EoF News (PEKANBARU)— In the latest example of Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) threatening the survival of the Sumatran tiger, a tiger living inside a pulpwood plantation concession of APP was recently caught, raising questions from environmentalists.
Hariansyah Usman, Director Executive of Walhi Riau, said he did not believe what APP and its source said in a press release that “growing human populations in Sumatra are the main cause of the increasing human-tiger conflict in Sumatra.”
“For me it is clear: as long as natural forest is clearcut and mostly converted into pulpwood plantation, I think the human-tiger conflict will keep rising and casualties will fall, either human or tiger.”
Hariansyah said that it is ironic that APP, a company of the Sinar Mas Group, tries to hide the reality that deforestation has shrunk Sumatran tiger habitat in recent years, as proved when conflict occurs in its own concessions, such as in PT BDL, near PT Sakato Pratama Makmur, in PT RUJ, in PT Arara Abadi and now in PT SPA.
“Is it true that human population is growing in production forest which sits inside their concession?” he asked.
“Stop clearcutting good forests where tiger habitat lies and protect them rather than blaming it on growing population,” said Hariansyah suggesting the pulp and paper company.
Hariansyah also criticized the tiger capture and relocation process by APP and its partner, YPHS, as too inaccessible and exclusive, raising further questions.
The company and YPHS organization should be transparent to explain the details of capture and relocation to public, so there is no impression that they hide something in the process, he said.
“Is it true a cub was killed inside the APP concession by workers before the conflict broke out? Do they know whether the captured tiger is the one that had conflict with the APP workers before?” he asked referring to rumors and reports published by media.
While Muslim Rasyid, coordinator of Jikalahari, the NGO network to rescue Riau, said that the Government should prove it is committed to protect Sumatran tiger’s forests, which are highly threatened due to conversion and encroachment.
“I hope that the authority of conservation could do their best to protect tiger habitat where the wild tigers can live safely there,” he said.
Muslim believes that the authority should not bow to the greenwashing agenda of a company that prefers to capture tigers rather than allow them live in their own habitat.
The tiger remains in the custody of APP, and environmentalists urge APP to bring in independent tiger experts to advise on where to release the tiger. If he is released into an area that already has a resident male, one of them will die in a territory dispute.
"That tiger is as good as dead now if APP doesn't get expert guidance on where and how to release him," said Muslim.
Last month, Riau Terkini website reported that tiger attacked some workers of PT MSK, APP timber supplier, whom one of them is a foreman. One died in hospital, said Fakhruddin, Teluk Kabung village head, but he had no information on the identity of casualty.
On 8 September 2011 another worker was attacked by tiger as he removed wood from the canal, Riau Terkini reported.
“It's a consequence that the tiger got angry. How would we feel if our homes are destroyed by others? Absolutely we will be mad,” said Fahruddin, as quoted by Riau Terkini as saying. He said as long as the forest is cleared by the companies, the Sumatran tigers will attack the people including the workers.
Series of conflicts in APP
EoF learned that several conflicts have occurred in APP timber supplier concessions in recent years that claimed human casualties and injuries as well as tiger deaths.
Human-tiger conflict in Kerumutan forest had occurred in February 2009 in PT Bina Duta Laksana concession, an APP timber supplier adjacent to PT MSK. Two were hospitalized due to the incident.
In September 2010, a Sumatran tiger believed to have fatally attacked a palm oil farmer died, only four hours after being caught by villagers supervised by YPHS (Yayasan Pelestarian Harimau Sumatra, Sumatran tiger conservation foundation), which collaborates with APP/Sinar Mas Group.
The dead tiger was believed to have mauled Sugianto, 35, a palm oil farmer in Tanjung Leban village inside a pulpwood concession of PT Sakato Pratama Makmur, a company affiliated company with APP.
The location of incident also sits inside the buffer zone of UNESCO Man and Biosphere Reserve of Giam Siak Kecil – Bukit Batu, declared in 2009. The tiger was found dead in dusun Air Bukit Sembilan of Tanjung Leban village on 11 p.m. on 30 September.
In August 2010, a young rubber farmer was fatally attacked by a Sumatran tiger in Senepis peat forest block, just 1.8 kilometer from PT Ruas Utama Jaya concession, another APP/Sinar Mas pulpwood supplier.
In July 2011, environmental groups criticized ignorance by PT Arara Abadi, the APP timber supplier, as a juvenile Sumatran tiger was trapped for days by a snare installed by a resident. The young tiger finally died from starvation after several days in agony. PT Arara Abadi, the concession where the tiger was found, did nothing to help government agencies and NGOs rescue the trapped tiger at that time, reports said.