Robber fly - Nature photographer Thomas Shahan specializes in amazing portraits of tiny insects. It isn't easy. Shahan says that this Robber Fly (Holcocephala fusca), for instance, is "skittish" and doesn't like its picture taken.

Nature by Numbers (Video)

"The Greater Akashic System" – July 15, 2012 (Kryon Channelling by Lee Caroll) (Subjects: Lightworkers, Intent, To meet God, Past lives, Universe/Galaxy, Earth, Pleiadians, Souls Reincarnate, Invention: Measure Quantum state in 3D, Recalibrates, Multi-Dimensional/Divine, Akashic System to change to new system, Before religion changed the system, DNA, Old system react to Karma, New system react to intent now for next life, Animals (around humans) reincarnate again, This Animal want to come back to the same human, Akashic Inheritance, Reincarnate as Family, Other Planets, Global Unity … etc.)

Question: Dear Kryon: I live in Spain. I am sorry if I will ask you a question you might have already answered, but the translations of your books are very slow and I might not have gathered all information you have already given. I am quite concerned about abandoned animals. It seems that many people buy animals for their children and as soon as they grow, they set them out somewhere. Recently I had the occasion to see a small kitten in the middle of the street. I did not immediately react, since I could have stopped and taken it, without getting out of the car. So, I went on and at the first occasion I could turn, I went back to see if I could take the kitten, but it was to late, somebody had already killed it. This happened some month ago, but I still feel very sorry for that kitten. I just would like to know, what kind of entity are these animals and how does this fit in our world. Are these entities which choose this kind of life, like we do choose our kind of Human life? I see so many abandoned animals and every time I see one, my heart aches... I would like to know more about them.

Answer: Dear one, indeed the answer has been given, but let us give it again so you all understand. Animals are here on earth for three (3) reasons.

(1) The balance of biological life. . . the circle of energy that is needed for you to exist in what you call "nature."

(2) To be harvested. Yes, it's true. Many exist for your sustenance, and this is appropriate. It is a harmony between Human and animal, and always has. Remember the buffalo that willingly came into the indigenous tribes to be sacrificed when called? These are stories that you should examine again. The inappropriateness of today's culture is how these precious creatures are treated. Did you know that if there was an honoring ceremony at their death, they would nourish you better? Did you know that there is ceremony that could benefit all of humanity in this way. Perhaps it's time you saw it.

(3) To be loved and to love. For many cultures, animals serve as surrogate children, loved and taken care of. It gives Humans a chance to show compassion when they need it, and to have unconditional love when they need it. This is extremely important to many, and provides balance and centering for many.

Do animals know all this? At a basic level, they do. Not in the way you "know," but in a cellular awareness they understand that they are here in service to planet earth. If you honor them in all three instances, then balance will be the result. Your feelings about their treatment is important. Temper your reactions with the spiritual logic of their appropriateness and their service to humanity. Honor them in all three cases.

Dian Fossey's birthday celebrated with a Google doodle

Dian Fossey's birthday celebrated with a Google doodle
American zoologist played by Sigourney Weaver in the film Gorillas in the Mist would have been 82 on Thursday (16 January 2014)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Indonesia Wilts as Deforestation Moratorium Loopholes Go Unaddressed

Jakarta Globe, Alexandra Di Stefano Pironti, May 23, 2012

Haze ahead. Devastating scrub and forest fires are continuing to rage in
 South Sumatra, limiting visibility in a number of areas and making driving
dangerous. Indonesia has one of the worst deforestation rates in the world,
blamed largely on pulp and paper, and palm oil companies. (Antara Photo)
Related articles

Unless the rapid deforestation in one of the world’s most richly-forested countries is controlled, Indonesians may one day wonder, “where are all the flowers gone.” To those lyrics by legendary US singer Joan Baez they might also have to add, and where are all the tigers, elephants, orangutans, birds and ancient forest communities gone.

While the 1960s icon was singing against the US war in Vietnam, green groups in Indonesia are waging war against deforestation, in a country that is home to about 15 percent of all known species of plants, mammals and birds. Some are already critically endangered as a result of deforestation by the palm oil, mining and paper industries.

As Indonesia marks the first year of a two-year moratorium on deforestation that followed a pledge of a billion dollars from Norway, a coalition of international and local green groups urged Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono this week to strengthen the moratorium so that it becomes a real instrument to reduce, and ultimately halt, deforestation in the country.

