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British Palm oil firm accused of bankrolling Indonesian rainforest destruction


Wetlands International in a coalition of environmental groups (see below) has accused a British company of funding the imminent destruction of a critical area of Indonesian rainforest for palm oil production.

Hundreds of endangered Orangutans at risk; vital coastal buffer zone under threat.

The groups claim that, if allowed to proceed, the process would destroy a fragile tsunami buffer zone (1) as well as accelerate global climate change.

The Scottish firm Jardine Matheson Holdings is the majority shareholder of AAL, the palm oil company behind plans to decimate the untouched forests of Tripa in Aceh Province, northern Sumatra. Jardine’s chairman, Sir Henry Keswick, was knighted this month in the Queen’s birthday honours list.

Turning a blind eye

The environmental coalition – including groups such as the Sumatran Orangutan Society , Wetlands International, Orang-Utan land trust and Greenpeace – accused the firm of turning a blind eye to a massive rainforest crime and driving the destruction of an entire ecosystem.

The region, on the northwestern coast of Sumatra, is home to the highest concentration of Sumatran orangutans in the world. Less than twenty years ago the Tripa swamp forests harboured around 1,500 orangutans. Today there are just a handful left.

Contributing to climate change

The dense peat swamp soils also house a huge store of buried carbon, which will be released into the atmosphere and contribute to climate change if the planned conversion of this area to palm oil plantations goes ahead. The 13,000 hectare plot also provides a critical forest barrier against natural disasters such as the 2004 tsunami, which killed more than 225,000 people.


Alex Kaat from Wetlands International:

“This case in unfortunately just one example. Throughout Indonesia and Malaysia, we see that the last remaining peatswamp forests are cleared for palm oil production to meet the growing demands for vegetable oils and biofuels.”

Greenpeace forest campaigner James Turner said:

“It’s scandalous that a British company is bankrolling the destruction of this vital part of Indonesian rainforest. If the executives at Jardines don’t stop this they will be rightly accused of speeding up climate change, destroying a vital tsunami buffer zone and driving the Sumatran orangutan to the brink of extinction.”

Helen Buckland, UK Director, Sumatran Orangutan Society (SOS):

“It is frankly shocking that the Chairman of Jardine Matheson has been knighted for services to British business interests overseas, while his company is actively contributing to the demise of the critically endangered Sumatran orangutan. British businesses must be held accountable for their part in the destruction of this globally important area of forest. “

Michelle Desiliets, Director of the Orang-Utan land trust:

“The crisis facing Tripa Swamp Forest demonstrates just how ruthless this industry can be. A UK-based company, chaired by an individual recently knighted for services to British business interests overseas and charitable activities in the UK, provides the investment for such destruction, and as such, surely cannot claim to have any interest in Corporate Social Responsibility.”

Denis Ruysschaert from PanEco:

“The latest Tripa monitoring flight, on 11 June 2009, showed a gloomy picture of the on-going destruction, worse than expected”.

For more information,

please contact Wetlands International on

+31 (0)318 660912

+31 (6) 50601917 (mobile)



(1) A 2005 post-tsunami master plan for the rehabilitation and reconstruction for the region and people of the province of Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam and Nias Island, agreed by the Indonesian people and authorities, emphasises the need for the development of a coastal greenbelt buffer zone.

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