Dutch biologist Erik Meijaard isn’t afraid to ruffle feathers. In the past 15 years, he’s published some 120 opinion pieces in Indonesian newspapers, many of them critical about the state of conservation in the biodiversity-rich country. But even Meijaard didn’t expect his latest article, which challenged government claims that orangutans in the Southeast Asian nation have “growing” populations, to generate such fierce blowback. “I was surprised that they reacted as they did because the article was polite and well balanced, at least so we thought,” Meijaard told Mongabay. In a Sept. 15 op-ed in The Jakarta Post, Meijaard and four other foreign scientists took issue with assertions from Indonesia’s Ministry of Environment and Forestry that the country’s critically endangered orangutans were bouncing back after decades of steady decline in a nation that has lost huge swaths of rainforest from development. Several days later, a letter from the ministry surfaced banning the authors of the op-ed from conducting research in connection with the country’s national parks and conservation agencies. The letter accused the five scientists of writing with “negative intentions” that could “discredit” the government and ordered regional conservation authorities not only to bar them from operating but to report the activities of any foreign researchers, and of any Indonesian ones with foreign funding, to ministry headquarters. The letter sparked an outcry from civil society in Indonesia, a young democracy where despite broad press freedom some say the space for dissent is tightening — not least when it comes to criticism…This article was originally published on Mongabay Läs mer

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