“The existing moratorium only suspends the issue of new forest use permits, it did not order a review of existing permits. There are other glaring loopholes in the moratorium which need to be addressed if Indonesia is to honor its international commitments,” Yuyun Indradi, forests policy adviser, Greenpeace Southeast Asia, said at a press briefing on Monday.

Such concerns are being raised ahead of the Rio+ summit on sustainable development next month.

The environment groups say the ban is being undermined by weak legislation and weak enforcement, and provides little extra protection for forests or carbon-rich peatlands, and nothing to protect the rights of forest-dependent indigenous peoples and local communities.

They added that if deforestation rates continue to average more than a million hectares a year, all of Indonesia’s forests will have been destroyed within the next 50 years.

Earlier this month, the groups said they had witnessed continuing forest destruction by several companies despite the moratorium. They estimated that 4.9 million hectares of primary forests and peatland, out of a total 71.01 million hectares covered by the moratorium, will be lost to palm-oil industries, coal mines and other forest conversions by the end of May.

Last week, Indonesia’s Asia Pulp & Paper (APP), one of the world’s largest paper companies and one that has been most criticized by green groups, announced that it would suspend natural forest clearance from June 1, and would hold better environmental procedures.

The announcement brought a quick reaction from Greenpeace, denying good practices from APP. It said images from their latest overflight in February indicate ongoing clearance of forests across Sumatra region.

Deforestation is devastating wildlife. Fewer than 400 Sumatran tigers remain in the wild, orangutans on Sumatra island have gone down from 1,000 in early 2000 to less than 200 in 2012, while only 3,000 Sumatran elephants are still in the wild, half the number since 1985, the groups say.

“It is reasonable to expect that there are many threatened undocumented species,” Louis Verchot, a scientist with the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), told Inter Press Service.

Deforestation has also affected whole communities of indigenous people dependent on the forest for food, shelter and their livelihood. Since most of the land belongs to the state, the government has given up ancestral rights of the native communities to businesses, according to indigenous rights groups.

The deforestation taking place in Indonesia goes much beyond the archipelago’s more than 17,000 islands. The country is the third largest emitter of climate changing greenhouse gases after China and the United States.

Greenpeace says a large volume of the gases comes from the destruction of Indonesia’s peatlands, considered the world’s most critical carbon stores. They are believed to store about 35 billion tons of carbon, and when drained, burned and replaced by acacia, eucalyptus or palm oil plantations, they release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

While green groups believe Indonesia should do more to stop deforestation, some Indonesian officials believe the country needs more incentives to do so.

“The Ministry of Forestry needs a budget of Rp 5 trillion ($538 million) per year to fight deforestation,” Darori, director general of the Forest Protection and Nature Conservation from the Ministry of Forestry, told IPS. With a wave of his hand Darori dismissed the billion dollar pledge by Norway as “not enough.” Indonesia “needs the support of the world” to carry out this task, he said.

Commenting on Darori’s remarks, Greenpeace spokesman Indradi said money “is never enough if we cannot solve the corruption problems in the forestry sector.”

CIFOR’s Verchot said, “the pledge by Norway was not supposed to solve the whole problem, but it has transformed the discussion in Indonesia, and in that sense it is successful … Norway’s pledge over several years is significant and if it paves the way for additional REDD + money, then the programme can become sustainable.” REDD+ (Reducing Emission from Deforestation and Forest Degradation Plus) is a global mechanism to reduce emission and deforestation as well as forest degradation.

Darori, the Indonesian official, told IPS that authorities have given eight-year jail terms to 12 plantation owners in Sumatra for illegal logging, and imposed five billion rupiah ($534,000) fines on each.

Indonesian President Yudhoyono has pledge to cut emissions in his country between 26 percent and 41 percent with the help of the international community by 2020. But he has pointed out the importance of the contribution of the forest-based industries to the country’s economy.

A recent study showed this contribution to be approximately 21 billion dollars a year — 3.5 percent of the national economy. The sector employs around 4 percent of the working population.

Inter Press Service

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Indonesia forest moratorium won't meet climate pledge - Norway

Reuters, Jakarta, Tue May 22, 2012

(Reuters) - Indonesia's progress in reforming its forestry sector will not be sufficient to meet its pledge to reduce carbon emissions by 26 percent by 2020, Norway's environment minister said on Tuesday.

Indonesia imposed a two-year moratorium on clearing forest last May under a $1 billion climate deal with Norway aimed at reducing emissions from deforestation, despite resistance from some government departments and from resource firms looking to expand in the archipelago.

