Last year, Australians' hearts were captured by Temara – an orangutan born and reared at Perth Zoo for 15 years prior to being released into Sumatran forest in Indonesia just over two years ago.
While Temara’s protection is assured, proposed new large-scale deforestation is threatening to destroy the orangutan population that Temara was sent to join, as well as the habitats of a number of Sumatran wildlife species including the critically endangered Sumatran tiger and elephant.
Recently, a proposal for further forest clearing and destruction was put forward primarily under the auspices of one of the world's largest paper companies, Asia Pulp and Paper (APP).
The Bukit Tigapuluh (“Thirty Hills”) ecosystem is located in Central Sumatra, Indonesia. It is located across both the Province of Jambi and the Province of Riau. This globally important ecosystem provides a safe haven for forest dwelling tribal communities and thousands of species of plants and animals, many of which are threatened by extinction or are extremely rare. Much of the National Park is surrounded by buffer forest, which is now under threat.
Over 100 orangutans have been released to date via the Bukit Tigapuluh Sumatran Orangutan Reintroduction Project – the only reintroduction site for this critically endangered species who share 97% of their DNA with humans.
Now, 33,776 hectares of ex Dalek Hutani Esa concession (the area of the reintroduction centre and recognised forest ‘buffer zone’) are being requested for logging by APP.
Operating since 1980, the company has been responsible for more deforestation in Sumatra than any other corporation. It is estimated that APP has pulped more than 2.5 million acres in total.
Calls for the company to stop logging natural forests by many Non Government Organisations (NGOs) have so far fallen on deaf ears. APP supplies to Target and Unilever in the United States, though many global corporations such as Walmart and Home Depot have cut ties with the paper giant due to an increasingly troubling environmental record.
Woolworths were publicly embarrassed last year with a false labelling claim pertaining to sustainability on their Select Brand products, yet APP products continue to be stocked through stores. A number of Australian companies continue to use APP paper products today - products that are common place in offices and workplaces.
"Despite pushing the orangutans closer to extinction and jeopardizing the safety of local communities, APP continue to make claims about leading wildlife conservation in the area." said Australian Orangutan Project President, Leif Cocks.
“Not only this, but the proposed land-use plan for this critical forest buffer zone surrounding the National Park will dramatically increase global carbon emissions through deforestation and systematically threaten the habitat of many rare and endangered species.
“The forest buffer area surrounding the Bukit Tigapuluh National Park is required to maintain its functional integrity and therefore its ability to maximize significant carbon storage.”
Indonesia is the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases, primarily due to the destruction of its rainforests - destruction that is contributing en masse to global warming.
The Bukit Tigapuluh National Park requires the forest buffer zone to be a long-term sustainable ecosystem. Without it, it is likely that the 65 critically endangered Sumatran elephants that solely inhabit this buffer zone will be killed. Crucial Sumatran tiger habitat will also be destroyed, dramatically affecting their already dwindling numbers.
It has been recognised that much of the buffer zone forest is better-quality habitat for the elephants, bears, tigers and orangutans than the National Park due to its high biodiversity. Many of the orangutans in the Bukit Tigapuluh ecosystem have moved into this buffer zone and will also now be directly threatened by APP clearing.
“For Temara to help develop a sustainable orangutan population it is absolutely crucial for her and others to settle in this area,” says Leif Cocks.
“It is astonishing that APP continues its relentless push into the forest while allegedly ignoring the needs of not just one, but many, critically-endangered species. Not to mention its employees or the local forest-dwelling tribal communities, who are faced with increasing marginalization as a result of rapid ongoing legal and illegal deforestation.”
If the APP proposal for pulp paper production is accepted – and it is likely to be pushed through quickly to avoid objection - clearing on the ground could start as soon as 2010.
Many environmental NGOs and Government organisations work in the landscape and several Australian Government and NGOs financially support the landscape including the Australian Orangutan Project, Human Society International (Australia), Perth Zoo, Auckland Zoo, Adelaide Zoo, Australia Zoo, and Dream World. Hundreds of individual Australians also provide financial support for the Park’s protection through AOP’s Safe Guard Program.
The Australian Orangutan Project requests immediate action from Australian companies and individuals against the use of APP products to stop this devastating destruction from continuing.
Pictures available at http://www.newsmaker.com.au/news/916
Australian Orangutan Project
The Australian Orangutan Project (AOP) is a not-for-profit organisation, supporting orangutan conservation, habitat protection and orphan care in order to save the species from extinction. http://www.orangutan.org.au
NOTE: The claims expressed in this press release are made by the Australian Orangutan Project.