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Timber concessions in Sumatra have high conservation value, according to report

Five industrial plantation forest concessions that supply timber to PT Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) in South Sumatra – locally known as HTI concessions – are areas of high conservation value inhabited by endangered Sumatran tigers (Panthera tigris sumatrae) and other endemic wildlife, according to a report issued at the end of March.

The research, conducted by Ekologika Consultants, which provides technical advice and service for the natural resource management sector, assessed concession areas belonging toPT Sumber Hijau Permai (SHP), PT Tripupa Jaya (TPJ), PT Rimba Hutani Mas (RHM), PT Bumi Persada Permai (BPP) I and BPP II, located in the districts of Musiwaras, Musi Banyuasin and Banyuasin in South Sumatra province, starting in 2013.

The report found many species, such as Sumatran tigers (Panthera tigris sumatrae), are living in or near the concessions. Photo by Rhett A. Butler.

The concessions of these five companies are located near protected forests, primary forests that are still pristine and intact, and national parks – BPP I near protected forest, BPP II near an ecosystem restoration area owned by PT Restorasi Ekosistem Indonesia, SHP near Sembilang National Park and areas of untouched forest, and TPJ near Sembilang National Park.

The assessment was conducted in compliance with APP’s Forest Conservation Policy, for which at least 2.6 million hectares of its 38 concessions were evaluated last year and found to have high conservation value (HCV) and high carbon stock (HCS). Besides Ekologika Consultants, other independent organizations were involved in the research, such as The Forest Trust (TFT) and Ata Marie.

Recently, APP launched another commitment to protect and restore one million hectares of forest in Indonesia, which represents an area equivalent to the total plantation area from which the company sourced pulp in 2013.

Ekologika Consultants used a variety of methods to determine whether there were at-risk species inhabiting the concessions and areas surrounding them.

“We found Sumatran tigers based on footprints, surveillance [footage] from the company and people’s [anecdotes]. But we have yet to [determine] how many there are,” said Neville Kemp, director of Ekologika Consultants.

An APP concession in Sumatra. Photo by Rhett A. Butler.

When assessing BPP I concessions in Banyuasin district, they discovered prints of Sumatran tigers, along with other endemic mammals, including endangered otters (Lutra sumatrana), sun bears (Helarctos malayanus), macaques, muntjacs (Muntiacus montanus), flat-headed cats (Prionailurus planiceps),sunda slow loris (Nycticebus coucang), silvery lutungs (Trachypithecus cristatus), long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis),agile gibbons (Hylobates agilis), sambar deers (Cervus unicolor), mittered leaf-monkeys (Presbytis melalophos) and tapirs (Tapirus indicus).

Meanwhile, in BPP II in Musi Banyuasin district, they also found Sumatran tigers and other animals, including otter-civets (Cynogale bennettii), sun bears, agile gibbons, otters, long-tailed macaques, pig-tailed macaques (Macaca nemestrina), muntjacs, slow loris, mitered leaf-monkeys, flat-headed catss, sambar deer, tapirs and silvery lutungs.

They also found evidence of Sumatran tigers and Sumatran elephants in RHM concession areas in Musi Banyuasin district, along with sun bears, agile gibbons, four-striped ground squirrels (Lariscus hosei), mitered leaf-monkeys, flat-headed cats, cream-coloured giant squirrels (Ratufa affinis), sambar deer, silvery lutungs, greater mouse-deer or napu (Tragulus napu), bearded pigs (Sus barbatus), lesser mouse-deer or kanchil (Tragulus kanchil), and pangolins (Manis javanica).
Meanwhile, at the TPJ concession area in Banyuasin district, in addition to Sumatran tigers, they found sun bears, agile gibbons, Sumatran porcupines (Hystrix sumatraeReport finds five timber concessions in South Sumatra have high conservation value), four-striped ground squirrels, otters, long-tailed macaques, pig-tailed macaques, muntjacs, mittered leaf-monkeys, flat-headed cats, cream-colored giant squirrels, sambar deer, and greater mouse-deer or napu.

Many concessions abut protected areas, such as Sembilang National Park. Courtesy of Global Forest Watch. Click to enlarge.

Because they are habitat for Sumatran tigers and other endemic animals, these concession areas have been given the highest-possible conservation value rating, HCV1, which is reserved for areas that contain regionally, nationally, or globally significant concentrations of biodiversity. The HCVF rating was established by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) in 1999.

To protect at-risk species in South Sumatra, Ekologika recommends implementing a hunting ban supported by strict law enforcement, and raising local awareness of the issues surrounding these species through education. They also encourage cooperation between villagers, companies, and authorities to more effectively tackle poaching, as well as promoting effective forest management to help reestablish logged forests and reduce human-caused wildfires.

According to data from Global Forest Watch, South Sumatra has lost more than 1.5 million hectares of forest since 2000 – in other words, more than 20 percent of its total land area was deforested over the past 13 years. Wood fiber plantations such as those of APP account for a significant portion of that loss, shrinking both wildlife habitat and constraining human communities. Protecting regions of high conservation value like those outlined in Ekologica’s report from conversion into timber plantations would not only help to preserve South Sumatra’s rich biodiversity, but reduce human conflicts in the region, as well.

South Sumatra has lost an estimated 20 percent of its forests in the past 13 years. Courtesy of Global Forest Watch. Click to enlarge.

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