Norway has been impressed by what Indonesia has achieved in terms of transparency in the forest sector and by a change towards being more pro-environment in policy debates around land use, said its environment minister, Bård Vegar Solhjell.

However, deforestation continues in areas not covered by the moratorium as well as illegally in the country's carbon-rich tropical forests and peatlands. Permits to clear land are often given out by local governors and there is a lack of central government enforcement.

"We know that the moratorium itself is not sufficient to reach the climate mitigation pledged, or to stop deforestation in the speed that is necessary," Solhjell told Reuters in an interview.

It was the first time Norway indicated the moratorium may not be sufficient.

Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono signed up to the Norway deal and moratorium as part of his pledge to slash emissions this decade, but there have been few other policy steps to curb emissions in the fast-growing G20 economy.

"It's a very progressive pledge but it's also very challenging to actually put it into place," said Solhjell.

The country is attracting increasing foreign investment in manufacturing industries such as steel, cement and power that are all heavy emitters of greenhouse gases, while sales of energy-guzzling SUV cars, mobile phones and flights are surging.

Higher energy demand from power use, mainly produced from coal, will boost carbon emissions. Indonesia does not provide annual emissions data, though the World Bank rated it as the world's third largest emitter in 2005 because of deforestation.


The $1 billion Norway has promised under the deal is contingent on policy change and proven emissions reductions from the forestry sector. The forestry ministry makes billions of dollars from selling permits to use forests each year.

Only months after Yudhoyono signed the forest moratorium, the former governor of the country's westernmost Aceh province breached the ban by issuing a permit to a palm oil firm to develop carbon-rich peatland.

The permit prompted legal action from environmental groups and investigations by the police and several government bodies, making the case a test of the country's commitment to halt deforestation in the world's largest exporter of palm oil.

After the investigation, the government said on Monday that the permit was issued to palm oil firm Kallista Alam without following proper procedures, and that it would protect the strip of peatland in Aceh.

The forest, home to endangered orangutans, was partly cleared by burning even before the permit was issued, said Mas Achmad Santosa, a government official.

"The case of Kallista Alam in Aceh is the typical problem we are facing ... some parts have been turned to palm oil plantations, some have been burned, and it turned out the permit does not exist," said Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, who is in charge of overseeing forestry sector reform.

(The story was corrected in para 6 to make clear Norway's view on moratorium not being sufficient.)

(Reporting by Olivia Rondonuwu; Editing by Neil Chatterjee and Robert Birsel)

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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Forestry Ministry Says Greenpeace Claims vs APP Not True

Jakarta Globe, May 21, 2012

Greenpeace activists wearing uniforms bearing the stripes and color of
 the endangered Sumatran tiger are seen in this photo riding their motorcycles
 close to a truck loaded with logs in Bengkalis district, Sumatra. (AFP Photo/Ulet
Related articles

The Forestry Ministry has denied allegations by Greenpeace that a high-profile pulp and paper company is logging valuable ramin trees in Riau.

Darori, the ministry’s director general for forest protection and nature conservation, said on Monday that Asia Pulp & Paper was not responsible for the logging of the ramin, a tropical hardwood species.

“These trees are indeed being logged, not by APP but by suppliers for APP,” he said, adding that the move on the part of the suppliers was “a mistake” because ramin, typically used for furniture, was unsuitable for pulping.

“And besides, cutting down ramin trees isn’t a crime,” Darori said.

He also said that APP had put aside the logs that it had received and could not do anything with them because “they don’t have an economic value.”

Ramin is the most valuable tree species in Indonesia, selling for $1,000 per cubic meter when exported.

Darori said it was regrettable that Greenpeace had raised the allegations without providing any proof. He said such claims could simply be part of a “trade war” against APP.

Greenpeace raised the issue in a report in February titled “The Ramin Paper Trail,” in which it noted that the tree species was legally protected under national laws.

“Since Indonesia banned the logging and trade in ramin in 2001, more than one quarter of this ramin habitat [in Sumatra’s peat forests] has been cleared — much of it from areas currently supplying APP,” the report said.

However, Darori said the logging of ramin was allowed as long as a permit was obtained from the Forestry Ministry.

In its own declaration of sustainability, APP says it is committed to “unequivocal compliance with national and local laws and relevant international regulations,” with “zero tolerance for illegal wood in our supply chain.”

Earlier this month, the company announced that as of June 1, it would suspend natural forest clearance while carrying out high conservation value forest assessments. Once completed, “We will protect all identified HCVF areas,” it said.

