Last Stand of the Orangutan

Illegal Logging

Figure 4:Changes in orangutan distributions 1930–2004. Source: WWF.
Illegal logging includes “all forestry practices or activities connected with wood harvesting, processing and trade that do not conform to Indonesian law” (FWI/GFW 2003; Schroeder-Wildberg and Carius 2003). Illegal timber ranges from 73–88% of the total volume logged in 2003, by far the largest share of all logging in Indonesia (Schroeder-Wildberg and Carius 2003). Legal timber concessions can also be detrimental when granted in priority areas for biodiversity conservation, but illegal logging currently has far greater impacts.

Figure 5: Extent of deforestation in Borneo 1900–2005, and projections towards 2020. Source: WWF.
Whilst the forestry sector is very important to the Indonesian economy, illegal logging is costing Indonesia at least 3 billion USD a year in lost revenues alone (Jakarta Post 2003). Officially exported wood products accounted for 6.6 billion USD in 2003, and unreported exports at least an additional 2.4 billion USD, suggesting that direct illegal export is at least 30% of the total export (Sizer 2005; White et al. 2006). A considerable share of this passes through Malaysia, whose mill capacity far exceeds its national wood production.

According to the Ministry of Forestry, legal timber supplies from natural forests declined from 17 million m³ in 1995 to less than eight million m³ in 2000, but logged timber estimated to be at least 70–80 million m³ (Schroeder-Wildberg and Carius, 2003). While several hundred logging concessions exist, the Indonesian government attempted to reduce legal as well as illegal logging in the late 1990s. In 2004, it even proposed a law that would punish convictions for illegal logging or the setting of fires by a minimum jail sentence of 12 years, or death in exceptional cases (McConkey et al. 2005).