Video: camera trap catches bulldozer clearing Sumatran tiger habitat for palm oil

Jeremy Hance
October 14, 2010

Seven days after footage of a Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae) was taken by a heat-trigger video camera trap, the camera captured a bulldozer clearing the Critically Endangered animal's habitat. Taken by the World Wildlife Fund—Indonesia (WWF), the video provides clear evidence of forest destruction for oil palm plantations in Bukit Batabuh Protected Forest, a protected area since 1994.

"Because of its status, both as a protected area and limited production forest, the area cannot be developed as a palm oil plantation, therefore any forest clearence —including bulldozing activities to clear the path — strongly indicates this excavation was illegal," Ian Kosasih, WWF-Indonesia’s Director of Forest and Species Program, said in a stamtent, adding that "the law should be enforced in this matter. And to stop illegal activities such as this, the palm oil industry should not source its material from farmers or producers who develop their plantations illegally."

WWF told mongabay.com that the clearing was likely done by small local landholders, however these holders had to have enough financial backing to afford the bulldozer. WWF—Indonesia continues to investigate the matter.

"In order to stop illegal activities such as this, we are calling the palm oil industry to not source its material from farmers or producers who develop their plantations illegally/irresponsibly and the governmentt for stronger law enforcement on the ground," Desmarita Murni of WWF-Indonesia said.

Two hundred meters from this location, another WWF video camera trap captured rare footage of a mother Sumatran tiger and two cubs last year. The video made international news and has been watched on YouTube nearly half a million times.

"Forest clearance in this area threatens this endangered species because it reduces natural habitat and consequently increases human-tiger conflicts, an unfortunate consequence for both sides," saod M. Awriya Ibrahim, M.Sc Director of Investigation and Forest Protection, Ministry of Forestry. "Therefore, we encourage all stakeholders—namely provincial and district level government, business sectors, and communities—to support protection for this landscape. The Ministry of Forestry is investigating this matter and will take strong measure in law enforcement, if this activity is proven violating the law."

Down to about 400 individuals, the Sumatran tiger is on the edge of extinction. It is threatened by habitat loss, decreases in prey, and poaching for body parts used in traditional Asian medicine.

Indonesia has already lost two tiger subspecies: the Javan tiger, which likely went extinct in the 1980s, and the Bali Tiger which was hunted to extinction in 1937. The Sumatran tiger is Indonesia's last. Despite decades of conservation action and significant funding, tiger populations continue to fall worldwide.

A recent study showed that 40 percent of lowland rainforests in Sumatra and Indonesian Borneo, Kalimatan, were cleared in just fifteen years primarily for palm oil, pulp and paper, and logging.

WWF video of bulldozer destroying tiger habitat.

WWF video of mother and tub cubs taken last year near the destruction site.

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Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com (October 14, 2010).

Video: camera trap catches bulldozer clearing Sumatran tiger habitat for palm oil .