However, environmentalists have called the announcement yet another case of “greenwashing,” arguing that APP has already cleared “most of the natural forest on concessions covered by this announcement.”

“APP once again has chosen to invest in greenwashing instead of meaningful change in the face of increasing and widespread condemnation of its forestry practices,” Nazir Foead of WWF-Indonesia said on Monday.

“Our analysis suggests that this limited moratorium will have little impact, since APP has already cleared 713,383 hectares or almost all of the natural forest in its own and affiliated concessions in Riau.”

WWF estimates that out of the remaining 206,412 hectares, only 22,000 hectares would be affected by the announcement, while the rest were “already designated or by regulation must be protected.”

It said that if the company really wanted to reduce its footprint on Sumatra’s tropical forests, APP should immediately issue a moratorium on the use of natural forest fiber by any of its pulp mills.

“Only if APP immediately extends this moratorium to cover the full wood supply of all its mills and demonstrates a real commitment to changing its forestry practices, WWF would welcome it as a sign that the company is taking steps to join the ranks of responsible paper companies,” Nazir said.

Antara, JG++

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Second Sumatran Elephant Found Poisoned in Indonesia

Jakarta GlobeMay 16, 2012

A villager watches the carcass of an elephant without its head and trunk,
 which was believed to have been killed by poisoning in Pante Kuyun Village,
Aceh Jaya, Indonesia on Wednesday. (EPA Photo/Hotli Simanjuntak)

Related articles

Banda Aceh, Indonesia. An official says a second endangered Sumatran elephant has been poisoned in western Indonesia, apparently by villagers trying to protect their crops.

Forestry Ministry official Harmidi says the carcass of the 20-year-old male elephant was discovered Wednesday near a plantation in Aceh province.

Harmidi, who uses only one name, says a group of elephants had been wandering in the area in recent days, roaring and destroying crops.

An 18-year-old female died in Aceh after being poisoned in late April.

As forests disappear, elephants stray into inhabited areas in search of food.

Fewer than 3,000 Sumatran elephants are left in the wild and environmentalists warn that they could be extinct within three decades unless steps are taken to protect them.

Associated Press

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Indonesia Investigating Palm Oil Companies Over Forest Fires

Jakarta Globe, Ahmad Pathoni, May 15, 2012

An endangered Orangutan is rescued from the protected Tripa peat swamp
 forest in Aceh province, which is being destroyed to make way for a palm
oil plantation, on Wednesday. (Antara Photo)

Related articles

Indonesia has launched a criminal investigation into the burning of a peatland forest on Sumatra island that environmentalists said resulted in the deaths of orangutans, an official said on Tuesday.

Investigators will summon officials from two companies suspected of burning a large swath of the Tripa forest to make way for palm oil plantations, said Sudaryono, the head of law enforcement at the Environment Ministry.

“Our investigators found that there have been fires in areas controlled by SPS2 and KA,” he said, referring to palm oil companies Surya Panen Subur 2 and Kallista Alam.

A coalition of local and international conservation groups warned in March that orangutans in the Tripa forest could disappear by the end of this year unless action was taken to stop fires and land clearing there.

The coalition said an estimated 100 orangutans had died in the area in recent years as a result of land clearing, with only 200 remaining.

The government’s task force for the UN’s Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) program said there were indications that plantation companies cleared more than 1,600 hectares of peatland areas even before they obtained concession permits.

“Law enforcers concluded that there have been legal violations,” task force chief Kuntoro Mangkusubroto said.

Under Indonesia’s environmental law, forest clearing using fires is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to 10 billion rupiah ($1 million).

Kallista Alam has denied wrongdoing and blamed local farmers for the fires.

In May 2011, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono signed a decree committing Indonesia to a two-year moratorium on new clearing permits for an area of around 60 million hectares of virgin forest and carbon-rich peatland.

The move was part of the country’s commitment to the REDD program, which aims to reduce climate change from greenhouse gasses.

But in August, the then-governor of Aceh province, Irwandi Yusuf, signed a permit to allow Kallista Alam to operate in Tripa.

The environmental coalition is awaiting a verdict on an appeal seeking the revocation of the permit.

Tripa was included in the moratorium map in April 2011, but it disappeared from a revised version in November, the local environmental group Walhi said.

Greenpeace said in a report released this month that the moratorium had done little to protect forests, with almost 50 percent of the country’s primary forests and peatland without any protection.

The destruction of peatlands releases large amounts of carbon dioxide that contributes to climate change.

