Warning: this blog contains images and video footage that may upset you.
Recently, word came to our Greenpeace office in Indonesia that a Sumatran tiger was stuck in an animal trap in an area being logged by Asia Pulp and Paper (APP). It was trapped for six days in total without food or water. After a week of suffering, forest officers arrived to evacuate the tiger – but it was too late. The tiger died during the rescue attempt.
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Zamzami, a Greenpeace media campaigner, traveled to the area with the rescue team as an observer and was present for the tiger’s last few hours. He describes the scene that met him: despite its ordea, the “tiger still emitted a strong wild aura” and “greeted me with an angry roar.” Everyone present stood stunned and silent to see the “King of the jungle lying low, trapped and suffering in his own home.”
The spot where the tiger became trapped was on the border of PT Arara Abadi, an APP acacia plantation in the province of Riau. Video footage reveals that nearby the spot where the tiger wandered into the trap, and later died, there was a large area of recently destroyed forest where active clearing was ongoing. That means a lot of disruptive activity was happening: trees were being felled and heavy machinery, like excavators, were busy clearing the rainforest. Only 13 kilometres away from where the excavators were at work is the spot where this animal spent its last days trapped, injured and starving.
Unfortunately, more tragic moments like this are the future that is in store for this majestic animal. The Sumatran tiger is already endangered, there are only around 400 remaining in the wild and - now we know – even one less than that.
Yet APP operations in Indonesia continue to clear rainforest that includes tiger habitat, destroying the home and hunting grounds of the Sumatran tiger in order to feed APP’s pulp and paper operations. From there, what was once rainforest ends up in all sorts of things - like throw-away toy packaging. Some of this packaging has been used by toy companies such as Hasbro, Disney and Mattel. And the future doesn’t look any better. APP has ambitious expansion plans and the areas of rainforest it plans to expand into includes more tiger habitat.
Someone once told me that roads in a forest are like veins – once opened, they can end up draining the forest of life. When APP builds a concession in tiger habitat, it not only destroys the forest the tiger would normally roam, sleep and hunt in – the roads it builds to carry away the timber also let in all kinds of other disruptions. People come and lay traps to hunt other animals, and even if they don’t mean to interfere with the tiger, they do. When their traditional habitat is destroyed, tigers must roam even further for food and shelter, which often brings them closer to forest communities and causes more conflict.
APP must stop relying on further clearance of rainforest for its business. Destruction of rainforests in Indonesia must stop to protect animals like the Sumatran tiger, minimize the negative consequences for forest communities, and for Indonesia to be able to cut its carbon emissions contributing to climate change, most of which come from deforestation.
This pulp and paper company adds insult to injury by portraying itself as a sustainable, responsible business – which acts to protect biodiversity and animals like the Sumatran tiger. It runs ads on television and in print all over the world presenting itself almost as if it is an NGO, rather than a pulp and paper business. These ads often use the tagline ‘APP Cares’ next to an image like the imprint of a tiger paw, giving the impression that APP cares about tigers. In reality, its operations destroy tiger habitat for profit - pushing these animals to the brink of extinction.
The image that APP projects of being a caring company, committed to sustainability and conservation efforts, is revealed as a lie as soon as it is compared with images of the reality of APP operations on the ground. In addition to removing APP products from their supply chain, toy companies like Mattel, Hasbro and Disney must put in place new policies to cover all their purchases of pulp and paper products. This is the only way to ensure they will not be complicit in forest destruction in the future. The last moments of this one Sumatran tiger are just the latest example of the terrible costs of the ongoing destruction of Indonesia’s rainforests – if APP continues to operate this way, there will be more.