PONGO Alliance Way To Address Needs Of Borneo Orangutan Conservation


COMMENT: Palm Oil NGO (PONGO) Alliance, an alliance of several major palm oil producers and nature conservation organisations, has a mission to support the proper management of orangutans and other wildlife within plantations.

The health and survival of orangutans depends ultimately on having year-round access to their staple foods of diverse fruits and nutritious leaves.

One of the biggest challenges of PONGO Alliance is to set in motion a general move away from separating orangutans and plantations, and from automatically taking orang-utans out of plantations on the assumption that they will do better somewhere else.

PONGO Alliance believes that the time has come to seek ways to allow free-ranging orang-utans to live and breed in plantation landscapes which incorporate patches and corridors of original and restored forests.

“Human of the forest” or orangutan. – Photo credit/(c) Leophoto – Italy

This is an enormous challenge, not least in terms of convincing governments, company decision-makers and NGOs to radically change the way they have been dealing with orangutans and oil palm plantations over the past forty years.

Big palm oil producers and traders tried to do the right thing in announcing policies on “No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation” and “High Carbon Stock” in recent years. But as with most bold new policies based on noble principles, there have been unintended side effects due to retention of established land use allocation rules and procedures.

Land use planning mechanisms involve many interests and compromises. In this context, a big challenge has been that land most suitable for oil palm and other plantation crops is also most suitable as habitat for breeding populations of orangutans and many other wildlife species.

An oil palm plantation in Borneo. Photo credit neearthbodycare.com

In recent years, some companies with leases to plant oil palm have proposed to retain large patches of natural forests within the lease, to help sustain orangutans and other “high conservation values” and carbon stock.

This thinking is in line with the rules of Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and with the purchasing policies of the big traders. But proposals to retain forests on land allocated for plantations may be in breach of lease conditions. The time has come to seek ways to resolve this dilemma.

The dilemma is exemplified in Ketapang District, West Kalimantan, where government, industry players and civil society groups alike struggle to seek a way forward to satisfy the valid visions of all stakeholders.

An aerial view shows a cleared forest area under development as a palm oil plantation by oil palm companies in the Ketapang district of Indonesia’s West Kalimantan province. The photograph was taken as part of a media trip organised by conservationist group Greenpeace, which has campaigned against palm oil expansion in forested areas in Indonesia. – Internet photo

PONGO Alliance will do its best to address the needs of orangutan conservation, including within oil palm land leases from which fruit bunches and palm oil will be sourced in the coming years.

The Alliance is committed to help create dialogue between relevant stakeholders, so that patches and corridors of forest may be retained and restored to help sustain orangutans within their original landscape.


The Palm Oil & Non Governmental Organisation (PONGO) Alliance was founded in 2015. The Alliance’s mission is to prevent the extinction of orangutans living within oil palm concessions on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra.

The Alliance will engage with local governments and certified and non-certified palm oil companies to help implement sustainable landscape management also known as the ‘landscape approach’.

A landscape approach is about having all local stakeholders discuss and agree on the ecosystems that need to be excluded from development because of their ecological or cultural value.

The PONGO Alliance gathers industry and NGO members, mostly from palm oil producing and trading countries – Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore – who believe that the best way to achieve tangible results in wildlife conservation is collaboration between all stakeholders on the ground.