image via Vimeo video
There are few things more adorable in the wild kingdom than tiger cubs. Three have been caught on camera, playing on the forest floor with leaves. However, the forest that these endangered Sumatran tiger cubs call home is slated to be cut down.
Could they be cuter? We think not. But the problem they face is anything but cute. Video cameras set up in the forest set to be chopped down, caught footage of 12 critically endangered Sumatran tigers, including these cubs with their mother.
A press release from WWF states, "The areas of the central Sumatran forests where these tigers are concentrated are also prime targets for pulp and paper companies like Barito Pacific Group and Asia Pulp & Paper/Sinar Mas Group (APP/SMG). Both companies have permits pending to clear the forest. Prominent conservation, animal welfare and human rights groups, including WWF, have urged the two companies and the Indonesian government to protect these forests instead of allowing them to be cleared."
In an area were only a few hundred tigers remain, getting so many on one hidden camera is quite fortunate for conservationists and researchers, but there could be a less fortunate reason for it:
"What's unclear is whether we found so many tigers because we're getting better at locating our cameras or because the tigers' habitat is shrinking so rapidly here that they are being forced into sharing smaller and smaller bits of forests," states Karmila Parakkasi, leader of the tiger research team on Sumatra Island.
Experts agree that the footage is proof that the corridor is important to the species and needs to be protected, though part of the area where they were live is owned by Barito Pacific Timber. WWF is calling for this company and others in the area to halt plans to clear the forest, and is urging the government to take action toward protecting the species.
As TreeHugger Mat reported last year, "...[T]igers are still living on 97% of the suitable habitat on Sumatra, and in every eco-region from coastal lowland forests at sea level all the way to high mountain forests at elevations of 10,500 feet.
"Which is the good news. The less good news is that just 29% of the remaining tiger habitat on the island is protected from development--doubly not good considering Indonesia's record on logging, conversion of forest to agriculture, etc. and this being the main threat to remaining Sumatran tiger habitat."
With fewer than 400 Sumatran tigers left in the wild, such efforts seem only reasonable. It may seem far away and perhaps an issue that you have little control over, but that isn't quite the case. WWF urges us to buy only FSC paper products, which would cut down on the demand for products made from trees cleared from forests such as where these cubs live. The group is working with Indonesian companies to adopt more sustainable forestry practices.
Check out this interactive map from WWF which shows the areas in the world where wild tiger populations still remain, with pop-up information on what threats they face in each area.
UPDATE: A representative of Asia Pulp & Paper contacted me regarding this post (specifically the quote above on the location of the tiger cubs and that it is under threat from timber companies) and stated, "There is absolutely no clearing of any forest within Bukit Tigapuluh National Park (BTNP) by APP or any of its pulpwood suppliers. APP places tremendous value on preserving and protecting Indonesia's national parks and forests as well as the Sumatran Tiger. Bukit Tigapuluh National Park (BTNP) is a protected treasure of Indonesia and a critical natural landscape. We fully support the permanent protection of this area."
It's a confusing counter to the press release from WWF, which states, "The tigers in the videos were filmed in the forests of the Bukit Tigapuluh landscape, or "Thirty Hills." This landscape is designated a "global priority Tiger Conservation Landscape," and is one of six landscapes the government of Indonesia pledged to protect at last November's tiger summit of world leaders in Russia. Home to more than 30 tigers, 150 Sumatran elephants and 130 orangutans, the Bukit Tigapuluh landscape is under imminent threat of being cleared by the pulp and paper industry."
So, it may be the case that APP is not clearing lumber within a national park, but it's actually not what WWF was talking about. Of the Bukit Tigapuluh landscape where these cubs were spotted, only 42% is protected as a national park. The rest is up for grabs. That means the habitat in which these tigers live is indeed under threat from APP and other companies. In fact, a representative from WWF told me that as of two days before the writing of this post, WWF team members were in the field and witnessed APP clearing lumber from areas surrounding the national park.
APP's representative stated, "APP does not clear High Conservation Value Forest (HCVF) clearly defined by Indonesian law, either inside BTNP or anywhere in Indonesia."
However, it looks like they do clear within habitat that conservation experts are proving is critical to the survival of wild tiger populations. And with their strong PR efforts to keep themselves looking concerned with wildlife (the company is actually tied in with an unnerving lobby group, according to the NY Times piece), it might be a harder battle to preserve the landscape than one might think. WWF also notes, "A report by WWF and partner NGOs from December 2010 revealed that between 2004 and 2010, Bukit Tigapuluh landscape lost more than 500,000 acres of forest to the pulp and paper and palm oil industries. A large amount of the deforestation took place within concessions of APP/SMG, as well as along the logging corridors built to transport the wood to pulp mills."
Perhaps it's true that APP is not clearing any forest in Bukit Tigapuluh National Park, but WWF is concerned about the Bukit Tigapuluh landscape where the cubs were filmed, an area larger than just the park, and where the organization states that APP has a permit pending. With our human habit of carving deeper and deeper into wild habitat, a national park may be the only thing these tigers have left in the very near future unless companies like APP and others back off from their logging efforts.
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More on Sumatran Tigers
First-Time Footage of Super Rare Sumatran Tiger & Cubs Released (Video)
Indonesia Allows Adoption of Sumatran Tigers as Pets for $100,000
Tiger Cam Captures the Destruction of a Forest (Video)