Massive logging operation to destroy great apes forest home

EoF Press Release / 18 May 2009

Jambi, INDONESIA – A massive logging operation planned by one of the world’s largestpaper companies will destroy the forest home of 100 great apes that are part of the only successful reintroduction program for Sumatran orangutans, conservationists have learned.

Five groups working in the area -- WARSI, the Sumatran Tiger Conservation and Protection Foundation, rankfurt Zoological Society, Zoological Society of London and WWF-Indonesia -- have learned that a joint venture company of Asia Pulp & Paper/Sinar Mas Group (APP/SMG) recently got a license to clear the argest portion of natural forest remaining outside the Bukit Tigapuluh National Park in Jambi Province,Sumatra. With this latest acquisition, APP/SMG and associated companies could convert all remaining atural forest outside the park in the province, one of the most important areas for biodiversity in Indonesia.

APP/SMG and associated companies has already begun converting natural forest in parts of Bukit Tigapuluh. n 2008, they completed a legally questionable logging highway through this unique natural forest ecosystemto allow easier transport of wood to its pulp mills in both Jambi and neighboring Riau Province. The five GOs are concerned that APP could start natural forest conversion in two concessions early next year andsent a letter to the Ministry of Forestry, asking the agency to not allow APP/SMG to do so and instead protect these forests.

“It took scientists decades to discover how to successfully reintroduce critically endangered orangutans from aptivity into the wild. It could take APP just months to destroy an important part of their new habitat,” said Peter Pratje of the Frankfurt Zoological Society. “These lowland forests are excellent habitat for orangutans, hich is why we got government permission to release them here beginning in 2002. The apes are thriving now, breeding and establishing new family groups.”

The area is one of the most endangered forests on all of Sumatra, an island already suffering from what is ossibly the fastest deforestation rate in the world. This forest landscape included close to 450,000 hectaresof mostly still healthy and contiguous natural forest as of 2007; only 29 percent is protected as Bukit igapuluh National Park, while the rest is vulnerable to clearing. his unprotected forest is essential habitat for an estimated 100 of the last 400 critically endangeredSumatran tigers left in the wild.

“Bukit Tigapuluh is one of the most important habitats remaining for Sumatran tigers,” said Dolly Priatna of oological Society of London. “APP’s plan is devastating and it will almost certainly lead to more fatalitiessince tigers and people will be forced into closer contact with each other as the tigers’ forest disappears. Tigers struggling to survive as Jambi’s forests shrink have already killed nine people in the area this year.”Bukit Tigapuluh is also home to around 40-60 endangered Sumatran elephants, which spend most of their time outside the national park.

“The local extinction of Sumatran elephants in the Bukit Tigapuluh area is a real possibility if APP isn’t topped,” said Yunus of Yayasan PKHS (the Sumatran Tiger Conservation and Protection Foundation). “Weurge APP’s customers, investors and other business partners to realize that the company is increasing its hreat to one of the most endangered natural forest blocks in Sumatra and the unique species living there.”

Two minority indigenous tribes – the Talang Mamak and Orang Rimba – both live inside Bukit Tigapuluh’s atural forest and depend on natural resources from the forest and river for their existence. “APP is stealingtheir livelihood, which will marginalize their lives even more,” said Diki Kurniawan of Warsi. “I have orked in this forest with these people since 1996. Is there no way we can protect them from this greedy global giant?”

Between 1985 and 2007, Sumatra island lost 12 million hectares of natural forest, a 48 percent loss in 22 ears. By 2007, the island had only 30 percent natural forest cover (around 13 million hectares). TheIndonesian Ministries of Forestry, Environment, Public Works and Interior, as well as the governors of all 10 umatran provinces, including Jambi, last year announced their collective commitment to protecting theareas of the island with “high conservation values.” The commitment was celebrated publicly at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Barcelona, Spain, in October 2008.

The natural forest slated for destruction by APP – Bukit Tigapuluh – is a prime example of the high conservation value areas that the governors promised to protect.“These NGOs are ready to support the Jambi governor to implement his public commitment to protecting Sumatra’s high conservation value areas and halt APP/SMG’s plan and identify alternative financing that ould provide money and still save the forests, such as credits in the emerging forest carbon market,” said Ian Kosasih of WWF Indonesia. “Bukit Tigapuluh’s forest have great potential as a demonstration project of REDD, due to the high co-benefits here –biodiversity and an indigenous community, as well as high avoidable emissions.”