Malaysian company suspends palm oil trade with BLD

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After Bunge Limited, one of the world’s largest agribusiness companies, announced last year its suspension of new commercial activity with Malaysian palm oil company BLD Plantation Berhad, FOTO has been informed that Apical Malaysia Sdn Berhad declared in early February it will suspend trading with BLD as well until the latter addresses the issues brought up against them by FOTO and our allies.

BLD are still extensively clearing peat swamp forest and land-grabbing local communities in Sarawak, in one of their concession located near Sibu despite our attempts to stop them. No competent authority seems willing to take action.

BLD’s activities violate both Apical and Bunge’s sustainability policies. But they might not be the last to stop buying from BLD, Kirana (BLD’s wholly-owned refinery) or Sunfield Global (trading company buying from BLD)! FOTO and our allies have alerted a number of US and European companies about BLD’s unsustainable activities in Sibu and we will also email Asian companies – with which we suspect BLD is mostly dealing – in this regard very soon.

One step at a time we will continue fighting to make BLD stop!

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:

We’re Hiring

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Friends of the Orangutans is hiring!

In our effort to better help orangutans in captivity we are currently looking to recruit a Malaysian on a full time basis:


Position Title:  Orangutan Liaison Officer


• Assist Malaysian zoos in improving husbandry and management of captive orangutans
• Develop, coordinate and run orangutan enrichment programmes in captivity
• Communicate with media outlets, government agencies, zoos, other NGOs, etc
• Perform any other duties assigned by the Director



• Fervent passion and beliefs in animal rights and environmental issues
• Meticulous and consistent approach to work, and ability to produce quality results
• Experience in orangutan conservation would be an added advantage
• Proficient in Bahasa Melayu and English, written and spoken
• Ability to multitask, work independently and meet deadlines with limited supervision
• Willing to relocate within Malaysia and travel, including outside of Malaysia
• Computer proficient
• Commitment to the objectives of the organization
• Applicant must be a Malaysian citizen
• Full time position only


How to apply:

• Email us your resume & include a covering letter to explain why you want to be part of Friends of the Orangutans (FOTO)
• Applications without a covering letter will be rejected.
• Include two (2) contactable referees in your resume
• State your starting expected salary
• Only short-listed candidates will be notified.


Email us at

You may also apply for this post via Jobstreet.

Katarina Saved!

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Friends of the Orangutan wishes to thank all supporters who played a part in getting Katarina transferred from the horrific Kuala Lipis Zoo in the Malaysian Peninsular to Taiping Zoo, 3 hours north of Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur. This campaign started in November, after private negotiations with the Malaysian Wildlife Department failed to get Katarina moved out of the Lipis Zoo.

After a long, hard campaign, she was finally transferred on 12th February 2015.

We have received tremendous amount of support from supporters within Malaysia and around the world, and the petition for Katarina, which will be closed today 16th of February, has gathered over 14,500 signatures! On the 6th of February, we delivered this petition to the Malaysian Prime Minister’s office. We have also received a lot of support through social media platforms including Twitter, asking the authorities here to take Katarina out of the Lipis Zoo. Every single action by supporters has played a part.

Our campaign actually called for Katarina to be transferred to the Matang Wildlife Sanctuary, a sanctuary where orangutans and other animals live. It is managed by the Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC). Matang is actually the best place in Malaysia for captive orangutans. We have campaigned hard and done the best we could to get Katarina transferred there. However, the final decision on where Katarina should go rests on the Malaysian Wildlife Department, as they are the authority.

Taiping Zoo is head by the president of the Malaysian Association of Zoological Parks and Aquaria (MAZPA). It is one of the better zoos in Malaysia. Katarina will be a much happier orangutan at this zoo.

We will also be visiting Katarina and will bring updates and photos to post here.

We wish to thank you again for all the kind and relentless support from you, friends of Katarina, to help get her out of the Lipis Zoo. We could not have done this without you!

Media release regarding Katarina’s transfer:

Friends of the Orangutans have more campaigns and projects coming up this year, stay tuned!

Note: Photo of Katarina in the banner above was taken at her previous home, the Kuala Lipis Zoo

The Leuser Ecosystem – World Heritage Protection, or destroyed forever?!

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The Acehnese Government is pushing to finalise the proposed Spatial Plan in the next coming weeks along with and additional NEW draft governor’s regulation, which opens a door for new permits in large critical areas of the Leuser Ecosystem.

If approved, this new plan and the new regulation will result in the rapid devastation of most of Aceh’s remaining lowland forests, the last stronghold for the Sumatran orangutan, tiger, rhino and elephant. This also totally undermines the legal status of the world renowned Leuser Ecosystem. What’s more, it will not only seriously impact biodiversity and regional carbon emissions, but also seriously jeopardize the lives and livelihoods of many thousands of Aceh’s 4 million people.”

Act Now! This must be stopped.

