Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Can paper be more important than tigers and orangutans?

If you ask Indonesian authorities this question then answer would probably be yes it can. Indonesian paper company has received a licence to clear large area of unprotected jungle which is being used as a reintroduction site for about 100 critically endangered orangutans. This forest area is not only important for orangutan population but is also crucial for the survival of remaining Sumatran tigers and elephants left in the wild.

This is really the latest proof that shows how little Indonesia cares about its forests and wildlife. In the last 10 years deforestation rate in Indonesia has passed the critical point with the rate of over 2 million ha per year. The main problem in this story is that Indonesian government only sees one side, the economical one, since pulp and paper production are mostly responsible for economic growth in Indonesia in the past two decades. Sadly Indonesia doesn't look at deforestation problem from the long term perspective. The logical question that any reasonable country should ask in this situation would be "How we're gonna survive in future if we now clear all of our forests? But Indonesia isn't asking this question, which is really no surprise when you look at the long history of political corruption in this country. Natural resources such as forests and wildlife have only one role in Indonesia, and that is to make certain people very rich.

Just imagine this, scientists put so much efforts and so much time reintroducing critically endangered orangutans from captivity into the wild, and now this new decision could destroy crucial part of their habitats. Under this licence paper company has the right to clear the largest portion of natural forest remaining outside Bukit Tigapuluh national park on Sumatra. This part of forest is ideal for orangutan habitats but Indonesian government looks like it has already forgotten about the 2002 and the given permission to reintroduce orangutans into these forests. Orangutans have settled quite nicely in these forests and are thriving now, breeding and establishing new family groups. If paper company clears this forest orangutans will lose their habitats, and all hope about recovery in orangutan population will be lost.

The same destiny awaits critically endangered Sumatran tigers. There are only 400 Sumatran tigers in the wild of which one quarter lives in the forest area that is likely to be cleared out. The same will happen with about 50 endangered Sumatran elephants.

If this forest area is cleared we can expect much more frequent tiger-humans conflicts since tigers will be left without their habitats, and therefore close to human settlements. At least nine people have been killed by tigers on Sumatra this year, while villagers have killed four tigers. This number is likely to become much bigger in years to come. It really looks like Indonesia deforestation problem will never come to an end. Because of excessive deforestation Indonesia is third largest CO2 emitter in the world, just behind China and United States.

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