Controversial Paper Company Driving Sumatran Species to Local Extinction

Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) continues to clear Sumatra’s forests – with devastating consequences for the island’s animal and human inhabitants.

A massive logging operation planned by one of the world’s largest paper companies would destroy the forest home of 100 great apes that are part of the only successful reintroduction program for Sumatran orangutans.

WWF and other environmental organizations have learned that Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) and its holding company, the Sinar Mas Group, recently acquired the rights to clear the largest portion of natural forest remaining outside of a national park in Sumatra’s Jambi Province. APP has a long history of legally questionable activities in Sumatra and this latest project has conservation groups and indigenous people advocates distressed.

The forest clearing goes against a landmark 2008 agreement by Sumatra’s governors to protect the entire island’s remaining natural forests of high conservation value. And it means that APP and affiliated companies are on track to convert all of Jambi Province’s remaining natural forest outside Bukit Tigapuluh (or “Thirty Hills”) National Park.

Conservationists and human rights activists sent a letter to Indonesia’s Ministry of Forestry asking that APP’s license for the project be revoked and the forest put under protection. The remaining unprotected forest is essential habitat for an estimated 100 of the last 400 critically endangered Sumatran tigers left in the wild. Bukit Tigapuluh is also home to around 40-60 endangered Sumatran elephants, which spend most of their time outside the national park in forests now under APP’s control.

APP’s disregard for life will also be disastrous for the two minority indigenous tribes – the Talang Mamak and Orang Rimba – living inside Bukit Tigapuluh’s natural forest. These forest-dwelling people depend on natural resources from the forest and river for their existence. Without these intact natural resources, their future is uncertain.

Reintroduced orangutans
The forest is also the site of the Sumatran Orangutan Reintroduction Center, which has successfully reintroduced orangutans that were saved from the illegal pet trade, which is decimating Sumatra’s great ape population. They are painstakingly taught how to fend for themselves in the forest and released around Bukit Tigapuluh National Park, whose abundant fruit trees and lush lowland forests are prime orangutan habitat.

Orangutans are found only on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra and the Sumatran species is critically endangered. These primates spend most of their time high in the forest canopy and cannot survive without trees.

Vanishing Sumatra
These forests are important not only for the island’s biodiversity, but for the world’s climate as well. Sumatra’s peat forests are believed to sit atop Southeast Asia’s largest store of peat carbon, a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions when disturbed.

The scale of deforestation across Sumatra by the pulp and paper industry – led by APP – and the palm oil industry is so massive that the carbon emissions released as forests are cleared on the island are greater annually than the entire industrial emissions of some European nations.

Learn more about climate change 

Priceless forests

Experience the sights and sounds of Sumatra! © WWF-Indonesia

Saving Sumatra is critical for conservation, as it’s the only place in the world where tigers, elephants, rhinos and orangutans co-exist.

But these magnificent creatures are disappearing as their forest homes are cut for pulp and palm oil production. This cause-and-effect is alarmingly clear in Sumatra’s Riau Province – a deforestation hotspot next to Bukit Tigapuluh where APP has been actively clearing forests since the 1980s. Over the last 25 years, it has lost 65 percent of its forests – resulting in an 84 percent decline in Sumatran elephant populations and a 70 percent decline in its Sumatran tiger populations. If deforestation continues both could soon be locally extinct.

Defending the forest
WWF believes that APP could start cutting within this newest concession next to Bukit Tigapuluh National Park in less than a year. The company is waiting for an environmental impact assessment report to be finalized, but it is expected to be of little value since it excludes the negative impacts on key wildlife and indigenous people.

WWF and partners are urging the governors of Sumatra to honor their historic 2008 commitment to protect the island’s remaining natural forest. Bukit Tigapuluh is a prime example of the high conservation value areas that the governors promised to protect.

WWF continues to report on the impacts of APP’s irresponsible practices. Our most recent analysis of human-tiger conflict data shows that in the past 12 years, the majority of violent incidents between people and tigers in Sumatra’s Riau Province have occurred near forested areas cleared by APP. Read more

Through the Global Forest & Trade Network (GFTN), WWF is reminding GFTN members that participant companies must phase out "unwanted sources," such as purchasing from companies that extract wood unsustainably. WWF is also asking financial institutions not to do business with companies that produce unsustainable wood products.

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