"Under President Joko Widodo, Indonesia has gained international praise for its conservation policies. But now the government is clamping down on scientists who are questioning official claims that the country’s endangered orangutan and rhino populations are increasing."
"Are Indonesia’s orangutans and other iconic endangered species on track for extinction, or enjoying a recovery under the country’s current green-minded government? It depends on who you ask. But amid a welter of conflicting data, the scientific debate that could untangle the mystery is being thwarted by a government clampdown on research findings. Coupled with bans on “negative” foreign researchers, the policies are leaving conservationists confused and some Indonesian scientists in fear for their careers.
As one great rainforest nation, Brazil, looks set to open up environmental cooperation and accountability under its new president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Indonesia appears to be sliding in the other direction. As a result, despite a decade of reduced rates of deforestation under its current president, Joko Widodo, the fate of the country’s orangutan, elephant, rhino, and tiger populations remains shrouded in uncertainty.
In response to the censorship, a group of Indonesian and international environment and human rights NGOs, including local branches of Greenpeace and Amnesty International, next month plan to launch a court action against the country’s Ministry of Environment and Forestry and the president’s office. They say their suit will seek to overturn a growing pattern of undermining the science needed for conservation and to unlock vital analysis of the state of the country’s rare and charismatic wildlife."
Fred Pearce reports for Yale Environment 360 January 24, 2023.