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Major paper company clear-cutting key tiger habitat

A pulp supplier for a major paper company is clearing natural forest in a wildlife corridor in central Sumatra, alleges a new investigation conducted by Eyes on the Forest, a coalition of environmental groups.

The report says that PT Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper (RAPP), a major timber supplier of Asian Pacific Resources International Holdings Limited (APRIL), last year cleared protected forest in the Indonesian province of Riau. While the company secured a permit to log the land in 2010 — a year prior to when Indonesia’s forest moratorium was set to go into effect — Eyes on the Forest says the clear-cutting breaks APRIL’s 2005 pledge to not destroy high conservation value forest. It notes that the area is one of “few” tiger conservation in Indonesia.

Logs from natural forest clearance by PT RAPP blok Logas Selatan (Sei
Tasem), an APRIL’s affiliation, for acacia expansion. Picture taken by Eyes on the
Forest, in August 2010. GPS position S0°20’21.04 E101°13’40.51

“[The] Bukit Batabuh area is an important habitat for the Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae) in Riau, functioning as a wildlife corridor between Bukit Tigapuluh and Bukit Rimbang Baling,” said Eyes on the Forest (EoF) in a statement. “Bukit Batabuh is classified as a protected area by Riau Province in 1994, and categorized as a limited production forest based on Indonesia’s 1986 Land Use Consensus, meaning no company can legally exploit the forest.”

“EoF urges APRIL to stop the clearcutting of natural forest in the area and urges the importance to assess High Conservation Value Forests in collaboration with stakeholders before starting to fell the trees inside the tropical rainforest in order to carry out its own public policy.”

The complaint isn’t the first time RAPP and APRIL have been criticized by environmental groups. In 2009 local NGOs warned that RAPP is converting land used by local communities in Kepulauan Meranti, islands north of Sumatra’s Kampar Peninula, to industrial pulp plantations without proper gazetting. In December 2009, almost 30,000 people from the affected area signed a petition calling for the government to revoke the license. APRIL has been called out by green groups for logging in other parts of Sumatra as well. The company failed to meet its 2009 target to phase out pulping of natural forests for its paper and pulp products and last year lost its FSC certification.

The pulp and paper industry has taken a heavy toll on Sumatra’s rainforests, which disappeared at the highest rate of any island in Indonesia over the past decade. Eyes on the Forest estimates that wood-pulp plantations now occupy more than a million ha of former forest and peatland in Sumatra.

“Sumatra’s ‘Mega Pulp Project’ is a climate disaster far worse than the ex Mega Rice Project,” stated a report released by Eyes on the Forest last November, referring to the 900,000-hectare project in Central Kalimantan during the 1990s.

APRIL uses wood-pulp to manufacture paper products — like PaperOne — sold abroad. APRIL recently said it will spend $4.6 billion to expand its pulp and paper operations in China.

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