Asia Pulp & Paper and Sinar Mas Group have acquired a license to clear hundreds of hectares of unprotected rainforest near Bukit Tigapuluh National Park on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, report environmental groups who say the activity threatens a population of critically endangered orangutans that have been re-introduced into the wild.
“It took scientists decades to discover how to successfully reintroduce critically endangered orangutans from captivity 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, which is why we got government permission to release them here beginning in 2002. The apes are thriving now, breeding and establishing new family groups.”
Sumatran orangutan in North Sumatra
Asia Pulp & Paper and Sinar Mas intend to log the concession for timber and plant it for industrial timber and oil palm plantations. The companies say they plan to follow all legal procedures according to Reuters, but environmental groups are nonetheless concerned about the fate of orangutans and other endangered species, including Sumatran tigers and elephants. Bukit Tigapuluh is home to perhaps a quarter of the world’s remaining wild Sumatran tigers.
Sumatra lost nearly half of its forest cover between 1985 and 2007 as a result of logging, conversion for plantations, and forest fires. Last year the ten governors of Sumatra — along with four federal ministers — signed an agreement to protect forests and other ecosystems on the Indonesian island, but the agreement has been largely ignored by local authorities in several provinces.
Both Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) and Sinar Mas have been criticized by green groups for their environmental conduct. APP has seen its paper products banned from the shelves of many retailers including Office Depot, Wal-Mart, Staples, and Woolworths (Australia) due to concerns over destructive logging practices.