The world's largest population of proboscis monkey, locally known as bekantan, and its natural habitat in Balikpapan Bay is in danger due to the expansion of oil palm plantations.
Stanislav Lhota, a primate researcher from the Czech University of Life Sciences in Prague, the Czech Republic, said mangrove forests in Balikpapan Bay was home to around 1,400 proboscis monkeys, 5 percent of the world's population of the primate.
'This is the largest proboscis monkey population in the world,' said Lhota in Balikpapan, East Kalimantan, on Sunday, as quoted by Antara news agency.
Palm oil producer PT Wilmar Nabati Indonesia ( WINA ) owns concession permits for 149.8 hectares of mangrove forests in the northern part of Balikpapan Bay in East Kalimantan and the western part of Balikpapan, the oil-producing city. The concession areas are part of the Kariangau Industrial Estate.
Besides proboscis monkeys, the Balikpapan Bay waters is also a natural habitat of dugongs, coral reefs and sea grass, according to the researcher.
'The palm oil company has been quite destructive,' said Lhota.
Converting mangrove forests into oil palm plantations deplete a part of the food chain, relied upon by proboscis monkeys and a wide vary of bird species, the researcher said.
'If it continues, there will be no proboscis monkeys in Balikpapan Bay in the next 15-20 years,' said Lhota.
To get the expansion permit, WINA has held a public consultation on the environment impact assessment study of the project. The consultation was first held in a school in Waru Bay, in southern coastal areas of Balikpapan Bay, which is part of North Penajam Paser regency
The location of the public consultation was in line with local officials' directives, Eka Saputra of WINA said as quoted by mongabay.co.id. ( ebf )