Indonesia is among the largest producers of greenhouse gasses, largely owing to the rapid destruction of its forests. It aims to reduce the emissions by at least 26 percent by 2020.


Farming Groups Supporting Dow's Controversial Genetically Modified Corn Have Financial And Executive Backing From Agricultural Biotech Industry

International Business Times, by Ashley Portero, May 12, 2012

Small farmers and public health advocates are protesting the USDA's
expected approval of Dow's new genetically engineered corn, which is
 bred to be resistant to 2, 4-D, arguing it will lead to an increased use of
the herbicide -- one of the active ingredients in Agent Orange.
(Photo: Reuters)


As the U.S. Department of Agriculture readies its decision on whether to approve for widespread use Dow Chemical Co.'s (NYSE: DOW) new genetically engineered corn, the chemical company is touting a broad coalition of support among farmers to increase the likelihood that the agency approves the product.

Dow is taking this step to counter claims that the new corn, called Enlist, could encourage the use of a powerful herbicide found in the Vietnam War defoliant Agent Orange, because Enlist is designed to be resistant to this chemical. Enlist's opponents say that if this herbicide is more widely employed, the environment and public health would be endangered. More than 140 agricultural, consumer, environmental and public-health groups sent USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack a letter, which was signed by 365,000 people last month urging him to reject the crop.

In response to an article we ran in late April about this campaign, Dow dismissed as "hyperbole" criticism surrounding Enlist. The company said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency determined 2, 4-D (the Agent Orange herbicide) poses "a reasonable certainty of no harm," and that, in fact, a different chemical, 2,4,5-T, is the principal contaminant in Agent Orange.

"The surest way to increase per acre herbicide volume is to do nothing to solve the weed resistance problem," Dow wrote. "Returning to agriculture as it was 20 years ago ... will merely force farmers into additional cultivation connected with increasing erosion, agricultural runoff, soil compaction and fuel use with attendant contributions to air pollution."

To bolster its position, Dow sent us a list of "mainstream agricultural organizations" that the company said concur with its assessment. In a letter sent to the USDA, these groups insisted that further evaluations of 2, 4-D would disrupt the agricultural industry and deny "valuable tools to U.S. farmers by requiring costly and unwarranted environmental reviews."

While Dow has publicized this letter as a means of demonstrating the support for its new corn by industry heavyweights, an analysis of the organizations reveals that they are either backed by or led by key players in the genetically modified organism (GMO) industry. In other words, rather than being a group of unbiased representatives of agricultural interests, these groups stand to benefit from Enlist's successful introduction to the market.

Monsanto Connection

Six of the nine groups on Dow's list have clear connections to Monsanto Co. (NYSE: MON), one of the world's leading producers of GMO seeds and herbicides. The company helped launch the GMO wave more than a decade ago with the release of genetically engineered Roundup Ready seeds manufactured to resist Monsanto's own Roundup herbicide. Among Monsanto's Roundup Ready crops are soybeans, alfalfa, corn, cotton, spring canola, sugar beets and winter canola.

Roundup Ready crops account for 90 percent of the soybeans and about 70 percent of corn and cotton produced in the U.S., according to the USDA. Like Dow, the company is also seeking regulatory approval for crops resistant to multiple herbicides, as its glyphosate-based Roundup continues to lose its potency in the face of so-called "superweeds."

These are the links between the agricultural groups supporting Enlist and Monsanto:

  • The Agricultural Retailers Association -- a Monsanto representative is a member of the board of directors for crop and seed production
  • American Seed Trade Association -- its non-profit "First the Seed Foundation," which promotes seed biotechnology, is funded by the American Seed Trade, which itself is backed financially by Monsanto
  • American Sugarbeet Growers Association -- Monsanto is a financial sponsor
  • Biotechnology Industry Association -- Monsanto officials serve on the executive committee and as vice chair of the food and agriculture governing board
  • National Wheat Growers Association -- Monsanto is a "diamond" level sponsor
  • National Corn Growers Association -- the group's chairman, Bart W. Schott, is a liaison to the Monsanto Grower Advisory Committee
  • In addition, a Dow AgroSciences representative serves on governing bodies of the Biotechnology Industry Association. And Dow is a "bronze" level backer of the National Wheat Growers Association.

The three other signatories to the USDA letter -- the American Farm Bureau Federation, American Soybean Association and the National Cotton Council -- do not appear to have any professional ties to either Monsanto or Dow.

