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.
(09/29/2010) Arief Rubianto, the head of an anti-poaching squad on the Indonesian island of Sumatra best describes his daily life in this way: “like mission impossible”. Don’t believe me? Rubianto has fought with illegal loggers, exchanged gunfire with poachers, survived four days without food in the jungle, and even gone undercover—posing as a buyer of illegal wildlife products—to infiltrate a poaching operation. While many conservationists work from offices—sometimes thousands of miles away from the area they are striving to protect—Rubianto works on the ground (in the jungle, in flood rains, on rock faces, on unpredictable seas, and at all hours of the day), often risking his own life to save the incredibly unique and highly imperiled wildlife of Sumatra.
(08/31/2010) It’s safe to say that the humble camera trap has revolutionized wildlife conservation. This simple contraption—an automated digital camera that takes a flash photo whenever an animal triggers an infrared sensor—has allowed scientists to collect photographic evidence of rarely seen, and often globally endangered species, with little expense and relative ease—at least compared to tromping through tropical forests and swamps looking for endangered rhino scat . Now researchers with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) are taking the utility of the camera trap one step further: a study in Animal Conservation uses a novel methodology, entitled the Wildlife Picture Index (WPI), to analyze population trends of 26 species in Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. While the study found a bleak decline in species, it shows the potential of camera traps for moving conservation forward since it marks the first time researchers have used camera traps to analyze long-term population trends of multiple species.
(07/13/2010) While the Indonesian government basks in a recent agreement with Norway to slow deforestation to the tune of a billion US dollars, a new report by Eyes on the Forest shows photographic evidence of largely government sanctioned deforestation that flouts several Indonesia laws. Potentially embarrassing, the report and photos reveal that two companies, Asian Pulp and Paper (APP) and Asia Pacific Resource International (APRIL), have destroyed 5 percent of Riau province’s forests since 2009, including deep peatlands, high conservation value forests (HCVF), Critically Endangered Sumatran tiger habitat, and forest within the Giam Siak Kecil- Bukit Batu UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. In total, over 130,000 hectares (an area larger than Hong Kong) of mostly peat forest were destroyed for pulp.