FOTO’s response to greenwashing article by Pierre Bois d’Enghien

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On 22nd January, Mr. Pierre Bois d’Enghien, an RSPO auditor and self-proclaimed “environmental expert” produced an extremely misleading article published by The Star. In it, d’Enghien claims Malaysia’s forests have grown and that “forest loss has effectively fallen to zero”. You can read d’Enghien’s article in full here.

Below is Friends of the Orangutans’ reply to d’Enghien’s piece:

It is with disappointment that we read Pierre Bois D’Enghien’s summary (‘Malaysia is green and growing’, The Star, 22 January) of the Malaysian forest situation as published in the Global Forest Resources Assessment (FRA) 2015 report. D’Enghien implies states that “Malaysia’s forest area is increasing, not decreasing.” This is misleading as researchers and scientists have shown Malaysia as having an extremely high rate of deforestation, which contrasts the claims made by D’Enghien.

Closer inspection of the FRA report by the FAO [Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations] shows that the figures have not been prepared by an independent international committee, but rather by the Malaysian government. In view of long-standing concerns about greenwashing by the Malaysian government, it is especially important that claims about the Malaysian rainforest are cross-checked by independent environmental groups locally and by reliable & independent international monitors. While some of the contentious claims made by D’Enghien are worth correcting.

D’Enghien’s piece states that Malaysia’s forest area today is 22,195,100ha or 67.6% (more than two-thirds) of the land area.  ‘Forest area’ is a dubious term as forest areas area might not have any natural forest in it. The correct term to use is ‘forest cover’. 

He also claims Malaysia’s forest cover, according to Global Forest Watch [GFW], stands at 29,000,000 hectares, an “upward of 80%”. The term used by GFW is ‘tree cover’ and not forest cover. Tree cover describes all trees and vegetation taller than 5m, including palm oil plantations, but palm oil plantations cannot be classified as forest as it cannot match natural forests in terms of carbon storage, biodiversity and maintenance of our precious ecosystems. D’Enghien – an ‘ambassador’ of The Oil Palm, initiated by Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) – is trying to tell Malaysians we have an abundance of natural forests left when the reality on the ground is different.

A finding by National University of Singapore (NUS) scientists revealed Malaysia had (at best) 45.4% forest cover in year 2010, a loss of 13.2% since 2000. Between those 10 years our country lost an astonishing 45.3% of forest cover on peatland. More recent data shows between 2012 and 2014 our country suffered 484,700 hectares of forest cover loss.

Thus it is extremely misleading and unethical, when the writer claims that Malaysia’sforest loss has effectively fallen to zero.”

Meanwhile, the FRA report states that between 1990 and 2015 Malaysia gained over a million hectares of primary forests, which is highly impossible and contentious considering the rate of deforestation. Our government has possibly reclassified certain areas as primary forests.

D’Enghien invites us, the Malaysian people, to be proud of the FRA report. He suggests we “should look to its findings to challenge the international media and those who intentionally spread misinformation about Malaysian palm oil.” We, as Malaysians, have looked at this report and other reports and found nothing to be proud of. We have lost the Sumatran rhino in Sabah, orangutan & elephant numbers are dwindling, indigenous locals’ lands are stolen for plantations and rampant deforestation, including on peatland, continues. Here is just one example.

Our palm oil industry has helped many Malaysians to make a better living (we don’t mean the opulent corporations). Palm oil is a productive crop but production must not be at the expense of the environment and people.

While the MPOC may be a lobby group for the Malaysian palm oil industry, it has the moral obligation not to mislead the Malaysian public including through greenwashing, which the MPOC will be very familiar with. By all means, extol the putative health benefits of palm oil if you must; but distortions of fact and outright lies are not only ethically unsound, in this case they are also robbing us of our natural home. Malaysia may be “green and growing,” as proclaimed in the title of D’Enghien’s opinion piece, but in this sea of green, we could ultimately die of thirst and polluted air, wiping out Malaysian wildlife along the way.

Upreshpal Singh,

Director, Friends of the Orangutans (Malaysia)

Mardia looking healthier!