However, all of those organizations specifically describe biotechnology as "the future of modern agriculture" on their websites. Plus, most soybean and cotton crops come from Roundup Ready seeds. Hence, trade groups created around these plants are invested in the creation of new, multi-herbicide resistant seeds that can withstand herbicides such as 2, 4-D.

The Problem of 2, 4-D and Herbicide Resistance

Aside from the potentially problematic connection of 2, 4-D to Agent Orange, disputed by Dow, the chemical may pose its own risks. For example, the herbicide has been known to drift when sprayed, damaging and even destroying neighboring crops that are not genetically engineered to resist it. Dow claims a new 2, 4-D herbicide that it has developed alongside Enlist corn reduces drift by at least 90 percent.

In addition to corn, Dow is also developing soybeans and cotton with 2, 4-D resistance. Critics warn that this is only a temporary fix to the rapidly increasing problem of herbicide resistance, insisting the introduction of new and potentially toxic herbicides will deepen a vicious cycle akin to a chemical arms race with weeds.

"Dow's 2, 4-D crops are no 'solution' to glyphosate-resistant weeds. After at best temporary relief, they will trigger an outbreak of still more intractable weeds resistant to both glyphosate and 2, 4-D," wrote the coalition of critics in their letter to the USDA.

What's Next?

Dow hopes the USDA will approve Enlist soon and that the product will be available to farmers by 2013.

For its part, Dow insists that impeding the sale and use of its new Enlist products could have drastic impacts for both the American agricultural industry and the international community.

"The recommendations that pesticide opponents are making today would make farming less efficient at a time when global crop production is barely keeping pace with food demand driven by a word population expansion," Dow wrote in a statement. "It would also further impair U.S. farm productivity in a difficult economy at a time when agricultural exports are one of the single greatest contributors to our nation's balance of trade."

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Indonesia Forests Remain a Source of Conflict

Jakarta Globe, May 14, 2012

Illegal loggers cut timber to be sold for construction in a forest in Gresik
 of the Indonesia's East Java province on March 1, 2011. (Reuters Photo
/Sigit Pamungkas)
Related articles

The world’s largest producer of teak, an Indonesian state-owned company on the island of Java, has again been awarded sustainable forest management (SFM) certification. But the company has a long and sometimes contentious relationship with forest communities in the area, and the forest rights of indigenous communities remain a potential cause of conflict.

“Land rights have long been a source of violence on Java,” Rhett Butler, a leading environmentalist and creator of a leading environmental news website told IRIN. Perhutani, an Indonesian state forestry company, exploits 2.4 million hectares of forests in Java — 7 percent of the island area — with earnings of around US$400 million in 2011.

Although Perhutani agreed in 2011 to the voluntary process that promotes eco-friendly management in order to obtain certification, it controls a huge area of forest once used by indigenous communities, many of whom still depend on the forests for their livelihoods.

The company needs FSC certification to access high-value wood markets in the United States and Europe, said Muhammad Firman, director of the Forest Utilization Department under Indonesia’s Ministry of Forestry.

SFM balances the present use of forests with their preservation for future generations. Certification started in the 1980s and is granted to forest companies by around 60 independent organizations under two main umbrella groups — Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), the world’s largest forest certification system, and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) — with 20 to 30 percent of North American and European forests having certification, and Asia lagging far behind with only 2 to 4 percent.

However, many activists believe SFM certification is geared less toward local communities than toward the environment and facilitating trade between forest companies and Western wood buyers

“When indigenous people have been denied the right to use forests in the traditional way, no ‘inclusion’ programme can fully match their loss. It is not a question of “exclusion” or “inclusion,” said Deddy Raith, from the Jakarta-based NGO, WALHI-Friends of the Earth Indonesia.

“Today, Perhutani still has full responsibility over the forests,” said Ambrosius Ruwindrijarto, president of local NGO, Telapak. “What we want is to mainstream community logging as the new trees-management regime in Indonesia.”

Martua Sirait, a policy analyst in Aceh Province for the Nairobi-based World Agroforestry Center, maintains that the management of forests has ignored the customary land rights of some 40 to 60 million people since the 1960s.

Large-scale illegal loggers were often active in the forests, and local inhabitants were exposed to danger by sometimes becoming involved, or being caught in the crossfire. Between 1998 and 2008 Perhutani’s armed patrols were accused of killing 32 people and injuring 69 in the fight against illegal timber operators, The Forest Trust (TFT),  a Geneva-based international charity, reported.

