From: WWF
Published March 17, 2009 08:39 AM

APP’s forest clearing linked to 12 years of human and tiger deaths in Sumatra

Pekanbaru, Indonesia — Most violent incidents between people and tigers in Sumatra’s Riau Province in the past 12 years have occurred near forests being cleared by paper giant Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) and associated companies, according to a new analysis of human-tiger conflict data.

The analysis, conducted by the group Eyes on the Forest, found that since 1997, 55 people and 15 Sumatran tigers (Panthera tigris sumatrae) have been killed during conflict encounters in Riau Province. Another 17 tigers have been captured and removed from the wild. 

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By overlaying the locations of these conflicts with government maps of pulpwood plantation concessions, Eyes on the Forest found a direct correlation between tiger conflict and the unsustainable forest practices of APP, its holding company Sinar Mas Group, and other associated companies that supply pulpwood to APP’s mills.

At least 147 of 245, or 60 percent, of all conflicts in Riau occurred in the Senepis area, where APP/SMG-associated companies have expanded their natural forest clearance operations in five concessions, mainly since 1999. Three of those concessions were expanded without proper license from the Ministry of Forestry. 

Eyes on the Forest is a coalition of 25 environmental organizations in Riau, Sumatra, Indonesia. They include WWF-Indonesia, Jikalahari (Forest Rescue Network Riau) and Walhi Riau (Friends of the Earth Indonesia) and several other NGOs. The coalition was launched in December 2004 to investigate forest crimes and conflict in the central Sumatran province.

Sumatra is home to some of the most biodiverse forests in the world, however, half of the forest remaining in 1985 has since been lost. 

“With so much forest loss, the tigers have nowhere to go” said Ian Kosasih of WWF-Indonesia, “In the last month alone, four tigers have been killed in Riau. There are fewer than 400 Sumatran tigers estimated to remain in the wild and every tiger killed is a significant loss to the population of this critically endangered subspecies.” 

APP is responsible for more natural forest clearance in Sumatra — the only habitat for the Sumatran tiger — than any other company. Since it began operations in the 1980s, APP is estimated to have pulped more than 1 million hectares (approximately 2.5 million acres) of natural forests in Riau and Jambi provinces in Sumatra. 

Currently, NGOs are concerned about APP’s involvement in forest destruction in Senepis, Kerumutan, Kampar and Bukit Tigapuluh forest blocks in these provinces. Eyes on the Forest calls on APP/SMG-associated companies to stop natural forest clearance immediately.

“APP/SMG-associated companies’ activities in Senepis are legally questionable and environmentally reckless,” said Jhonny Mundung, of Walhi Riau. “APP has recently made ridiculous public claims that it is leading tiger conservation in the area, when in fact it is jeopardizing the safety of local communities and pushing the tigers closer to local extinction. Global paper buyers should not be fooled: APP destroys forests and wildlife.”

Cleared areas around the Kerumutan forest have become a new hotspot for tiger conflict, with three incidents recorded already this year. Large area of this deep peat forest have been licensed for APP/SMG-associated companies and some sections have been cleared in recent years by them in what Eyes on the Forest believes is legally questionable logging. 

In 2007, the Riau Police and the Indonesian National Police probed 14 companies as part of a widespread illegal logging case. Half of those cases were APP/SMG-associated companies, including one concession in Kerumutan (PT. Bina Duta Laksana) where one human-tiger conflict happened in February. 

The Riau Police abruptly shut down their investigation in December 2008. However, authorities continue to investigate one company -- an APP/SMG-associated company, PT. Ruas Utama Jaya, which has concessions in Senepis. 

“The Riau Police should continue probing the legality of natural forest clearing, including APP/SMG-associated companies’ activities, to ensure respect for the law, especially provisions that safeguard the environmental and social rights of Riau communities,” said Susanto Kurniawan from Jikalahari. 

In February, the national Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) pledged to resume the cases of 13 companies and the House of Representatives’ Law Commission (III) supports this move.

Besides being critical habitat for tigers, Senepis, Kerumutan, Kampar Peninsula and other Sumatran peat forests in Riau are a globally significant carbon store; the carbon-rich peat soil is so deep that simply cutting the trees or disturbing the soil releases enough carbon emissions to impact global climate change. 

Of all the natural forest lost from 1982 until 2007 in Riau, 24 percent was replaced by or cleared for industrial pulpwood plantations and 29 percent was replaced or cleared for industrial palm oil plantations. 

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