Environmental science and conservation news…
A guide to 5 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in South East Asia you probably haven’t heard of, including Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park in Vietnam, an alternative Angkor Wat in Cambodia, wildlife experiences in Indonesia, jungle treks in Borneo, temples in Thailand and Bagan in Myanmar.
Rainforests are something the world cannot afford to take for granted any longer.
These precious environments, found in numerous continents, are homes to swathes of endangered species as well as indigenous tribes.
But deforestation, caused by industry, has wiped out an insanely large proportion of them in recent years.
What causes deforestation? What effect is it having on our planet and the beings that occupy it?
Between 2000 and 2012, 2.3 million square kilometres (890,000 sq mi) of forests around the world were cut down. That has led to the devastation of several species of animal, flora, fauna and homes of indigenous tribes.
This rate of deforestation is not slowing down despite international attempts to stop the causes of deforestation in its tracks.
But the number of causes of deforestation make it difficult to tackle.
Currently the palm oil industry is one of the worst offenders, as the tree which produces the oil thrives best in Africa, Indonesia, Asia, North America and South America where rainforests tends to be.
OFFICIALS in the Indonesian province of Aceh have vowed to safeguard the last known habitat shared by tigers, orangutans, rhinos and elephants, but concerns abound that the proposed protections are limited in scope.
The provincial government, which enjoys a degree of autonomy from the central government in Jakarta, has declared there will be no infrastructure projects developed inside the Gunung Leuser National Park. The park is part of the Leuser Ecosystem, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is the only known habitat on Earth home to critically endangered Sumatran tigers, orangutans, rhinos and elephants.
Specifically, officials are revoking a plan to drill for geothermal energy in the park, as they seek to remove it from UNESCO’s List of World Heritage in Danger. The park has been on the list since 2011 due to ongoing destruction of its rainforest ecosystem.
“In accordance with Aceh’s spatial plans, there [will be] no infrastructure development inside the Gunung Leuser National Park,” Aceh Deputy Governor Nova Iriansyah said as quoted on the provincial government’s website.
Read more from source: Sumatran habitat for tigers, orangutans gets a partial reprieve from development
Photographer Charlie Dailey visited the island to document efforts to relocate a critically endangered species.
The Leuser Ecosystem is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in northern Sumatra and one of the largest single continuous blocks of tropical rainforest left in the whole of south-east Asia. It is also home to the orangutan, one of the region’s most endangered species.
Despite Leuser’s World Heritage status, it is under continued threat from deforestation by palm-oil plantations, affecting both the fragile ecosystem and critically endangered iconic wildlife.
Photographer Charlie Dailey travelled to Sumatra to document the efforts to relocate orangutans in immediate danger.
The rainforests are the natural habitat of the Sumatran orangutan. A large proportion of the population lives in the borders of Leuser, with the highest density in the lower peat-swamp regions of Tripa, Kleut and Sinkhil – primary tropical forest with canopies up to 40ft (12m) high.
When a palm-oil company moves into an area, large swathes of forests are felled to make way for plantations. To plant on the waterlogged peat-land the companies have to create drainage canals.
Source: Saving the orangutans of Sumatra
- Twelve years of deforestation in Sumatra have broken the habitats of its native big cat into smaller fragments, a new study says.
- Only two of the remaining tiger forest landscapes in Sumatra are believed to have populations that are viable for the long term, both of which are under threat from planned road projects.
- The researchers are calling for a complete halt to the destruction of tiger-occupied forests in Sumatra and the poaching of the nearly extinct predator.
JAKARTA — Extensive deforestation in Sumatra has corralled the island’s native tigers into fragmented habitats, only two of which contain a sufficiently robust population of the nearly extinct big cat, a recent study suggests.
A NEW scientific paper has highlighted rising numbers of critically endangered tigers in a national park on Indonesia’s Sumatra island as the result of establishing an Intensive Protection Zone.
Authored by researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park Authority, the paper demonstrates numbers of Sumatran tigers in the park rose significantly over the decade to 2015, despite being on the Unesco List of World Heritage in Danger list.
“This increasing population trend in Sumatran tigers is a dream come true for all conservationists in Indonesia,” said Dr Noviar Andayani, WCS-Indonesia country director and co-author of the paper, which was published in Oryx – The International Journal of Conservation.