Perhutani lost its SFM certification in 2002 and required TFT’s assistance to define a course of action to regain it, said Scott Poynton, TFT’s executive director.

The program, “Drop the Guns,” began in 2003, with Perhutani providing a share of timber sales and non-timber forest products to forest communities. In exchange, villagers took on a new role as guardians of the forests. But both parties only laid down all their weapons in 2009, which explained why the deadly fights continued until 2008, Poynton said.

“Peace remains fragile because the underlying cause of unequal forest rights is unresolved. Perhutani can better sell its products, but villagers have received too little,” said Hasbi Berliani, a program manager at the national good governance NGO, Kemitraan, quoting an ongoing evaluation by the Indonesian Institute of Sciences, which shows that poverty among indigenous households has yet to be alleviated.

“Villagers have been given $19 million between 2005 and 2010,” said Bambang Sukmananto, chief executive officer of Perhutani, noting that the 2011 SFM certification was recognition of the company’s efforts.

Providing greater forest rights to indigenous people is a growing trend across Asia, aimed not only at safeguarding the livelihoods of villagers but also at improving environmental protection.

Related Article:

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Orangutans at Miami zoo use iPads to communicate

Associated Press, by David Fischer, May 9, 2012  

In this Feb. 21, 2012 photo, after being told a word, an orangutan points to
 that object on an IPAd at Jungle Island in Miami. Experts who work with
 primates have been using sign language and other methods to communicate 
with apes for years. But with advancements in tablet computer technology,
workers  at Jungle Island in Miami are using iPads to better communicate with
their orangutans. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

MIAMI (AP) — The 8-year-old twins love their iPad. They draw, play games and expand their vocabulary. Their family's teenagers also like the hand-held computer tablets, too, but the clan's elders show no interest.

The orangutans at Miami's Jungle Island apparently are just like people when it comes to technology. The park is one of several zoos experimenting with computers and apes, letting its six orangutans use an iPad to communicate and as part of a mental stimulus program. Linda Jacobs, who oversees the program, hopes the devices will eventually help bridge the gap between humans and the endangered apes.

"Our young ones pick up on it. They understand it. It's like, 'Oh, I get this,'" Jacobs said. "Our two older ones, they just are not interested. I think they just figure, 'I've gotten along just fine in this world without this communication-skill here and the iPad, and I don't need a computer.'"

Jacobs said she began letting the orangutans use iPads last summer, based on the suggestion of someone who had used the devices with dolphins. The software was originally designed for humans with autism and the screen displays pictures of various objects. A trainer then names one of the objects, and the ape presses the corresponding button.

The devices have been a great addition to the enrichment programs Jungle Island already does with the orangutans, Jacobs said. Keepers have long used sign language to communicate with them. Using their hands, the orangutans can respond to simple questions, identify objects and express their wants or needs. The apes can also identify body parts, helping the trainers care for them and even give them shots.

"We're able to really monitor their health on a daily basis," Jacobs said of the need for communication with the orangutans. "We can do daily checks. If somebody's not feeling well, we know it immediately."

While Jacobs and other trainers have developed strong relationships with the orangutans, the iPad and other touchscreen computers offer an opportunity for them to communicate with people not trained in their sign language.

"It would just be such a wonderful bridge to have," Jacobs said. "So that other people could really appreciate them."

Orangutans are extremely intelligent but limited by their physical inability to talk, she said.

"They are sort of trapped in those bodies," Jacobs said. "They have the intelligence that they need to communicate, but they don't have the right equipment, because they don't have voice boxes or vocal chords. So this gives them a way to let us know what they know, what they are capable of, what they would like to have."

Other zoos and nature parks are doing similar work.

Richard Zimmerman, executive director of Orangutan Outreach, said he's building an "Apps For Apes" program with old, donated iPads at facilities throughout North America, though Jungle Island isn't part of that group. Orangutan Outreach started working with the Milwaukee County Zoo and then expanded to zoos in Atlanta, Salt Lake City, Toronto, Houston and elsewhere. They're hoping to use a video-conferencing program to reconnect orangutans with friends and family members who have been transferred to other zoos, he said.

"We're putting together what we're calling primate playdates or red ape rendezvous, which is to say connecting the orangutans in different facilities," Zimmerman said. "We're looking at a larger picture."

When it comes to orangutans, the iPad itself has limitations. First, the relatively small screen causes orangutans to hit the wrong buttons sometimes. Also, the touchscreen won't register if they try to use their fingernails. Most importantly, the devices are just too fragile to actually hand over to the apes — the trainers must hold them.

