Gone in an Instant: how the trade in illegally grown coffee is driving the destruction of Rhino, Tiger and Elephant Habitat

Coffee lovers the world over are unknowingly drinking coffee that was illegally grown inside one of the world’s most important national parks for tigers, elephants and rhinos.
The illegally grown coffee is mixed by local traders with legal coffee beans and exported from Indonesia to companies such as Kraft Foods, Nestlé, Lavazza and Marubeni. Neither exporting nor importing companies have mechanisms in place to prevent the trade of illegal beans.

Using satellite imaging, interviews with coffee farmers and traders, and monitoring of coffee trade routes, WWF has tracked the illegal cultivation of robusta coffee inside Indonesia’s remote Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park all the way through its export routes to multinational coffee companies and the shelves of grocery stores across the US, Europe and Asia.

Bukit Barisan Selatan, a World Heritage Site on the southern tip of Sumatra Island, is one of the few protected areas where Sumatran tigers, elephants and rhinos coexist. It is one of the most important habitats left for the three endangered or critically endangered species. But it has already lost nearly 20 per cent of its forest cover to illegal agriculture.
Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae) / ©: WWF / Frédy MERCAY
There are fewer than 400 Sumatran tigers left in the wild, with approximately 40 adult tigers found in Indonesia's Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park.
© WWF / Frédy MERCAY


Save The Tiger Fund, WCS and WWF have identified Bukit Barisan Selatan as a priority Tiger Conservation Landscape, a designation that marks it as one of the most important forest areas for tiger conservation in Southeast Asia.

The park has been included as a Global 200 Ecoregion, WWF's ranking of the Earth's most biologically outstanding terrestrial, freshwater and marine habitats.

In addition, it has been designated as a priority area for Sumatran rhino conservation through WWF's Asian Rhino and Elephant Action Strategy (AREAS). And in 2004, UNESCO listed the area as a World Heritage Cluster Mountainous Area, together with Gunung Leuser and Kerinci Seblat National Parks.

Home to 3 of the world's most charismatic and endangered species
The park is one of the most important forest areas for tiger conservation in Southeast Asia and is home to perhaps a quarter of the entire wild populations of Sumatran rhinos and elephants, making it a globally important conservation area.

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (2006) classifies the park’s Sumatran rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) and Sumatran Tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae) as critically endangered, the Sumatran Elephant (Elephas maximus sumatranus) and Wild dog (Cuon alpinus) as endangered, and the Malayan tapir (Taprius indicus) and Sun bear (Helarctos malayanus) as vunerable.

More than 470 species of trees, 127 orchid species, 26 species of rattan, 24 of liana, 98 of understorey vegetation and 23 of bamboo (Respati, 2004) have been identified. The park area has also become an important area for unique and threatened plant species like Rafflesia spp. and giant flower Amorphophallus spp., as well as traditionally used plants, such as some species of resin trees (Shorea javanica and Shorea ovalis).

Ninety species of mammals, 322 of birds, 52 herpetofauna and 51 fish species have also been identified.

Land encroachment, wildlife crime and illegal logging

However, populations in this park have been severely affected by a rapid decline of forested area that has been converted to other uses. In addition, there have been frequent conflicts between tigers and communities living around the forest area, in many instances resulting in the tiger's capture or death.

The main threats to the sustainability of the park are land encroachment, wildlife crime and illegal logging for agricultural cultivation. These are prevalent in protected areas throughout Indonesia. In  Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park, they have resulted in the conversion of almost one-third of the forest.

WWF's report
Encroachment to grow robusta coffee has become the main threat to the integrity of Sumatra's Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park. Endangered elephants, tigers and rhinos will only be able to survive if coffee production is moved out of the park and their habitat is restored. Through this report, WWF suggests a comprehensive package of activities to achieve this.
Illegal logging, Tesso Nilo, Sumatra, Indonesia. Illegal logging is a major threat to the world's ... / ©: WWF / Volker Kees
Illegal logging, Tesso Nilo, Sumatra, Indonesia. Illegal logging is a major threat to the world's forests.
© WWF / Volker Kees

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