind all day. Now I am working at night with my team. The tree regeneration plot expected all burned but cannot see yet.” 

 Putting out forest fires, Sabangau, Borneo (CIMTROP Sept 09)

Above and below -with limited resources CIMTROP tackle the fires. CIMTROP© Images should not be used without permissionBurnt peat forest (CIMTROP Sept 09)

This was followed by another SMS from Dr Suwido Limin.

Now midnight. We are operating 4 pumps. I am manning one machine with Agung. I will work until morning but very tired.”  

Tired but dedicated -fire fighting teams tackle fires all day and night (CIMTROP Sept 2009) 

Training – CIMTROP© Images should not be used without permission

Email from Dr Suwido Limin sent to Jack Rieley (22nd Sept).

 ‘I have just come from Kalampangan. On this afternoon, we started to implement a new method. The fires become worst again!  In Taruna and Kalampangan fires started on the afternoon of 20th of September. Our team are still trying as much as possible to secure and save this area, but the fires spread very fast and the wind is moving rapidly so that we are being overwhelmed. Our team is working very hard, all day and night and one person was injured. We tried to secure two towers and several research equipments. Some areas of our reforestation project have been burned (eventuality).  I’m personally indeed truly sad with the worst situation. All of the TSA (fire-fighting team) power is limited and we are hardly able to extinguish the fires at this location. Neither can we enter and check inside the area (using the tower) because the road along the canal was burned and created many holes of embers.’   

 Fire-fighting team (TSA) Sabangau, Borneo (CIMTROP Sept 09)

TSA Training CIMTROP© Images should not be used without permission

Email from Dr Jyrki Jauhiainen (22nd Sept), a research scientist at the University of Helsink, who was in the Sabangau area until a few days ago. 

Arrived back to Finland yesterday afternoon. Things may be really bad in our peat research sites now. Haze was bad until last Wednesday, but we succeeded to get our sampling done & gas monitoring sites established. Wednesday evening there was heavy rain and that cleared air and suppressed many of the surface fires. Things seemed to be under control again despite some wind breeze on Friday & Saturday morning. We left from Palangka Raya (PKY) on Saturday as the sky was still clear (probably that was the last Garuda flight for some time).  SMS messages from PKY have been sad: gas monitoring plot & equipment in Block-B Berengbenkel lost, Kalampangan open area plot lost, Japanese open area minitower likely lost, Suwido worried about fate of tall Japanese towers and base camp, Taruna village evacuated, Siemenpuu area likely lost, many firemen in hospital due to respiratory problems… Many of the above mentioned areas cannot be accessed due to thick smoke and now health of people is more important. Suwido must be quite depressed and tired.’ 

Please consider donating to help CIMTROP tackle these fires.

Borneo’s Fires – Risk Remains High

Central Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo, where our main programmes are based still remains extremely dry and fires pose a real threat to key orangutan populations. What this posts shows, is that if we have the resources to fight these fires they can be put out and controlled.

June sent through this news today…

‘There are fires in Tanjung Puting National Park and Orangutan Foundation are assiting the National Park authorities with logistical and transportation costs. Thankfully the fires that we were battling in Lamandau River Wildlife Reserve have been sucessfully put out. But it’s raining ash right now here in Pangkalan Bun, I kid you not. Haze is very bad.’

Professor Jack Rieley, a world expert on tropical peatlands from Nottingham University, also sent through this information he received from the field about the fires in Sebangau Forests.

Palangkaraya’s airport is closed and all the hospitals are full. Schools are closed and the fires and the smoke are getting worst. Fortunately Dr Suwido Limin, of CIMTROP, reported this morning that the research area in Sebangau is safe from fire, as Suwido’s team have been sucessful in their operations to protect from fire. They are working still to install water pumps in another three locations.

Fighting Wild Fires

This is what June (Orangutan Foundation Programmes Manager) reported yesterday.

The fires are about four hours from Camp Buluh, an orangutan release camp in the Lamandau River Wildlife Reserve and they are about 10 hectares wide. Currently there are 12 “Manggala Agni” (Forest Fire Prevention Brigade) fighting the fires since they were reported on Thursday night. There are also three teams assisting from our EC-Lamandau Programme and Pak Jakir, Patrol Manager has also been with them since Friday. They are currently using three machines to draw out water from the river to put out the fires.

