Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Paper tigers: Armageddon approaches for Sumatra's big cats

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ABC TV's excellent Foreign Correspondent program covered the pillaging of Sumatra's prized wilderness this week in disturbing detail - and you'll never guess where those trees are ending up!

Journalist Matt Brown reports:

The rate and scale of forest clearing in Sumatra by big paper producers approaches ecological Armageddon.

“I thought I’d seen, you know, impressive deforestation in the Amazon and parts of Africa. But what’s happening there (Sumatra) on a large industrial scale is pretty daunting …some of the worst forest destruction I’ve ever seen anywhere.” - Bill Laurance, Forest Scientist

Riau province in Sumatra is home to the world’s biggest paper plant. It’s owned and run by Asia Pacific Resources International Ltd, better known by the more disarming acronym APRIL.

The company has embarked on a massive land clearing project, removing natural stands of timber and replanting fast-growing acacia trees and when it’s done it says the plantation timber alone will feed the plant. APRIL describes this program as sustainable and certainly preferable to the ad hoc land clearing and burning which blights so much of the Indonesia archipelago.

Environmentalists and many villagers worry about the dramatic changes reshaping the land and also about the plight of residents who’ve been there a lot longer than most - like the Sumatran tiger.

“It breaks my heart because they have a right to live here and they’re even here before us, but people just keep taking so much from them. I feel really sorry for the tigers because there will be more forests destroyed.” - Karmila Parakkasia, WWF

Check out this footage of a rare Sumatran Tiger, and a not-so-rare bulldozer destroying its habitat:

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