Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) announced the success of its environmental operation to save tigers: the company has moved a tiger from one part of South Sumatra province to another in order to protect it. This is supposed to prove APP’s environmental engagement. But the reality is quite different. APP broadcasted adverts to paint itself as nature’s friend. For the same reason, APP has sponsored the capture, relocation and release of a Sumatran tiger – remember, only about 400 individuals remain at large.
The female tiger in question, named Putri (or Princess in Indonesia), has been removed from what is described on APP’s Rainforest Realities web site as an area in which humans and tigers come into conflict. But it is also an area where ample tracts of rainforest have been cleared, to supply APP with timber. The tiger was released back into the wild further north from its starting point, in a national park further away from logging being done in the name of APP.
There’s no doubt that conflict between humans and tigers can have terrible consequences. Greenpeace released of a video of a dying tiger caught in a trap in an APP group concession in Riau. WWF filmed tigers in the forests to be clearcutted to provide fibres for APP paper mills. And earlier this year, two people were reportedly killed by a tiger in an area supplying APP with timber in South Sumatra, the same region of Sumatra where the tiger relocation is taking place. (Incidentally, this very same supply area has also been classified by the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) as ‘non-controversial’, just like the spot where recently another tiger died while caught in a snare.)
APP public relations try to disguise the real reason why many of these clashes between people and wildlife are taking place. Destroying the forests which provide hunting and breeding grounds for tigers (as APP is doing) forces them closer to areas populated by people, and then it’s only a matter of time before someone (or something) gets hurt. In just one logging area in South Sumatra, APP has been responsible for the loss of 27,000 hectares of rainforest identified as tiger habitat since 2007.
Large animals need equally large areas to roam in search of food, especially predators. Fragmenting their habitat with roads and through clearing forests leaves them with smaller and smaller places to go. But it’s not just about tigers, either. These same regions of Indonesia’s rainforests support thousands of species, including many endangered ones, and they can’t all be relocated individually.
After destroying forests which form vital habitat for tigers, APP generously re-homed one of them and presented the operation as a sign of their commitment with the environment.