Open letter : Leading scientists, international NGOs and Scottish environmental groups urge ministers to act to save world’s rarest great ape

Sydney Jones

Press Secretary

[email protected]

Carole Mitchell

Sr. Director Communications

[email protected]


12 September 2023

Humza Yousaf MSP
Lorna Slater MSP
CC: Nancy Zhang, CCO Red Rock Power Limited 
CC: Zhu Jiwei, Chairman SDIC Power Holdings


Dear Humza Yousaf MSP and Lorna Slater MSP,


We are writing as a group of Scottish, Indonesian and International NGOs and scientists concerning Scotland’s connection to the issue of the Batang Toru dam in Indonesia.

In 2017, scientists stunned the world by announcing the discovery of a new species of great ape: the Tapanuli orangutan in the Batang Toru ecosystem in North Sumatra. Numbering fewer than 800, the Tapanuli orangutan is  the world’s rarest species of great ape, threatened by a hydroelectric dam project that will slice through their habitat pushing the species closer to extinction.1 Construction has led to the death of more than 17 workers and local people.2 It threatens the unique biodiversity of the region – which is susceptible to landslides and earthquakes – and the lives and livelihoods of those that depend on it.

The Batang Toru hydrodam is being built by the Chinese State Development & Investment Corporation (SDIC Power), whose wholly owned subsidiary, Red Rock Power, is a major player in the Scottish renewable energy industry. Based in Edinburgh, they hold large stakes in the Beatrice, Benbrack and Inch Cape wind farms and were welcomed to Scotland personally by the former First Minister in 2016,3 unsuccessfully lobbying to reduce seabed rents in 2021.4

This issue has gained considerable international support, most recently at COP15.5 It has also been raised in the Scottish Parliament6 and press.7 Petitions have garnered over 8000 signatures in the UK calling on Red Rock Power and the First Minister to take action. Recent reporting in Indonesia has brought to light poor planning and financial mismanagement, whilst overinflated prices for generation indicate possible corruption.8 Locals continue to raise fears over the impact on their communities.9

There is a clear pattern of intimidation against those who challenge this project in Indonesia,10 including the death of WALHI lawyer Golfrid Siregar under suspicious circumstances.11 Most recently, a violent disruption at a public discussion on the issue has been condemned by free speech and press rights groups.12

Following the trail of profits from Scottish renewable wealth to a project mired in controversy – potential ecocide and human rights abuses – undermines both Scotland’s just transition commitments, and its position as a global leader on the protection of biodiversity through the Edinburgh Declaration.

We ask that you formally raise this issue with SDIC and Red Rock Power, and call for a meeting between the dam developers and independent scientists. SDIC must respect the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) moratorium on construction and commit to a public, independent impact assessment of the project as well as a long-term conservation management plan for the critically endangered Tapanuli orangutan and the Batang Toru ecosystem. 

We would be pleased to meet with you to share more information about these issues and opportunities for action.


Kind regards,





Satya Bumi

Trend Asia

WALHI Eksekutif Nasional

WALHI Sumatera Utara

Caritas Indonesia

AURIGA Nusantara

Perkumpulan HuMa

Green Justice Indonesia

The Society of Indonesian Environmental Journalists

Pusaka Bentala Rakyat

Caritas Archdiocese of Medan

Caritas Diocese of Sibolga


Scotland’s International Development Alliance

Global Justice Now Scotland

Environmental Rights Centre for Scotland

Friends of the Earth Scotland

Extinction Rebellion Scotland

Eco-Congregation Scotland

Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund


Primate Society of Great Britain

Orangutan Outreach

Alliance of Leading Environmental Researchers & Thinkers

Mighty Earth


Erik Meijaard: Borneo Futures

William F. Laurance: Distinguished Professor & Australian Laureate, Centre for Tropical Environmental and Sustainability Science, James Cook University

Serge Wich: Liverpool John Moores University

Ian Redmond OBE: Chairman, Ape Alliance and Head of Conservation, Ecoflix




  1. Hydropower project ‘imperils world’s rarest great ape species’,” Changing Times, 28    February, 2020.
  2. Tunnel collapse at dam project in orangutan habitat claims yet another life,” Mongabay, 21 November, 2022.
  3. First Minister welcomes SDIC to Scotland,” Scottish Government, 15 November, 2016.
  4. Chinese state-owned firm lobbied government to reduce wind farm rents,” The Ferret, 29 April 2022. 
  5. Chinese state-owned company accused of endangering rare orang-utans,” Financial Times, 19 June, 2022.
  6. Question reference: S6W-13359,” Scottish Parliament, 11 January, 2023.
  7. Nicola Sturgeon: Plea for First Minister to step in to help save world’s rarest great  ape from Chinese dam project,” The Scotsman, 14 December, 2022.
  8. Poor planning causes PLN to pay more for Batang Toru hydropower plant,” Jakarta Post, 21 February, 2023.
  9. Batang Toru power plant project hits snag as orangutan conflict worsens,” Jakarta Post, 23 February, 2023.
  10. Tapanuli orangutans. Chronology of a death foretold,” El Diaro, November 17, 2021.
  11. Indonesia urged to probe death of Belt and Road project critic,” Financial Times, 31 October, 2019.
  12. Satya Bumi Public Environmental Discussion Hampered by Infiltrator,” Tempo, 9 March, 2023.
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