New logging road threatens Sumatra's largest peatland forest

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Washington, March 26 : A new investigative report has revealed that a new logging road in Riau Province, Indonesia, extends into Sumatra's largest contiguous peatland forest, threatening the region and its wildlife like the Sumatran tiger.

The road, which has been alleged to be illegally built by companies connected to Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), would allow the companies to restart clearance of natural forest and destruction of deep peat soil at any time in a globally recognized conservation area.

This would pose danger to Sumatra's largest contiguous peatland forest known as the Kampar peninsula, which is one of the world's largest contiguous tropical peat swamp forests, with more carbon per hectare than any other ecosystem on Earth.

Kampar peninsula can be considered a single hydro-ecological system, consisting entirely of a single dome of peat at depths mostly over 10 meters - extremely deep for a peatland, with an enormous store of carbon.

The Kampar peninsula area is also considered one of the last havens for critically endangered Sumatran tigers, whose wild population is estimated to be down to just 400-500.

The landscape was designated a "regional priority" tiger conservation landscape by the world's leading tiger scientists in 2006. A preliminary estimate by WWF-Indonesia shows that a well-managed Kampar peninsula could be home to as many as 60 tigers.

"Even as our investigators were out surveying the site last month, they came across tiger tracks walking along the APP logging road," said Nursamsu of WWF-Indonesia. "But the tigers of Kampar don't stand a chance once APP begins logging full-scale and the poachers discover there's easy access to this critical tiger habitat," he added.

APP's logging highway and the accompanying drainage of the peat could cause devastating effects on Kampar's whole peat dome.

Drainage and plantation development activities on the top of the Kampar peat dome could even cause the peat dome to collapse and emit large amounts of carbon, according to the report.

According to Teguh Surya of Walhi Riau, "It is morally reprehensible for one of the world's largest paper companies to so brazenly ignore Indonesian laws and destroy the natural resources that belong to the people of Riau."

"We strongly urge APP to join the ranks of responsible businesses and conduct its operations within the law," he said.

APP is currently threatening at least three other forest blocks in central Sumatra: Bukit Tigapuluh dry lowland forest block, Senepis and Kerumutan peatland forests.

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