Today, June is in Lamandau with the fire-fighting teams and so hopefully we’ll receive an update on the situation when she returns.

Thank you Gerhard R, Helen N, Jenny O, Brigitta S, Tal B and Matthew K for your recent donations – your support is much appreciated.



Update on Fire Appeal

We have just heard from Ashley Leiman, Orangutan Foundation’s Director, who is currently in Central Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo that, as of today (27th August 2009), the local Department of Forestry has sent out fire fighting teams to localized fire hot spots.

The area where our field programmes are based has received virtually no rain for seven to eight weeks and all the rivers are extremely low. Ashley, who was calling from the Orangutan Foundation office in Pangkalan Bun, said “there is the smell of smoke in the air”. Orangutan Foundation has guard posts equipped with fire fighting equipment and our employees are alert and ready to take action if necessary.

Over two weeks ago we launched an appeal on behalf of our partners, CIMTROP (Centre for International Cooperation in the Management of Tropical Peatland), working in the Sebangau Forests.  Thank you to everyone who responded so quickly and generously, your donations will be directed to CIMTROP, who are working around the clock to tackle the raging fires.

Orangutan Foundation is now widening this fire appeal to include other forest areas at risk.

Video of Fires in Sebangau Forests Orangutan Habitat

The link below has been sent to us by Dr Suwido Limin, Director of CIMTROP (Centre for International Co-operation in Management of Tropical Peatland). It is a short video on YouTube showing footage of the fires in Kalampangan, Sebangau Forest.  It highlights just how dangerous CIMTROP’s work is.

[kml_flashembed movie="" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

A huge thank you to Care For The Wild International for donating £3,600 through Orangutan Foundation to CIMTROP and to Orangutan Aid for donating £150. Thank you to our members, who have been very generous in donating to CIMTROP through Orangutan Foundation. Thank you David B for your donation through this blog.

If anyone is thinking of donating through Wildlife Direct please leave a comment stating your donation is for the Sebangau Fires.

Sebangau Forest Fires Threaten Wild Orangutans

Some images sent through from Dr Suwido Limin, Director of CIMTROP, Centre for International Cooperation in the Management of Tropical Peatland. The work that Dr Suwido and his team are undertaking is very dangerous and Suwido has to provide insurance for his team (also expensive and not easy to get). His men are working away from roads and operate 24 hours a day transporting heavy equipment manually or by motor cycle to where it is needed. It is even more dangerous in the dark. As Dr.Suwido Limin reports, this is a hazardous job. “Peat fires are unique as they spread below the surface, on average 20-30cm below ground but sometimes as deep as 60cm, which makes fighting them both dangerous and unpredictable. You can put out fire in one place and then flames suddenly shoot up behind you.”

Orangutan Foundation sent out £3,000 to CIMTROP last week. Thank you to Mara, of Hong Kong based Orangutan Aid, for your offer to donate US$200 and to thank you to Orangutan Foundation ambassador and member, Helen who donated £70 towards tackling the fires through Give As You Earn.  We will keep you updated this situation.

Sebangau Forest Fires

CIMTROP team tackling the fires. Photo by CIMTROP

Fire Fighting Sebangau

Fires at Sebangau Forest, Central Kalimantan. Photo by CIMTROP

Using motorbikes to carry equipment to fires -CIMTROP

Motorbikes are needed to carry equipment and access the fires. Photo by CIMTROP

Sebangau Fires 

Photo by CIMTROP 

For more information read the press release below.


Forest fires are breaking out in the Sabangau peat-swamp forests in Central Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo, threatening the lives of the estimated 8,000 wild orangutans living here.  This is exceptionally worrying during times of extreme drought caused by El Niño. This year Borneo is once again firmly in the grip of such a drought. During previous El Niño years several hundred thousand hectares of primary rainforest burnt in this area, destroying the habitat of thousands of orangutans and other endangered plants and wildlife. According to Dr. Suwido Limin, Director of the Indonesian peatland conservation organisation CIMTROP, management of the forest by forestry companies over the last forty years has led to the loss of forest rights for local people. In order to restore the local community’s engagement with the forest, these rights need to be returned.

