The government plays a very crucial role in ensuring that orangutans are kept safe and that their endangerment is kept under control. Laws have already been put in place by the Indonesian government pertaining to deforestation and palm oil plantations as well as the poaching and trade of orangutans.
There is no single act or regulation that governs the cultivation of palm oil in Indonesia. However, before a company can begin establishing a palm oil plantation, it must secure legal tenure to the land and the prerequisite is that it has to be land that is outside the natural forest estate under the Forestry Law. If the land is not outside the natural forest estate, the company would not be permitted to set up the palm oil plantation. Slash-and-burn techniques is also forbidden by law, however, the government hardly monitors such activities and hence the majority of those guilty get away with it.
Similar laws are also put in place for logging activities. Under the 1999 Forestry Laws, legal approval for deforestation activities and timber permits are all required and all activities have to be first endorsed by the authorities of the respective regions.
Not surprisingly, the Indonesian government’s role in minimising deforestation activities has been greatly criticised with regards to the enforcement of these laws. To make things worse, many transmigration projects have been undertaken by the government over the pass few decades and this only reflects their inability to properly manage urban development and forestry conservation efforts.
The same goes for orangutan poaching and trading. Little effort has been made in the past 2 decades by the Indonesian government in actively enforcing their laws. The lack of proper enforcement has led to a continuation in the dwindling of the orangutan population, also alleviated by the rapidly shrinking rainforests.
However, in December 2007, President Susilo launched Indonesia’s Strategy and Action Plan for National Conservation of Orangutans. The action plan formally endorsed Indonesia’s commitment to orangutan conservation as expressed in 2005 when Indonesia signed the Kinshasa Declaration of the Protection of Great Apes. Unfortunately, 7 years into the action plan, there have been no signs of progress. Not a single orangutan population has experienced land change that will make it any more likely to survive. No new protected areas have been set up for orangutan conservation and vast areas of orangutan habitat has continued to be converted to palm oil plantations.
In order for the conservation of orangutans to truly get on the right track, much more has to be done by the government in upholding their national and international commitments and legal duties towards the protection of orangutans and the environment. Unless they actually start focussing on following their conservation plans instead of constantly coming up with new plans and commitments without any intention to change their ways, orangutans will not have a chance to survive.