Threats

Forest loss on Sumatra due to logging and conversion to agriculture. The red depicts forest cover. rel=
Forest loss on Sumatra due to logging and conversion to agriculture. The red depicts forest cover.
© WWF
Sumatra's forest area has declined rapidly in the past decade. Rapid development, global market forces and political change in Indonesia have also taken a toll on the park, destroying much of the forest and forcing its wildlife into smaller and smaller pockets of habitat. If no efforts are made to stop this degradation, loss of habitat could result in local extinction of tigers, rhinos and elephants in parts of Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park.
The health and viability of Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park face 3 main threats: land encroachment, poaching and illegal logging. Of the three, illegal encroachment and conversion of the forest for agricultural purposes is the most serious and often drives the other two threats. Today, almost one-third of the park's original forest cover has been destroyed as a result.

Coffee has become an important commodity for southern Sumatra, in particular the area of Lampung Province around Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park. Indonesia is now the world's fourth-largest coffee exporter, behind only Brazil, Colombia and Vietnam.

As a result, robusta coffee - a plant that's easy to grow in hot climates and often used to make instant coffee and energy drinks - has become a common crop planted in the park. But the park is a protected area; therefore, the coffee is illegally planted, grown and sold. The illegal coffee is routinely commingled with legally grown coffee from other parts of Lampung Province, resulting in local, national and international supply chains having become "tainted" with illegal coffee.

Former Park Director Tamen Sitorus estimated that more than 15,100 families had been clearing land for agricultural purposes over the last few years (The Jakarta Post, 1 July 2004).

Indonesia's island of Sumatra has seen a dramatic acceleration of forest loss in the past few decades. Predictions forecast an almost complete clearing of forests by 2010 with only the steepest slopes and deepest peat swamps surviving.

As the world's fourth-largest coffee exporter, and the second-largest producer of robusta coffee after Vietnam, Indonesia has continuously increased its national coffee production. In many areas the establishment of new farms and plantations has been at the expense of natural forest.

Encroachment Processes

  • Marking out the forest area with signs and harvesting the commercially marketable timber before clearing all the remaining vegetation;

  • Extracting the valuable timber either for the family's own consumption or for sale, leaving the remaining vegetation debris to sun-dry for up to three months before burning it;

  • Re-burning the remaining vegetation debris before clearing and preparing the land for cultivation;

  • In the first year, dry-land rice paddies or other seasonal crops that can be harvested in a year or less are usually cultivated, while the farmers prepare perennial crops, predominantly coffee;

  •  In the second year, cultivation of dry-land paddies continues, but multi-cropping with seedlings of coffee is introduced so the farmers still benefit from harvesting seasonal crops;

  • Once the coffee plants have branched out and are creating shade, the dry-land rice is no longer productive and the coffee can be left without intensive maintenance.

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