Environmental Portal Launches in Indonesia

Dessy Sagita Jakarta Globe 22 May 12;

The Indonesian version of the prominent environmental news portal Mongabay.com made its domestic debut during the weekend in Jakarta.

Rhett Butler, the founder of Mongabay, said on Saturday that the decision to launch an Indonesian site, Mongabay.co.id, was because the country was experiencing a critical period of rapid deforestation that was among the highest rates in the world.

“I believe that people wouldn’t destroy their environment if they only knew how much they were losing,” he said at the launch event at @america, the US cultural center.

Butler said that although Indonesia was losing its forests at a high rate, it still had a chance to turn things around by adopting a greener economy.

Ridzki R. Sigit, the coordinator of Mongabay Indonesia, said the portal would post daily environmental stories focusing on issues such as deforestation and logging.

“We’re choosing to do this online because 33 percent of city-dwellers [in Indonesia] get their news from the Internet,” he said.

He added that the Indonesian site had only four staff but would build up a system of contributors across the country.

Butler said he set up the original Mongabay after his own experience with forest degradation in Malaysia.

“In the 1990s, I was visiting a forest in Malaysian Borneo and I saw many kinds of wild animals and natural beauty,” he said. “When I got home to the States, I heard that the forest had been destroyed.”

He added that because his parents were travel agents, he was able to travel widely throughout his youth but had found that on his return to many of those places that the former nature spots he once knew had disappeared.

Butler said that he had taken about 20,000 photographs of forest ecosystems and wildlife.

Mongabay.com, which was set up 12 years ago, shows the rate of global deforestation during the past three months, including in Indonesia, thanks to satellite imaging from NASA.

“Our plan is to update this map every month so that we can see which areas are experiencing deforestation,” Butler said.

He added that the cost of deforestation in Indonesia would be much greater because of the sheer value of biodiversity that the country’s forests hold.