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Highway Planned by Paper Giant Asian Pulp and Paper Will Destroy Sumatran Forests, says WWF

'Legally Questionable' Road Threatens Forest Haven for Indigenous People and Endangered Tigers and Orangutans

Photos and B-Roll available

Washington D.C.– An investigative report released today by World Wildlife Fund revealed that paper giant Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) and its affiliates are in the process of constructing a massive  highway for logging vehicles that threatens one of Indonesia’s most important forests. The highway, described by WWF in the report as being “legally questionable,” would cut an enormous swath  through one of Sumatra’s last remaining large forest blocks, home to two tribes of indigenous people and endangered elephants, tigers and orangutans.

With more than 250 mammals and bird species, the Bukit Tigapuluh Forest Landscape in central Sumatra contains some of the richest biodiversity on Earth. It is also the location of a successful project to reintroduce orangutans, which now reside in an area  currently proposed for protected status but that is already being cleared by APP-affiliated companies.

“APP shows a total disregard for the ecosystem in their quest for cheap sources of raw materials,” said Adam Tomasek, Director of WWF’s Borneo and Sumatra Program. “Their customers around the globe should demand that they responsibly manage these forests to protect the wildlife and people that rely on them.”

Construction on the highway, which would allow logging trucks easier access to APP’s pulp mills in Jambi Province, took place after APP’s forestry operations in neighboring Riau Province were halted in 2006 due to a police investigation of illegal logging. APP partners have cleared about 50,000 acres of natural forest in the Bukit Tigapuluh landscape and some of the clearing appears to be in violation of Indonesian law.

“We urge APP and its partners to transparently evaluate ecological, environmental and cultural conservation values prior to cutting any natural forests and to stop sourcing any of its purchased wood from such forests,” Tomasek added.”We also call on the government to ensure an end to all forms of forest clearance found to violate national Indonesian laws and regulations.”

Evidence found during the investigation indicates APP-affiliated companies converted hundreds of acres of forest without correct licenses, professional assessments or stakeholder consultation, thus violating Indonesian law. Part of the area being cleared is in a proposed Specific Protected Area that serves as habitat for about 90 Sumatran orangutans recently introduced into the area for the first time in more than 150 years.

In addition, one of the two tribes of indigenous people in the area is found nowhere else on Sumatra. The landscape also was designated one of just 20 Global Priority Landscapes for tiger conservation by an international team of tiger scientists in 2006.

Download the full report on APP's activities in Bukit Tigapuluh

Read more about WWF's work in Sumatra