Sign –

Fax –

Donate –

Twitter hashtag: #SaveAceh

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The plight of the elephants on parade

Disturbing visuals have emerged that point toward the alleged mistreatment and abuse of elephants that has been taking place for years at a zoo in Malacca.

A recent tip-off by an NGO called Friends of the Orangutans(FOTO) led to an investigation by Astro AWANI of the conditions of the elephants living within the care of A’Famosa Resort in Alor Gajah.

In Focus, Tuesday, 8:30pm

The results of this ‘In Focus’ probe revealed, among others:

  • That when not ‘working’, show elephants were being kept at a ‘night stall’, away from public eye.
  • Animals being chained there, some on both feet, for an unknown length of time
  • At least one elephant looked exceptionally gaunt and unhealthy
  • Dirty quarters including unwashed faeces on the cement floors
  • No readily available food or water

These conditions seem to go against some of the international standards of elephant management and care.

The Association of Zoo and Aquarium (AZA) standards says that elephants should not be subjected to
unnecessary prolonged restraint. It also says that water, mud, dust, soil or sand must be available for elephants to dust themselves to assist with thermoregulation. The captivity area used cement floor, which could lead to injuries and infections of the feet.

The AZA standards also says elephants also should be provided sufficient sheltered areas to prevent overheating or discomfort.

The quarters observed at the resort are estimated to be approximately 450 sq metres (there were five during the time of visit) but the AZA standards recommend 500 sq m per elephant.

A series of photographs dating back to 2011 indicated that the apparently poor living conditions of these elephants had not changed much for years.

These images were the basis for the investigation by FOTO and subsequently the visit by Astro AWANI.


Another shocking revelation was witnessed and captured on video camera: the beating of an elephant at the holiday destination.

Astro AWANI witnessed a man, presumably a staff of A’Famosa, beating a female elephant repeatedly with a hooked, stick-like tool while the creature cried out. The sounds of the impact of the beating were loud enough to be heard from a distance.

FOTO’s director Upreshpal Singh said that the “horrific” and “atrocious” treatment of the reported nine elephants at the resort was nothing short of “abuse”.

Upreshpal added: “These are the elephants to make profit for A’Famosa, they are used for elephant shows, they are used in elephant rides… and when they are not used, when they are not working, that’s how they are chained, behind public eye.

“The beating we witnessed was so vicious and loud… that is absolutely cruel and unacceptable,” he said.

Upreshpal also urged the authorities, namely the Department of Wildlife and National Parks(Perhilitan) to take action, pointing to Section 86 of the Wildlife Protection Act 2010 which covers offences of animal cruelty. He asked for the maximum penalty.

Upreshpal said that FOTO estimated that the elephants are chained up to 15 hours a day.

“A’famosa, must must must be prosecuted, they cannot escape anymore. They got away scotfree with the tiger photography a few years ago, and they were caught red handed keeping orangutans in cages for a long time.”

He also called for an independent veterinarian to visit the elephants, and for the animals to be freed from chains and be provided constant food and water and better habitat.

“We also have to wonder, did perhilitan not know about it, if no.. why not? Did they not know that’s how those elephants are being chained all these years? And if they do know what’s happening, and my guess is, they do know what’s happening, then why did they not take action?

At this time, a full response is yet to be provided by A’Famosa to these allegations. However, unofficially, one senior staff claimed that these complaints are new and that beatings are not practiced at the resort.

However, earlier today, Robert Na from A’Famosa commented. He said:”We refer to your e-mail dated 7 August 2013 regarding the condition of the elephants at A’Famosa and regret that the accusations that were brought to your attention were factually incorrect and was probably sent by some special interest groups.”

“I would like to clarify that the elephants are kept and maintain(sic) at international accepted standards and conditions and beating of the elephants is strictly forbidden by the management. In addition, relevant authorities periodically visit to ensure the well being of our animals.”

When contacted, Perhilitan deputy director-general Dr Zaaba Zainol Abidin said that the department was unaware of these serious claims but asked for an investigation to be carried out.

Zaaba’s statement contradicted that of another officer who shared that he was aware of the poor conditions but had simply notified enforcement with no further follow up.

Following Zaaba’s orders, the Melaka perhilitan director Mohammad Khairi Ahmad later told Astro AWANI that the last audit in April showed that A’Famosa practices were satisfactory.

After a visit to the resort following our queries, Khairi said:“We are of the view that there were no mistreatment and therefore deny any allegations to that effect. The conditions (of the elephants) are all okay, the place (where they are kept) is clean and there is no contravention of our Act”

In the full In Focus report, Astro AWANI also spoke to several experts and NGOs on this case, including consultant wildlife and zoo veterinarian Associate Professor Dr S Vellayan, former Perhilitan director-general Mohd Khan Momin Khan, and Malaysian Nature Society head of conservation Balu Perumal.

To watch more of the episode “the plight of the elephants on parade”, tune in to ‘In Focus’ tonight(Tuesday, Aug 20) 8.30pm, exclusively on Astro AWANI.


