Joint NGOs: APP Threatens Bukit Tigapuluh Landscape

EoF Investigative Report / 08 January 2008

The Bukit Tigapuluh Forest Landscape in central Sumatra contains some of the richest biodiversity on Earth. It is one of the last refuges for three of the four flagship species found only on the island of Sumatra, along with more than 250 other mammal and bird species. The landscape is a locally, regionally and globally important area for conservation of endangered Sumatran Elephants and critically endangered Sumatran Tigers and Sumatran Orangutans (which have recently been re-introduced here).

The forest is also home to two tribes of indigenous people, one of which lives nowhere else on Sumatra.  Until 2006, this forest block, which includes a national park and other important protected areas along with logging concessions, was relatively free from large -scale commercial forest conversion because of its hilly terrain.

However, an investigation indicates that the situation is drastically changing. On two separate occasions, from 20-25 September 2007 and from 6-11 November 2007, a series of field and remote sensing investigations were conducted by WWF-Indonesia and Jambi NGO network Komunitas Konservasi Indonesia-Warung Konservasi (KKIWARSI) in a large contiguous forest block of the Bukit Tigapuluh Forest Landscape in Riau and Jambi provinces. 

The investigation reveals that the landscape will soon be split into two by a massive logging highway that connects forest concessions associated with Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) to APP’s pulp mills in Riau and Jambi provinces. The team observed that two companies associated with APP are clearing natural forest in two areas in the south of this forest block (inside Jambi Province) and are reconstructing and widening former logging roads to transport wood.

In addition, they seem to have almost completed a logging highway that connects APP’s Riau and Jambi pulp mills through this Landscape. Indonesian law has a set of criteria and requirements to be fulfilled prior to conversion of natural forest. Yet evidenc e found during the investigation indicates APP-affiliated companies converted hundreds of hectares before fulfilling these requirements, thus violating Indonesian law. 

Several existing and proposed protected areas are being cleared and new logging roads are being constructed to provide access to additional existing and proposed conservation areas ,another violation of Indonesian law.  The investigative teams discovered activities by and the presence of loggers’ camp as well as heavy machinery belonging to APP subsidiary Sinar Mas Group’s contractors, both Jambi-based or Riau-based companies.

Including the investigated areas, APP is associated with 10 licensed or proposed concessions that overlap with the Bukit Tigapuluh Forest Landscape in Riau and Jambi and together contain 358,046,98 hectares;187,928,23 hectares of that is the Landscape’s natural forest, which is the most critical habitat for endangered species. 

Some of these APP-associated companies have been converting the Landscape’s natural forests without proper professional assessments or stakeholder consultation and sometimes even without proper licenses. They are threatening the survival of Sumatran tigers, Sumatran orangutans and elephants living in this forest landscape – both directly, by eliminating their habitat, and indirectly, by giving poachers easier access via the new road. APP is also stealing natural forests away from the indigenous tribes who depend on this forest area for their existence.

All natural forest that is habitat for endangered species is considered “high conservation value forest” and is the most important forest to leave unlogged. Part of the area being cleared -- in violation of Indonesian law -- is part of a proposed Specific Protected Area that serves as habitat for Sumatran orangutans recently introduced into the area for the first time in more than 150 years.  This report includes the calls by WWF-Indonesia, KKI WARSI, Zoological Society of London, Frankfurt Zoological Society -Indonesia and Program Konservasi Harimau Sumatera (PKHS) urging APP-associated companies in the Landscape to their halt conversion here.