Animal protection group ProFauna Indonesia warns that private plantations are destroying the habitats of endangered species like tigers and elephants.
Pro Fauna’s Rosek Nursahid said that the expansion of plantations narrows the species’ habitat, forcing them to leave their territory.
“As these animals approach neighboring areas comprising villages, people consider them as a threat, and so they are often killed.”
He also said that as these animals become exposed to human territory, this situation will indirectly facilitate illegal hunting and trading, especially of tigers and elephants.
More tigers and elephants have been found dead in Bengkulu and Riau. Between March and June, four elephants were found dead in Bengkulu at a palm plantation owned by PT Sapat Buana (Alno). In July, a Sumatran tiger was found dead in Riau at an oil palm plantation owned by PT Arara Abadi, a private company linked to the Sinar Mas Group.
These four elephants had been stripped of their ivory tusks. Syamsidar from the Indonesian office of the World Wide Fund for Nature said that one kilogram of ivory has a street value of Rp 30 million (US$ 3,499.56).
Tigers have a high economical value in illegal trade. “A tiger skin has a street value of Rp 25 million. Its whiskers might bring in Rp 100,000 and its bones Rp 500,000,” she said.
Syamsidar said that those involved in this illegal trade send the animals to Singapore or Malaysia before sending them to other countries.
Greenpeace Indonesia’s forest representative Zulfahmi also expressed his concern over land expansion in Indonesia. Zulfahmi said that land expansion began in the 1970s, together with the commercialization of oil palm plantations. In the 1980s, pulp and paper were introduced and from that moment, expansion started getting out of control.
“Sumatra’s forests in Jambi, Riau and South Sumatra are an important natural home for tigers. We should protect these forests,” Zulfahmi said.
Syamsidar suggested that companies holding permits to convert land into plantations should not do so, as the land is natural habitat for elephants and tigers. “The government already has a regulation on this but it seems they do not implement it,” she said.
Rosek claimed that land conversion creates valuable income and attracts high investment among companies. However, the government should implement stricter regulations and impose sanctions on companies violating the regulations.
Forestry Ministry Secretary-General Hadi Daryanto said that, in April 2009, former forestry minister MS Kaban sent a letter to agriculture minister Suswono, stating that land converted from forests to plantations, which were habitats for endangered species, must be banned to protect the animals and to maintain biodiversity.