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7 May 2009 -Further Rainforest Clearing by Asia Pulp and Paper Threatens Sumatras Endangered Species and Contributes to Climate       

Further Rainforest Clearing by Asia Pulp and Paper Threatens Sumatra's Endangered Species and Contributes to Climate Change

7 May 2009

The destruction of high biodiversity forest in Sumatra’s Bukit Tigapuluh landscape is happening now, and as a result the Critically Endangered Sumatran Tiger, Elephant and Orangutan are dramatically progressing toward extinction.

The Bukit Tigapuluh Landscape is severely threatened due to massive, ongoing forest clearing and a proposal by Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) and its partners to convert expired Selective Timber Concessions - the National Park’s protective Buffer Zone - into pulp paper production. This protective barrier contains much of the landscape’s biodiversity, as well as being the exclusive habitat for 65 members of the Critically Endangered Sumatran Elephant.

The area is also home to Temara - the beloved Perth Zoo-born orangutan - released into the wild in 2006. While Temara’s protection is assured, proposed new large-scale deforestation is threatening to destroy the orangutan population that Temara was sent to join.

Located in the Jambi and Riau Province, the Bukit Tigapuluh landscape is the last remaining area of large, drylowland forest in Sumatra. The conversion plan will systematically threaten the habitat of many endangered species; environmental services provided by watershed Indragiri and Rateh rivers of Riau and watershed Batanghari and Pengabuan rivers of Jambi; as well as the livelihood of forest-dependent local communities, including indigenous tribes of Talang Mamak and Orang Rimba.

As supporters of the Bukit Tigapuluh landscape, we strongly criticise such a proposal. Due to the massive Carbon Storage potential of this area, and the significant level of emissions reductions available through decreased deforestation, the Australian Orangutan Project (AOP) and its partner organisations are developing a REDD project in these important buffer areas, currently proposed for deforestation.

At present, there is a submission to the Australian Government seeking support for the project. With the support of the provincial Forestry Department, the Indonesian Federal Government has recently indicated, in principle, support for the concept. In addition, the Bukit Tigapuluh landscape also meets all the requirements for a potential second, joint Australian-Indonesian, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) Demonstration Project.

The Australian Orangutan Project (AOP) is active within the Park, funding 8 Wildlife Protection Units that protect the Park from illegal deforestation. Through AOP, the Australian Government funded the initial development of the Wildlife Protection Units in the Park as a part of its Regional Natural Heritage Program.

Over 100 orangutans have also been released to date via the Bukit Tigapuluh Sumatran Orangutan Reintroduction Project – the only reintroduction site for this Critically Endangered species. Funding for this project is also contributed by AOP ‘Safe Guard’ supporters, Perth Zoo, Auckland Zoo, Australia Zoo, Dream World and Human Society International.

We now call on the Australian Government to assist the Indonesian Government, through financial support, to develop the Globally important Bukit Tigapuluh Landscape into a REDD Project. Protecting remaining forest in Bukit Tigapuluh from forest conversion by APP and its partners will in-turn, protect significant levels of critically endangered biodiversity and assist in mitigating climate change.

We are very concerned by APP’s past, present and proposed activites, and call for APP and its partners to cease further forest clearing within the Bukit Tigapuluh Landscape. We see this as a Global issue and critically timely to protect the high-value forest from destruction.

Web: AndreasLustig.com