"If I gave them the iPad, I could just basically hand them $600 and say, 'Go have fun,'" Jacobs said. "So until we come up with a better screen or a better case, I'm going to hold onto the iPad."

If Jacobs gets her way, a more secure interface might not be far off. The long-term plan is to set up a larger, orangutan-proof screen in the holding area, along with another screen outside for guests. They would ask the orangutans questions and the apes could respond.

"It's really just a matter of getting the technology and equipment here," Jacobs said. "There's not a doubt in my mind that they could do it and would be marvelous at it, and I think the public would absolutely love it."

It's important to note that training the orangutans isn't done to entertain Jungle Island workers or guests. Because the animals are so intelligent, Jacobs said their minds must be kept active to prevent them from getting bored or depressed. The challenge is making the enrichment activities enjoyable.

"They need a lot of stimulation," Jacobs said. "Training isn't mandatory, but they love it."

Scientist and conservationist Birute Mary Galdikas, founder of Orangutan Foundation International, said orangutans are among the most intelligent animals. Orangutans in the wild, where Galdikas has studied the apes for more than four decades, routinely use tools to scratch themselves, swat insects and create simple shelters. In captivity, Galdikas said, orangutans have demonstrated remarkable creative-thinking skills, specifically in their ability to escape enclosures.

"Anything that Jungle Island can do to help their orangutans while away the day is to be commended," Galdikas said. "IPads seem to work for humans. It's not surprising that orangutans, who share 97 percent of their genetic material with humans, like them, too."

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Friday, May 4, 2012

Indonesia May Have Lost 5m Hectares of Forest Cover Since Moratorium

Jakarta Globe, Fidelis E. Satriastanti, May 03, 2012

This aerial view of a forest in Aceh taken on April 28 shows that large
 part of the forest has been turned into plantations. (Antara Photo/
Irwansyah Putra)
Related articles

Indonesia may have lost a staggering five million hectares of forest since President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono announced a two year moratorium on deforestation last year, Greenpeace Indonesia said on Thursday.

The moratorium, part of the president's Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation Plus (REDD+) program, failed to include five million hectares of forest in maps of protected areas, said Kiki Taufik, a geographical information specialist with Greenpeace Indonesia, during a press conference in Jakarta.

“These areas haven’t been protected by the moratorium because their statuses are unclear," Kiki said. "The regions overlap with existing concessions."

Kalimantan was hit hardest in the last year, where 1.9 million hectares of forest disappeared. Papua lost some 1.7 million hectares of lost forest.

“In Kalimantan, most of the destroyed forest was in regions where coal concessions were already granted," Kiki said. "In Papua, the forest was cut down under pre-existing logging concessions."

The deforestation moratorium promised to protect nearly half of Indonesia's existing tree cover — an area totaling 64 million hectares — when it was passed last year. But one year later, only 13 million additional hectares have been placed under protection, Kiki said.

While the moratorium has placed some 64 million hectares of forest under the government's protection, 46.7 million hectares of these protected forests were already part of conservation areas when the moratorium was announced, he said.

"So the moratorium only successfully added 13 million hectares of protected forests," Kiki said. 

The two-year moratorium came into effect last May as Norway pledged $1 billion in aid to Indonesia as part of a larger UN-backed plan to reduce emissions produced by deforestation. According to estimates, one million hectares of burning forest can produce as much as 290 million metric tons of carbon dioxide.

Indonesia lost five times that amount in the last year alone.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

RI becomes world's biggest sustainable palm oil producer

The Jakarta Post, Linda Yulisman, Jakarta, Thu, 05/03/2012

Preparing for the future: Workers plant oil palm seedlings at a palm
plantation in Kapuas Hulu, West Kalimantan. (Antara/Andre)

Indonesia has become the world’s biggest palm oil producer on the back of higher production of locally certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO), an international multi-stakeholder certification body says.

The top place is also attributable to the rising number of local palm oil producers joining in the sustainable certification scheme, says the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) Indonesia.

As of the first quarter of this year, local growers generated around 2.71 million tons of CSPO, overtaking Malaysia — traditionally the largest CSPO producer — which generated 2.69 million tons, RSPO Indonesia director, Desi Kusumadewi, said on Thursday.

The increase in total Indonesian output derived partly from PT Inti Indosawit Subur in Buatan, Riau, which produced a total of 54,282 tons of certified RSPO.

In 2011, the country's output was 2.3 million tons.