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Mardia and her daughter Icha are two Bornean orangutans at the Melaka Zoo in Malaysia. Early last year Friends of the Orangutans provided assistance to this zoo to help them reduce the weight of Mardia, who can be seen as obese in the first photo below (from November 2014). Last month, our visit to Melaka Zoo showed Mardia has lost much weight and is now more active in the orangutan enclosure.

We have also assisted the zoo with their enrichment plans. And so have other organizations. The zoo now provides enrichment to Mardia and Icha. In one photo below both orangutans are seen in a hammock playing with browse.

Obesity, short inter-birth interval and human rearing are some of the factors influencing the longevity of captive orangutans.


November 2014:



December 2015:




Shangri-La Protest Outside Malaysian Embassy in Jakarta

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On Tuesday, 12th January, Indonesian NGO Scorpion Wildlife Trade Monitoring Group and their supporters protested against Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria Resort & Spa exploitation of orangutans, outside the Malaysian embassy in Jakarta! More photos available at the bottom of this post.

Opposition to Shangri-La’s disgusting exploitation is growing. We would love to have you to join our campaign and organize a similar protest in your country. Please email us at info@fotomalaysia for more information.

Remember to sign and share the petition:

Tweet to Shangri-La:

Take a photo of yourself with this poster and send to us at the email above:

Thank you for your support, and remember:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead.

Together, we WILL win for the orangutans!


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Orangutan Caring Week with FOTO

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Friends of the Orangutans (Malaysia) is excited to announce our next event on November 14th and 15th 2015 in Kuala Lumpur.

After the success encountered during the Orangutan International Day on last August 19th, we will renew the experience on the occasion of the “Orangutan Caring Week”. This event is celebrated by all the orangutan’s groups all around the world.

If you don’t have your FOTO t-shirt yet, it’s time to go get one! They will be available to purchase at our booth with other items to give away.


Location: 1 Utama Shopping centre Bandar Utama city centre, First floor oval (between Juice Works & Aveda)

Time: 10.00am – 10.00pm


Come to join us and show your support on November 14th and 15th, or just to learn more about our beloved friends on this special event.

If you wish to help out on the booth please send us an email at

See you there!

BLD Plantation Continue Destroying Peatland in Sarawak (2016 Update)

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In June last year Malaysian palm oil company BLD Plantation Berhad announced its plans to clear 14,000 ha of carbon-rich peatland in its Sibu’s concession in the next two years. Unless stopped, BLD Plantation will cause further serious environmental damages particularly on the climate, emitting vast amount of carbon dioxyde into the atmosphere in the process.

The executive chairperson of BLD Plantation, Henry Lau Lee Kong, announced that the company had already started clearing activity to develop palm oil plantations, while existing 6,000 ha of palm oil plantations belonging to the company sits on peatland. Less than a week after the announcement US-based agricultural trader Bunge (RSPO member) suspended indefinitely any new commercial activity with Kirana Palm Oil Refinery Sdn. Bhd (Kirana), a wholly-owned subsidiary of BLD Plantation, after a formal complaint by American environmental group Forest Heroes. BLD Plantation is also a supplier to Kirana.

newdeforestationBLD 2001 to 2015

Map of the peat deforestation (red) and degradation (orange) activities in BLD’s concession in the Sibu region between July 2001 and September 2015

Right now rampant peatland clearing is ongoing and the company is now focusing on the northern and center part of the concession while the southern part is already mostly cleared and planted with oil palms. Between 2001 and 2015 (BLD was given license to develop the concession in 2000), over 10,300 ha have been slashed by the company inside the concession. Over 10,300 ha of peat swamp forest that use to be utilized by the local communities for hunting, fishing and planting fruit trees are now gone forever.


Cleared land using open burning in BLD’s concession. Young oil palms already planted. At the background stands peat forest that used to occur over all BLD’s concession area before they cleared it.

At the end of August, FOTO contacted BLD Plantation asking them to stop further clearing activities and to adopt a strong and robust ‘No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation’ policy which also covers BLD’s suppliers and subsidiaries and to resolve land grabbing complaints by the local communities. An equivalent area should also be restored to compensate the one already cleared. Until this day we are yet to hear from the company.

peat_depthMeasurement of peat depth in the BLD concession. We recorded a depth of at least 5.2 meters.