The Panthera tigris sumatrae is the only remaining species of “island tigers”, a subspecies including the now-extinct Java and Bali tigers.
The population of Sumatran tigers – a critically endangered species found only on the Indonesian island of Sumatra – may have increased despite living in a threatened UNESCO World Heritage Site, a study suggests.
The Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae) is the only extant sub-species of ‘Island tigers’, which includes the now-extinct Javan and Bali tiger.
This sub-species is genetically distinct from the other six sub-species of continental tigers.
Researchers, including those from Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), set 123 camera traps over a 1,000 square kilometre forest block located in a protection zone at the Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park in Indonesia.
Results of the camera-trap study showed a Sumatran tiger population density increase to 2.8 tigers per 100 square kilometres in 2015 from 1.6 tigers in 2002.
Furthermore, the proportion of male and female tigers recently recorded was 1:3.
Jakarta, Indonesia (Oct. 23, 2017) – A new scientific publication from WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) and the Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park Authority looks at the effectiveness of the park’s protection zone and finds that the density of Sumatran tigers has increased despite the continued threat of living in an ‘In Danger’ World Heritage Site.
Living only on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, the Critically Endangered Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae) is the only extant sub-species of ‘Island tigers’, which includes the now-extinct Javan and Bali tiger. This sub-species is genetically distinct from the other six sub-species of continental tigers.
Sumatran tigers face many challenges to their continued existence in the wild, where they require a home range of 25,000 hectares. These include being poached for their skin, bones and other body parts, involvement in conflict with people, a depleted prey base, and habitat loss.
Even at a global level, its exceptionality is evident, as host of over 4,000 plant species, 450 species of birds and 180 species of mammals.
Today’s List of World Heritages in Danger includes Indonesia’s Tropical Rainforests Heritage of Sumatra (TRHS), which encompasses three national parks along the island: Gunung Leuser, Kerinci Seblat, and Bukit Barisan Selatan.
Protection of the world’s cultural and natural heritage was among topics at last month’s meeting of the World Heritage Committee under the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
The Sumatra site of rainforests was inscribed into the World Heritage List in 2004 given its exceptional beauty, significant on-going ecological evolution and development of terrestrial, fresh water, coastal and marine ecosystems and communities of plants and animals, including threatened species of outstanding universal value.
The exceptionality of TRHS has found no comparison in Indonesia.
Indonesia is celebrating 72 years of independence today. So why not learn a little more about the world’s fourth biggest country?
1. It covers a lot of ground
This vast place extends 5,120 kilometres from east to west. That’s longer than the distance (as the crow flies) from London to Tehran (4,403km).
2. And is made up of 18,307 islands
That’s according to a 2002 survey by the National Institute of Aeronautics and Space (the CIA World Factbook seems to think it’s 17,508, however, while a more recent survey, by a different agency, put the figure at 13,466). Only Canada, Norway, Sweden and Finland have more.
3. It’s heaven for animal lovers
According to Conservation International, just 17 countries are considered “megadiverse”. Each possesses a vast number of different species – many found nowhere else. And Indonesia is one.
4. And home to the world’s largest lizard
- Local officials currently have plans to build roads in Mount Leuser, Bukit Barisan Selatan and Kerinci Seblat National Parks in Indonesia’s Sumatra Island.
- Conservationists fear these plans could accelerate habitat loss and degradation in this highly biodiverse forest complex, which is home to many endangered species.
- Proponents of road development cite the need for increased economic opportunities for local people and evacuation routes in case of natural disasters.
One of the last and largest remnants of tropical rainforest in Asia is under threat from multiple road development plans.
This forest complex, a UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra (TRHS), is located on the spine of the Bukit Barisan Mountain Range in Indonesia’s main western island, Sumatra.
Here, at Ecophiles, we’re all about giving you ways to see wildlife in a natural space, with an eco-friendly, green travel mindset at heart. India, of course, is the ideal travel destination to go see tigers, and we reveal more stunning spots to see these magnificent animals. These national parks around the world give you a different travel perspective, an alternative path if you’ve already seen the kings of the jungle in India.
