August 28, 2008
Endangered Elephants And Tigers Receive Government Aid
Conservation body WWF said that Sumatra's endangered elephants and tigers are expecting a boost from an Indonesian government move to expand one of their last havens, a four-year-old national park on the island.
It was announced in Jakarta on Thursday that the park area would be more than doubled to 86,000 hectares (212,500 acres).
Mubariq Ahmad, head of WWF in Indonesia, said it was an important milestone towards securing a future for the Sumatran elephant and tiger.
"Tesso Nilo is still under serious threat from illegal activities, but if we can protect the forests there it will give some of Sumatra's most endangered wildlife the breathing room they need to survive," Ahmad said.
WWF said 60 to 80 elephants and some 50 tigers were believed to live in the area now to be covered by the park.
The park was set up in 2004 with 38,000 hectares (93,900 acres) and it has the highest lowland forest plant diversity known to science. WWF said some 4,000 unique species have been recorded and many more remain to be discovered.
Riau Province is home to about 210 elephants, down from around 1,250 just 25 years ago, and 192 tigers, whose numbers have dropped from around 650 over the same period.
WWF said deforestation has been the main cause of the decline of both Sumatran species. Experts say Riau has the highest rate of any Indonesian province.
Since the early 1980s, some 65 percent of Riau's forest cover, key to the animals' survival, has disappeared, largely as a result of increased activity by global pulp and palm oil companies as well as illegal logging.
Two of the world's largest pulp and paper mills are located in the province, which had lost more natural forest to pulpwood concessions than any other in Indonesia, WWF said.
The conservation body said carbon-rich peat land and peat forests clearing in Riau have contributed to Indonesia having the world's third highest rate of greenhouse gas emissions, behind only the United States and China.
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