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December 8 2012

Stop Burning Rain Forests for Palm Oil

In the Tripa forest in Indonesia's Aceh province, the rare Sumatran orangutans were dying. Flames devoured the trees, smoke filled the air and the red apes had nowhere to go. The fires had been set intentionally, to clear the land for planting oil palms—trees whose fruit yields palm oil, a widely used component of biofuels, cosmetics and food. Although the land was supposed to be protected, the Aceh governor issued a permit in August 2011 for Indonesian palm oil firm PT Kallista Alam to develop some 1,600 hectares in Tripa. In September 2012, under pressure from environmental groups, the permit was revoked. It seemed like a significant win for conservation. Yet the controversial Tripa permit was just a small part of the country's palm oil–driven deforestation crisis.

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