Dr. Limin has witnessed out of contol fires many times before and is concerned that 2009 will see a repeat. He has spent the last twenty years studying and protecting this unique ecosystem and knows very well the risks involved. “These fires have started as a result of human actions; newcomers to the area have attempted to follow traditional Dayak farming methods for land clearance but they lack the experience to control the fires they start. When peat dries out it burns very easily and at great temperatures. Once these fires take hold, they burn and burn and can be almost impossible to put out until the rains come again. In that time huge areas of forest and irreplaceable peat deposits may be lost”.

Peatland fires are not only a major threat to the natural environment and the many species that live here but also to the health of the local population due to smoke inhalation. Nationally, huge clouds of smoke are blacking out the sun, affecting air and sea traffic and potentially causing millions of dollars of lost revenue. On a global scale, they are one of the largest sources of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute significantly to rising global temperatures and hence climate change.

To try and prevent this happening, CIMTROP run a rapid-response fire-fighting team (locally known as the Tim Serbu Api, or TSA) to tackle fires as soon as they are reported and before they get out of control. The team monitors an area of 100,000 hectares and is made up of local people who have received training and equipment from CIMTROP and are ready to be called upon when fires break out. But, as Dr. Limin reports, this is a hazardous job. “Peat fires are unique as they spread below the surface, on average 20-30cm below ground but sometimes as deep as 60cm, which makes fighting them both dangerous and unpredictable. You can put out fire in one place and then flames suddenly shoot up behind you.”

One fire hotspot is Kalampangan which borders both the NLPSF (the Natural Laboratory for Peat Swamp Forest), an international research site established by CIMTROP, and Sabangau National Park – home to the world’s largest orang-utan population. CIMTROP’s fire-fighting team have been battling fires in Kalampangan non-stop for the past ten days and will continue to monitor the fires until the rains come. Local residents report the fire took hold incredibly quickly, raging through the tinder-dry vegetation, decimating all in its path and burning down into the peat. Here orangutan sleeping nests can be seen in trees shrouded in smoke and rhinoceros hornbills fly through the haze overhead. On the ground, the TSA create fire breaks and pump water from nearby canals and bore-holes onto the fires. Bore-holes often need to be twenty meters or more deep to access sufficient water to tackle the fire, taking up to six hours and teams of three or four trained workers to dig. Extinguishing just one square metre of burning peat takes two to three hundred litres of water.

Alim, a long-term TSA team member, is enthusiastic to talk about their work and what they need. “We use water pumps and special fire-fighting hose to carry water from the water bores and canals to the burning areas. At the moment, we have twenty TSA rapid-response fire suppression team members, all fully trained specialists in fighting peat fires. They work alongside ten more people split between the River Patrol Team (Tim Patroli), which carry out daily patrols along the boundary of the NLPSF using the Sabangau river, and the TSA Ground Patrol Unit who use motorbikes to monitor the forest from the land. All our teams keep in contact with each other using two-way radios. Of course, it would be great if we could have more equipment so we can cover more ground. Ideally, I would like sixty permanent TSA members so we can set up more fire-fighting points working simultaneously in this fire hotspot while also allowing the team to get some rest! We need more water pumps, lots more hose and permanent bore-hole sites so we can channel water to burning areas more easily. Unfortunately, one of our patrol bikes was destroyed in the Kalampangan fire making patrolling much harder.”

Dr. Limin is proud of his team and their dedication in such difficult conditions. In 2006 they battled successfully for five months to save an area of pristine forest, and he expects a similar commitment this time around. But he echoes Alim’s calls for more equipment and personnel. “It is difficult to maintain funding for the TSA over the long-term because major fires occur maybe once every three or four years. We need to have the capacity to guarantee income and operational costs for the TSA and Tim Patroli and have funds permanently available for immediate use when fire hits. Disasters do not wait while mitigation strategies are discussed and put in place; they hit hard and fast, with little warning. We rely on donations, and are very grateful for the financial support we receive, but at the moment we simply don’t have the resources we need to tackle all the fires that are starting.”