Thursday, August 28, 2008

New plans to protect native tigers and elephants in Sumatra

New plans to protect native tigers and elephants in Sumatra

By Paul Eccleston
Last Updated: 6:01pm BST 28/08/2008

New measures aimed at conserving dwindling numbers of native tigers and elephants on the island of Sumatra have been announced.

The Tesso Nilo National Park - a critical area of forest for the two endangered species - is to be more than doubled in size, the Indonesian government said.

The Park in Riau Province contained only 38,000 hectares of forest when it was created in 2004 but this will be increased to 86,000 hectares by the end of this year.

Riau Province has the highest deforestation rate of any province in Indonesia suffering an 11 per cent loss between 2005 to 2006. It has lost more than 4m hectares of forest in the past 25 years which represents almost two-thirds of the original forest.

The province is home to an estimated 210 Sumatran elephants - the remainder of an 84 per cent population decline in the past 25 years - and 192 Sumatran tigers after a 70 per cent loss over the same period.

It is estimated there are 60-80 elephants and 50 tigers within the new boundaries of the Park which is one of the last strongholds for both species.

With more than 4,000 plant species recorded so far, the forest of Tesso Nilo has the highest lowland forest plant biodiversity known to science with more than 4,000 plant species recorded so far and many more still to be chronicled.

WWF, the conservation organisation, has been supporting the Indonesian government's effort to extend and protect the park as the last block of lowland forest in central Sumatra large enough to support a viable elephant population.

Dr Mubariq Ahmad, WWF-Indonesia's chief executive, said: "This is an important milestone toward securing a future for the Sumatran elephant and tiger.

"To ensure that the commitment is effectively implemented, we must redouble our efforts on the ground to eliminate poaching and illegal settlements within this special forest.

"Tesso Nilo is still under serious threat from illegal activities, but if we can protect the forests there, it will give some of Sumatra's most endangered wildlife the breathing room they need to survive.

"And while we greatly appreciate this precedent for more protection from the Indonesian government, there are other areas on Sumatra that need safeguarding for the sake of its wildlife, its threatened indigenous peoples and to reduce the climate impacts of clearing."

WWF helped establish the Tesso Nilo Community Forum, run by all 22 villages in the buffer zone of the national park. The forum supports joint actions to protect the forest and gives the communities a voice in park management.

WWF also works with local communities that come into conflict for land with species such as elephants which stray out of the national park into local villages and raid crops.

An Elephant Flying Squad uses domesticated elephants and mahouts to keep wild elephants inside the park from raiding village crops. It also helps plant buffer crops that are not attractive to elephants.

Two of the world's largest pulp mills are based in Riau Province which has lost more natural forest to pulpwood concessions than any other Indonesian province.

The clearing of carbon-rich peatlands and peat forests in Riau has contributed to Indonesia having the third-highest rate of greenhouse gas emissions in the world, behind only the United States and China.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/main.jhtml?xml=/earth/2008/08/28/easumatra128.xml

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