A meeting with the Sarawak chief minister Adenan Satem and his delegation has taken place on Thursday 1st of October gathering International organizations Rainforest Foundation Norway, the Union of Concerned Scientists, Center for International Policy, local group SADIA, environmental lawyer Harrison Ngau and Friends of the Orangutans. A formal request has been brought to the chief minister itself, who has previously banned any new conversion of forests into palm oil plantations, to push the company to stop deforesting.

Despite the indisputable evidences of clearing and many attempts to ask the chief minister to stop BLD the company continues to destroy peat forests to plant palm oil. We have not received any reply to our emails to the chief minister’s office.

Furthermore local communities’ NCR (Native Customary Right) lands have been encroached by BLD while the peat swamp forests are trashed…that makes at least two really good reasons to make BLD stop the clearing! One case of land-grabbing by the company on the NCR lands of the Iban from Tutus will be brought to court in February 2016.

FOTO is now focusing on targeting BLD’s financiers and customers. We contacted all the banks for which we have evidences they financed at some point BLD Plantation or one of its direct subsidiary to alert them of the ongoing illegal and unethical activities undertaken by their client and to ask them to promptly address this issue accordingly. We are in contact with Malaysian bank Maybank that we know provided BLD’s subsidiary with over RM 390 Million of loan. They might be BLD’s main banker. In the other hand, with help from Rainforest Foundation Norway we sent out letter to a listing of European and US companies that purchase palm oil products, therefore potential clients of BLD, asking them to review their supply-chain and if sourcing from BLD to stop any activity with them.

You can also read our press releases, links below:

Updates on Kinabatangan

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Since last July and after 3 months FOTO is still pushing companies for a commitment not to purchase crude palm oil (CPO) from the Kinabatangan areas highlighted by Abram et al 2014 scientific paper titled ‘Synergies for improving oil palm production and forest conservation in floodplain landscapes’. These specific areas have been defined as non productive for agriculture, being in the same time the host land of endemic threatened species as the orangutan and the pygmy elephant for example.

At the beginning of October, FOTO was disappointed to note that most of the remaining companies which we are still expecting a reply from have been difficult to convince in regard to the commitment we asked them. We could establish contact with all palm oil companies but we are still expecting the competent authorities of each of them to manifest themselves on this matter.

Felda Global Venture, Wilmar International, KLK and the IOI Group declared that they will comply with their policies in regard to environmental matters. We are now happy to announce that Kwantas recently declared their commitment towards Kinabatangan’s forests (25,000 ha mentioned in the academic paper) protection!

The Kinabatangan region’s future remains insecure until the 25,000 hectares, partly owned by the Sabah government and partly on NCR lands, are not protected from development. This will be helped by the palm oil companies acting in the region committing to not use palm oil products sourced from the regions pointed out!

1,000th student reached out!

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Over 1,000 students reached by FOTO’s awareness program since June!

FOTO is proud to announce that since June this year and the start of FOTO’s new awareness program in schools in and around Kuala Lumpur, our passionate team have reached more than 1,000 students in only 3 months! We now look forward to go to more schools soon and to strengthen the relationship with each school we visited. This is a really good start for a promising successful program.

Malaysian and foreign students from 11 to 18 years old learned about wild and captive orangutans, the threats they face and the large scale effects of deforestation on the Global Changes. Our interactive presentations brought a lot of interest amongst the young people, encouraging them to ask questions and to think about what solution to help orangutans.

FOTO is currently looking for volunteers in the Kuala Lumpur region to participate in our awareness program and help us to reach more national schools in a near future. If you believe in the necessity of raising awareness about orangutans situation as strong as we do, if you are Malaysian and passionate about orangutans and forest conservation, please send us a statement of interest and a short resume at

International Orangutan Day in Malaysia!

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19th August is International Orangutan Day! Friends of the Orangutans (Malaysia) will be celebrating this special day to raise awareness about Malaysian orangutans in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday 19th August.

