TBI, Teladan Prima and Orang-Utan Habitat Loss

During my final year working for TBI Kelapa Gading, I became aware that the main franchisee/owner, a man by the name of Djalaludin Djaprie (or sometimes Jaladin Japri), was a major player in the palm-oil plantation business, which has had such a devestating impact on the ecology of Indonesia. In light of the massive forest fires which are once again burning in Kalimantan and Sumtra, it is once again time to highlight TBI’s partnerships with figures from the controversial palm-oil industry. If any further proof were needed after the illegal visa scams and the various scandals around alleged abuser and fraudster Binsar Simorangkir at TBI Bekasi, this illustrates that TBI is a company which is very unfussy about who it does business with.

In particular, we want to show that TBI has done business for years with a man who is directly responsible for clearing of orangutan habitat in East Kalimantan and the death of orangutans in some of their plantations. Nor is Mr. Japri the only figure from Indonesia’s infamous palm-oil plantation sector with connections to TBI (more on this later). In this post we intend to introduce readers to Mr, Japrie, who holds the franchise agreement for TBI Kelapa Gading, his main business interest, the palm-oil plantation company PT. Teladan Primam and some basic facts about the palm-oil industry and its role in species extinction in Indonesia.

Jaladin Japri and PT. Teladan Prima

According to Teladan Prima’s LinkedIn account, they like to see themselves as follows:

Teladan Prima Group (TPG) is a oil palm plantation group established since 2004 with an areas of ± 48,000 hectares (including 20% plasma areas) of oil palms and four (4) palm oil mills (POM) with a processing capacity of ± 190 tons Fresh Fruit Bunches (FFB) per hour. The plantations and mills are all located in the province of East Kalimantan (Kutai Timur, Berau and Paser Regency).

The company claims to be interested in sustainable palm-oil, though we have grave reason to doubt the seriousness of that commitment. Nonetheless, their LinkedIn page makes the following claims:

TPG as a group support all its PT. (registered companies) with environmentally sound management and conservation in fulfilling the concept of “Sustainable Oil Palm”. Currently, TPG has provided employment to 11,000 people which is an achievement by itself.

These environmental goals are a rather new addition. On the group’s official webpage, they are telling a very different story. On the webpage their “Vision and Mission” is still as follows:

To develop unproductive land as a source of renewable natural resources and to create employment in remote areas.

To produce the maximum quantity of palm products per planted hectare at the lowest possible production costs.

What is worrying here is the terrible euphemism, “unproductive land”. What Teladan Prima calls ‘unproductive land’ is virgin jungle which has some of the highest conservation value on Earth. The jungles of Borneo (Kalimantan in Indonesian) are more biodoverse than the Amazon and they rate after the Amazon and Congo as the third largest tract of virgin jungle on Earth. They are also extremely rich in carbon, so their loss would also be a great blow for climate change mitigation efforts. Finally, these jungles are also the ancestral lands of Dayak tribes who are Indigenous people in this part of the world. Jaladin Japrie comes from the island of Belitung, far away from this area. By expropriating the jungles of Borneo from the Dayak tribes, burning them, and turning into palm-oil plantations, Teladan Prima is turning richly biodioverse ecosystems into vast plantations which support no large mammal species or any of the native fauna. Calling this ‘development’ is a cruel and misleading euphemism.

Apart from such trademark species as the Borneo orang-utan and the rare probiscis monkey, there are 600 species of birds on the islands, 150 species of fish found nowhere else and 105 different kinds of lizards. The fauna is even more biodiverse, ranging from mangrove swamps to the soaring dipterocarp forests that are amongst the most majestic in the world. This is the ecosystem which Teladan Prima has described as ‘unproductive land’ and is stripping of vegetation cover to turn into palm-oil plantations that do little but enrich local elites.

Teladan Prima sets up a task force to start rescuing orang-utans its plantations displace

Teladan Prima sets up a task force to start rescuing orang-utans its plantations displace

The Survival of the Orang-Utan

In terms of the impact on the orang–utan, Teladan Prima’s own website features a memorandum in which they promised as recently as 2011 to stop killing the orang-utans when they ‘conflict’ with human activities. They promised at that time to start capturing the animals and releasing them in national parks instead. They formed a task force to capture orang-utans displaced by the activities of Teladan Prima, which they trained how to ‘block’, ‘capture’, ‘cage’ and ‘release’ wild orang-utans. They said they would concentrate their activities on areas where there had been “frequent human-wild animal clashes in the past.” It beggars belief that TBI is happy to do business with a company which was openly killing orang-utans until 2011 and now prides itself on capturing them and dumping them in unfamiliar territory.

There was no acknowledgement at all of the fact that this meant that Teladan Prima’s plantations were taking over orang-utan habitat, giving these magnificent creatures nowhere else to live. Borneo has already seen an 85% reduction in orang-utan numbers since 1950 and it is on track for extinction by around 2040. This is what the United Nations Environment Program has to say about the issue:

A November 2011 survey, based on interviews with 6,983 respondents in 687 villages across Kalimantan in 2008 to 2009, gave estimated orangutan killing rates of between 750 and 1800 in the year leading up to April 2008. These killing rates were higher than previously thought and confirm that the continued existence of the orangutan in Kalimantan is under serious threat. The survey did not quantify the additional threat to the species due to habitat loss from deforestation and expanding palm-oil plantations.

In conclusion, while Teladan Prima is far from the biggest destroyer of jungle in Indonesia, it is operating in highly biodiverse orang-utan habitat in East Kalimantan and its activities have already led to the deaths of orang-utan populations. TBI openly does business with one of the main managers of this palm-oil group and other people in the palm-oil industry too. They are a highly unethical employer who breaks the law itself and has no compunction about doing business with other unscrupulous business figures.

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