After nearly a century of decline, tiger numbers are finally increasing. Almost 4,000 tigers now thrive in the wild, but much more work needs to be done to protect this species, one that’s still vulnerable today. It’s our responsibility as caretakers of the Earth to preserve these majestic beasts and their natural habitats.
Despite local and global opposition, authorities in Aceh province continue to push for development in the Leuser.
- Sumatra’s Leuser Ecosystem covers 2.6 million hectares and is home to some 105 mammal and 382 bird species, many found nowhere else on earth.
- The ecosystem is part of a World Heritage Site that has been listed as “In Danger” since 2011 — a designation that was renewed earlier this month.
- The local government’s plans for the ecosystem include large hydroelectric dams. Deforestation and encroachment for palm oil and pulp and paper production are also major problems for the Leuser.
- Local NGOs and community groups are speaking out against large-scale projects in the ecosystem, citing threats to the area’s human residents as well as to wildlife.
If the current levels of illegal harvesting continue in World Heritage sites, many species could soon be extinct, conservationists fear.
- Poaching, illegal logging and illegal fishing of rare species protected under CITES occurs in 45 percent of the natural World Heritage sites, a new WWF report says.
- Illegal harvesting degrades the unique values that gave the heritage sites the status in the first place, the report says.
- Current approaches to preventing illegal harvesting of CITES listed species in World Heritage sites is not working, the report concludes.
Wildlife crime plagues nearly half of the world’s natural UNESCO World Heritage sites, according to a new WWF report.
A COALITION of NGOs has submitted a letter to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) in a bid to save a remote expanse of tropical rainforest in Indonesia’s Aceh province.
Local NGOs, including the Orangutan Information Centre (OIC), the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program as well as the Forest, Nature and Environment Aceh (Haka), have raised serious concerns regarding a proposed geothermal power plant, which they claim could harm the heritage-listed Leuser Ecosystem.
Leuser is an expanse of 2.6 million hectares of remote, mountainous jungle which has been on Unesco’s World Heritage in Danger List since 2011 due to increasing encroachment by oil palm plantations.
Ninety percent of Sumatra’s 6,000 remaining orangutan live in Leuser, which Haka says is also one of Asia’s largest carbon sinks.
A burly russet-haired male orangutan swings through the trees of Leuser National Park, a massive rainforest habitat in Northern Sumatra, attempting to chase off a band of hikers who have appeared in his section of forest. Not far away, a massive blue-brown peacock caws, seeking out a mate. It is just a few miles of hiking from the base camp of Bukit Lawang, but the Sumatran rainforest buzzes with the sounds of animal life: monkey’s hoots, warbles of tropical birds, the buzzing of insects.
The Leuser ecosystem is the largest intact rainforest in Sumatra, and a UNESCO World Heritage site that is treasured for its extraordinary biodiversity: it’s the only place left on earth where rhinos, elephants, tigers, and orangutans roam in a single forest.
Environmental groups in Indonesia have called on the country’s forestry and environment ministry to reject plans to construct a geothermal plant in one of the world’s most precious areas of rainforest.
A Turkish company, Hitay Holdings, wants to build the plant in the Gunung Leuser National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage listed site.
The governor of Aceh, Zaini Abdullah, has written to the Minister of Environment and Forestry to request the rezoning of nearly 8,000 hectares of forest that should be protected; a rezoning that environmentalists say will result in the destruction of a vital habitat corridor.
The “Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra” site covers 2.5 million hectares and comprises three national parks: Gunung Leuser, Kerinci Seblat, and Bukit Barisan Selatan.
The government continues its efforts to remove three Sumatran national parks from UNESCO’s World Heritage in Danger list.
Environment and Forestry Ministry conservation areas director Heri Subagiadi said there were seven main criteria that had to be satisfied before the parks could be removed from the list, including key species population trends, road development, mining, law enforcement and landscape management.
The three parks are Mount Leuser National Park in Aceh and North Sumatra provinces, Kerinci Seblat National Park in West Sumatra, Jambi, Bengkulu and South Sumatra, and Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park in Lampung and Bengkulu provinces.
Heri said the government had so far closed small illegal mines and oil palm plantations in the park areas, conducted integrated patrols and monitored the spread of key species.