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Story Publication logo May 5, 2023

Halmahera Then and Now: Palm Oil Grows, Cockatoos Disappear (bahasa Indonesia)


Two men carry palm oil into a truck.

This project will show the impact of palm oil investment on the environment and the habitat of...


This story excerpt was translated from Bahasa Indonesia. To read the original story in full, visit Tempo. You may also view the original story on the Rainforest Journalism Fund website here. Our website is available in English, Spanish, bahasa Indonesia, French, and Portuguese.

White cockatoo. Image by ANTARA.

Wahid Umar, 52, was overjoyed. He saw a white cockatoo flying over his coconut plantation in Gane Dalam Village, South West Gane District, South Halmahera, North Maluku, on Sunday afternoon, February 26, 2023.

The yellow-crested bird had landed on the tip of a coconut tree, not far from where Wahid was standing. As if he had missed it for a long time, Wahid immediately whistled to invite the white cockatoo to sing. "In the past, the forest around here was dense. In the afternoon many parrots and white cockatoos flew here," he told Tempo, explaining the reason behind his excitement.

Yes, that was then—until about ten years ago. Since then, many primary forests have been cleared for oil palm plantations, and white cockatoos and parrots are rarely seen in the distance, let alone visiting villagers' gardens.

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In fact, for Wahid, the noise of the white cockatoo adds to his enthusiasm for working to clean gardens and fields. "The forest atmosphere feels lively," he says. "The chirping could be heard for about an hour every morning and evening," he recalled.

The white cockatoo (Cacatua alba) is endemic to North Maluku and lives in primary and secondary forests on the southern and northern peninsulas of Halmahera Island. Protected, the male white cockatoo measures about 48 centimeters while the female is smaller with a longer yellow tail.

Palm oil plantation in East Gane, South Halmahera, North Maluku, Tuesday, January 23, 2023. Image by Budhy Nurgianto. Indonesia, 2023.

Map of Palm Oil Plantation in East Gane, Southern Region of Halmahera Island owned by PT Gelora Mandiri Membangun. Image by Tempo. Indonesia, 2023.