For decades, the roar of the chainsaw has meant one thing in Indonesia's national parks: illegal loggers ripping down the rainforest.
Now, the whirring blades are part of a fight back to cut out illegal palm oil from the international supply chain and slow the deforestation that has pushed Indonesia's carbon emissions sky high, threatening the destruction of some of the world's most ecologically important tropical forests and their animals.
In the country's first, symbolic action to stop the lucrative crop's march into protected lands a chainsaw-wielding alliance led by the Aceh Conservation Agency (BPKEL), Acehnese NGOs, and police teams are sweeping tens of thousands of hectares of illegal palm from the 2.5 million hectare Leuser Ecosystem.
"Plantation speculators, developers, whatever you want to call them, have moved in further and further," said Mike Griffiths of BPKEL, the agency created by Aceh Governor Yusuf Irwandi to manage Leuser in 2006, a year after the province at Sumatra's northern tip won greater autonomy from Jakarta.
"They do it by fait accompli... Go in, knock the trees down and plant, and all of a sudden the local perception is that you own it. It's Wild West stuff."
Planting a cash crop used in some of the world's best-known brands of chocolate, crisps and soaps inside legally-protected forests and national parks may seem a high-risk strategy.
But with much legal land already allocated, lax law enforcement, large untapped workforces of villagers living inside remote rainforests, and high Crude Palm Oil (CPO) prices, such illegal conversions makes sense to many.
"The forest is seen as a green tangle with little real use and filled with dangerous animals and diseases," explained Jutta Poetz, Biodiversity Coordinator at industry environmental standards body the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).
"If this green tangle can be converted into something profitable, with the dangers largely removed, isn't that good? Plantations will develop the country, create jobs and improve people's lives. This appears to be the prevailing sentiment in Southeast Asia."...CLICK HERE TO VIEW COMPLETE STORY BY REUTERS