NOTE:  Link to the online article has been removed from the Astro Awani website, which is the original source of the above article.


Why the Shangri-la Rasa Ria orangutan secrecy?

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Despite several attempts to get answers from the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) regarding the exploitation of young orangutans at the exclusive Shangri-la Rasa Ria resort in the Malaysian Borneo state of Sabah, our efforts have been responded with a veil of secrecy and silence.

Please take a look at the letter published by Free Malaysia Today below, and if you care for orangutans, you should be worried too about the welfare of these majestic red apes at Rasa Ria.

At the moment Friends of the Orangutans (FOTO) is the only Malaysian NGO seeking to help the orangutans at Rasa Ria, which means we need your support in this campaign.

Please will you today write to Free Malaysia Today and demand Datuk Masidi Manjun, the Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister to get the SWD to answer all questions raised by FOTO. Send your letters to:

Use the letter below as a guide, but you only need to write a short letter, e.g. 2 paragraphs. If you need help, please send us an email at

Please also sign and share this petition widely on your Facebook/Twitter:

Reveal Treatment Of Orangutans At Rasa Ria RESORT


“To say nothing, to do nothing, stops nothing” ~Roni McCall

Thank you for caring.


Why the Shangri-la Rasa Ria orangutan secrecy?

November 21, 2012

FMT LETTER: From Upreshpal Singh, via e-mail

I’d like to addresses this letter to Masidi Manjun, the Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister. Having failed multiple times to obtain any transparency from Dr Laurentius Yambu, director of the Sabah Wildlife Department, regarding orangutans kept at Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria Resort Nature Reserve, we are hoping you will treat our requests more positively.

Please can you inform us:

  • Why was Tenten the orphaned orangutan sent to a holiday resort rather than be retained at Sepilok for rehabilitation?
  • Isn’t Sepilok better able to administer the care and expertise required of such a young orangutan? We imagine donors to Orangutan Appeal UK would be alarmed and very disappointed to discover Sepilok is passing on cute babies to a luxurious hotel.
  • Was anyone arrested and prosecuted for the killing of Tenten’s adult mother?
  • The Shangri-la company has recently announced a big increase in profits. Why, therefore, do they solicit donations at the resort and what happens to this money?
  • Is there a permanent, full time vet at Rasa Ria?
  • How often does the SWD inspect the orangutans and their cages?
  • We received reports of volunteers sent home for taking pictures of the condition of orangutans? Why is this so?
  • How many orangutans have died at Rasa Ria in the last five years? In this regard we have received a worrying report.

We are sure you agree that when a government department and/or employee refuses to disclose information in the public interest, it only creates greater interest while suspicion snowballs.

Much has been said recently about Sabah’s wish to be more proactive in helping orangutans, so we only hope our request will be addressed.

The writer is Founder, Friends of the Orangutans



Direct link to article here.

Your support is making a difference at Melaka Zoo!

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After pressure from all of us the orangutan enclosure has been further improved.










However, a few weeks ago Friends of the Orangutans returned to this zoo and found that abuse and neglect continues at this zoo. See pictures here.

Will you lend a hand and help our campaign to improve the lives of orangutans at Melaka Zoo? Sign this petition below and do share it on your Facebook and Twitter using the AddThis plugin at the bottom of this post.

If you have followed our campaign so far you would have heard of the abuse on the male Sumatran orangutan at this infamous zoo.

Updates on our campaign will be posted in our website. Thank you for your support!

Help us with our Orangutan Island campaign

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Back in mid May the Natural Resources and Environment (NRE) minister Douglas Uggah Embas gave assurance that our concerns (from our investigations) regarding orangutan deaths and babies being separated from their mothers at the Orangutan Island (OUI) in Bukit Merah Laketown Resort would be investigated. More than three months on, we have heard nothing. Our half a dozen email attempts have been unanswered.

We need to put more pressure on the NRE to get answers, in order for us to help orangutans at OUI further.

Please will you write to Free Malaysia Today (FMT) regarding this matter and demand that the NRE reveal their investigations? FMT are a non-pro government online paper which have published the most animal welfare letters:

You may refer to this letter below for ideas, your email can be shorter and straight to the point though:

Reveal orang utan death findings


Thank you for taking action, your help much appreciated.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has – Margaret Mead

Your support is making a difference at Melaka Zoo!

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After pressure from all of us the orangutan enclosure has been further improved.


However, a few weeks ago Friends of the Orangutans returned to this zoo and found that abuse and neglect continues at this zoo. See pictures here.

Will you lend a hand and help our campaign to improve the lives of orangutans at Melaka Zoo? Sign this petition below and do share it on your Facebook and Twitter using the AddThis plugin at the bottom of this post.

If you have followed our campaign so far you would have heard of the abuse on the male Sumatran orangutan at this infamous zoo.

Updates on our campaign will be posted in our website. Thank you for your support!