Heat activated video cameras installed by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to monitor the endangered Sumatran tiger population, have revealed the illegal bulldozing of trees to make way for a palm oil plantation. This despite the forest being classified as a protected area by the Riau Province in 1994, and categorized as a limited production forest meaning no one can legally exploit the area.
“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 clearance - including bulldozing activities to clear the path - strongly indicates this excavation was illegal,” said Ian Kosasih, WWF Indonesia’s Director of Forest and Species Program. “The law should be enforced in this matter.”
The area forms a crucial corridor for tiger conservation as it joins Rimbang-Baling Wildlife Reserve and Bukit Tigapuluh National Park.
"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. 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,” explains M. Awriya Ibrahim M. Sc., Director of Investigation and Forest Protection, Ministry of Forestry.
With only 400 Sumatran tigers left in Indonesia, the country plays a crucial role in tiger conservation efforts and has added protection for the tiger habitats (along with another 12 countries) as part of a plan to enable the wild tiger population to double by the year 2022. The plan is hoped to be approved by government heads at the Tiger Summit in St. Petersburg, Russia in November.
Meanwhile, the tiger population continues to be threatened by the destruction and fragmentation of its natural habitat, decreasing prey populations, the poaching and trading of tigers and their body parts, as well as increased human - tiger interactions.
Photo credit: WWF