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Massive Sumatra Logging Threatens Great Apes May 22, 2009
Satellite Image
Top: One of Sumatra's critically endangered orangutans. Center: Illegal logging near Bukit Tigapuluh National Park. Bottom: Road being built by Asia Pacific Pulp & Paper that has opened the area to illicit logging.
An Indonesian lowland forest habitat that is home to about 100 Sumatran orangutans recently reintroduced to the wild could be destroyed within months if a massive logging plan proceeds, a coalition of five conservation groups warns.

A joint venture of Asia Pacific Pulp & Paper (APP) and Sinar Mas Group had received a license to clear the largest portion of natural forest remaining outside the Bukit Tigapuluh National Park in Jambi province of Sumatra.

“It took scientists decades to discover how to successfully reintroduce critically endangered orangutans from captivity into the wild. It could take APP just months to destroy an important part of their new habitat,” said Peter Pratje of the Frankfurt Zoological Society, one of the groups.

The unprotected forest is also home to about 100 of the last 400 critically endangered Sumatran tigers still remaining in the wild.

The environmental coalition is urging Indonesian officials and APP’s investors to halt the deforestation plan.

Sumatra lost nearly half of its natural forest in the 20 years ending in 2007. Only about a third of its original forested areas remain.

A road recently carved out by APP deep into the Bukit Tigapuluh forest has opened up access for rampant illegal logging practices and set the stage for wholesale destruction of tiger, elephant and ape habitats, the conservation groups warn.

"APP's plan is devastating and it will almost certainly lead to more fatalities since tigers and people will be forced into closer contact with each other as the tigers' forest disappears," Dally Priatna of the Zoological Society of London said.

Photos: WWF Indonesia