Tanjung Redeb, East Kalimantan. Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan has said that the government is planning to convert 11,000 hectares in Sungai Lesan in the Berau district of East Kalimantan into a protected forest for orangutans.
“In the near future, we will declare this [protected] area. We will issue a decree on that because this has also already been proposed by the regional government and included in the East Kalimantan Regional Master Plan,” the minister said, adding that the area had a high ecosystem value and was a habitat of the orangutan. The area is also inhabited by an indigenous tribe.
Speaking at a mangrove planting ceremony on Derawan Island in Tanjung Redeb, also in Berau, on Tuesday, Zulkifli said the status conversion of the Sungai Lesan area was significant in efforts to protect the ecosystem there and particularly the orangutan population.
Berau district chief Makmur H.P.K. said that in 2007 the district head had already issued a decree recognizing the area in Sungai Lesan as protected forest.
“This is our commitment to always protect the forest. This area is populated by hundreds of orangutan and this area is also safeguarded by the local community,” Makmur said.
Meanwhile, Tandya Tjahjana, who heads the East Kalimantan Nature Conservation Office, said his division was conducting a study to determine the presence of orangutans and elephants in plantation, forestry and mining concessions. Those three activities have been largely blamed for accelerating the extinction of the orangutans that they view as pests.
“So that if they are found in an area, it can be turned into a conservation area,” Tandya said.