Exciting prizes to be given away including a beautiful orangutan painting & Friends of the Orangutans merchandise!

Location: Level G, NU Sentral (opposite entrance of Monorel station)

Time: 8.00am – 9.00pm

You can confirm your participation at this Facebook event page.

Only 3 of 8 companies pledge ‘No Deforestation’

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Free Malaysia Today yesterday published Friends of the Orangutans’ press release regarding the threat of further conversion of forests in the Kinabatangan region of Sabah to agriculture crops like oil palm.

Read the PR in full below. We will post further updates on our work to protect forests in our website.

PETALING JAYA: Only three of the eight palm oil companies in Sabah that were contacted by NGO Friends of the Orang-utans (FOTO) have made “No Deforestation” pledges.

According to FOTO director Upreshpal Singh, so far only Kuala Lumpur Kepong (KLK), Wilmar and Felda Global Ventures (FGV) reiterated their commitment to help protect forests through their “No Deforestation” pledges and acknowledgement of High Conservation Value (HCV) areas.

The NGO claimed they have yet to receive a reply from IOI Group, Graphene Nanochem (Malaysia) and Kwantas Corporation Berhad while Sawit Kinabalu replied to say they did not currently procure CPO from the Kinabatangan region.

Upreshpal explained it was vital there was no further deforestation in Kinabatangan to ensure remaining wildlife habitat in the region including that of orang-utans remained intact.

“Orang-utan habitats in Kinabatangan have been severely decimated mostly from palm oil development and in this case locals are at risk of losing their investment as most of the area mentioned in the scientific paper is prone to flooding.

“Deforestation for whatever purpose will be a lose-lose situation for all,” he explained.

Upreshpal also said commitment by palm oil companies in Sabah to help protect forests in Kinabatangan would help the Sabah State government to cancel any possible oil palm leases on undeveloped land in areas that would either be unproductive or of major conservation value as described in the scientific paper.

“We thank FGV, KLK and Wilmar for their diligence in protecting forests though we acknowledge there is always room for improvement with regard to deforestation.

“In the meantime we will continue to engage with the other companies we have contacted”, Upreshpal concluded.

Shangri-La’s exploitation of orangutans exposed

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Please sign the petition to help orphan orangutans exploited at a luxury, 5-star resort.

Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria Resort & Spa is a 5-star holiday resort an hour from Kota Kinabalu, the capital of the Sabah state in Malaysian Borneo.

For over 10 years the Rasa Ria Resort (RR) have been continuously supplied with orphan orangutans from the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre (SORC) in Sandakan.

According to the Shangri-La website, the purpose of RR’s ‘Orangutan Care’ project is to rehabilitate orangutans (for wild release). The orangutans are later returned to the SORC to continue the rehabilitation process.

However, the Shangri-La Group uses the facade of rehabilitation to exploit the orangutans at the resort through tourism for profit and it’s time this is put to a stop.



Tourists photograph orangutans at RR


Many individuals have expressed concern regarding the treatment and care orangutans at the resort receive. Late last year an orangutan called ‘Tenten’ died at RR. We have asked the Shangri-La Group to publicly announce the number of orangutans who have died at the resort but they have refused to do so while ignoring our request to voluntarily stop the exploitation at RR.

Earlier this year the General Manager of RR claimed “this (the orangutans at RR) is one of the assets that we have here”.

Orangutans at RR are ‘assets’ to make the Shangri-La Group profits and nothing else. Moreover, rehabilitant orangutans don’t belong in a luxury resort. FOTO demands the Shangri-la Group to stop the exploitation of Sabah’s orangutans and return all existing orangutans at RR back to the SORC. No orangutan should be sent to the resort again.

Please take action today by signing the petition and tweeting. The orangutans at RR are counting on us all to help them.

Remember to also join our poster campaign. How it works:

1. Download and print the poster

2. Take a photo of yourself posing with the poster

3. Tweet it! Sample text for photo tweet: Stop exploiting #orangutans @ShangriLaHotels.They aren’t yours to use and abuse.Return them to Sepilok @rrrshangrila

3. Send it to us at