Camera catches bulldozer destroying Sumatra tiger forest

Posted on 12 October 2010

A video camera trap installed by WWF and partners has captured footage linking the destruction of a crucial Sumatran tiger forest to the expansion of palm oil plantations in Indonesia’s Riau Province.

Jakarta, Indonesia — A video camera trap installed by WWF and partners has captured footage linking the destruction of a crucial Sumatran tiger forest to the expansion of palm oil plantations in Indonesia’s Riau Province.

Videos and photos captured in May and June 2010 – released to the public for the first time today – caught a male Sumatran tiger walking straight to a camera and sniffing it.

A week later, the heat-activated-video camera trap documented a bulldozer clearing trees for an illegal palm oil plantation in the same exact location. The next day, the camera recorded a Sumatran tiger walking through the devastated landscape.

Watch video:

Bukit Batabuh, where the film was taken, was classified as a protected area by Riau Province in 1994, and categorized as a limited production forest based on Indonesia’s 1986 Land Use Consensus, meaning no company can legally exploit the forest.

Clearing forest most likely illegal

“Because of its status, both as a protected area and limited production forest, the area cannot be developed as a palm oil plantation, therefore any forest clearence —including bulldozing activities to clear the path — strongly indicates this excavation was illegal,” said Ian Kosasih, WWF-Indonesia’s Director of Forest and Species Program. “The law should be enforced in this matter.”

“And to stop illegal activities such as this, the palm oil industry should not source its material from farmers or producers who develop their plantations illegally.”

Since mid-2009, WWF has installed video camera traps in Bukit Batabuh to study Sumatran tiger distribution, habits, and threats they are facing. The wildlife corridor connects Rimbang Baling Wildlife Reserve and Bukit Tigapuluh National Park, making it a crucial area for tiger conservation.

This area is an important habitat for Sumatran tigers

“These video camera traps show that Bukit Batabuh area is an important habitat for the Sumatran tiger in Riau, functioning as a wildlife corridor between Bukit Tigapuluh and Rimbang Baling Tiger Priority Landscape, hence it becomes a priority area for tiger conservation,” explained M. Awriya Ibrahim M.Sc Director of Investigation and Forest Protection, Ministry of Forestry.

“Forest clearance in this area threatens this endangered species because it reduces natural habitat and consequently increases human-tiger conflicts, an unfortunate consequence for both sides. Therefore, we encourage all stakeholders—namely provincial and district level government, business sectors, and communities—to support protection for this landscape. The Ministry of Forestry is investigating this matter and will take strong measure in law enforcement, if this activity is proven violating the law.”

Previous footage documents tigress and cubs only 200 metres from this location

The location where the tiger and bulldozer were documented by video in May 2010 is only 200 meters away from a video camera trap which captured a tigress and her cubs passing by in October 2009. (Watch video)

Indonesia has adopted protection for critical tiger habitats as part of its commitment to the Conservation Strategy and Action Plan for Sumatran Tiger 2007, and the National Tiger Recovery Plan, delivered at the Pre-Tiger Summit Partners’ Dialogue Meeting in Bali, in July 2010.

During the Bali meeting, which was attended by government delegates from all13 tiger range countries, a strategic plan to achieve an overarching goal of doubling wild tiger populations by 2022 was discussed. The plan is expected to be ratified by heads of government at the Tiger Summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, scheduled for 21-24 Nov. 2010.

“The Indonesian government’s commitment to improve protection for its biodiversity—including an ecosystem-based land-use planning delivered in international fora like the Pre-Tiger Summit Partners’ Dialogue Meeting in Bali last July, and upcoming Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in October —should be supported by stakeholders in provincial or district levels especially on the issue of overlapping land-use planning,” explained Chairul Saleh, General Secretary of the Sumatra Land Use Forum (ForTRUST).

Saleh said sufficient prey and protection for the remaining wild Sumatran tiger populations will allow the species to procreate and provide it with an intact home range and habitat that will minimize incidents of human-tiger conflict.

“Bearing this in mind, a revision of Riau’s Provincial Land Use Planning—based on sustainable development principles adhering to ecosystem preservation and accomodating the tiger’s habitat—is crucial.”

Land clearing practices for palm oil plantations in the area have been going on for some time, pushing the tiger to have close contact with humans. Workers have testified that they frequently find tiger tracks in palm oil plantations.

The deforestation rate in Riau pushed WWF to intensify tiger population surveys in the province. Aside from vast deforestation, the population declines are exacerbated by illegal poaching. In March, WWF’s Tiger Patrol Unit and Riau’s Nature Conservation Agency confiscated more than 110 tiger snares in Bukit Betabuh.

Tigers everywhere are losing habitat

There are as few as 400 Sumatran tigers left in Indonesia, or about 12 percent of the estimated global tiger population of 3,200 tigers. With its significant percentage of the global tiger population, Indonesia has a prominent role in tiger conservation efforts. The tiger population is threatened by loss and fragmented habitat, decreasing prey populations, illegal poaching and trading of the tiger and its body parts, as well as human-tiger conflicts.

Take action now and sign the Tiger Pledge on the WWF Action Centre.

For more information please contact:

M. Awriya Ibrahim M.Sc of Directorate-General Forest Protection and Nature Conservation, Ministry of Forestry of Indonesia +62 21 5730138

Karmila Parakkasi, WWF-Indonesia’s Sumatran tiger research team leader, m + 62 8117510735

Desmarita Murni, WWF-Indonesia’s Communications Manager, m +62 811793458,

Notes for Editor:

The video of Sumatran tiger and forest clearing activities in Sumatra’s Bukit Batabuh (referenced in the above text) can be downloaded from

- The link includes copyright information, a shot list, and a description.

About WWF

WWF is one of the world's largest and most respected independent conservation organizations, with almost 5 million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries. WWF's mission is to stop the degradation of the earth's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world's biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption.
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Female tiger captured by camera trap in Rimbang Baling-Bukit Tigapuluh Corridor, Riau, Indonesia.
© WWF-Indonesia / Tiger Survey Team
Young tiger wandering around with its mother (not shown on the picture) in Rimbang Baling-Bukit Tigapuluh Corridor, Riau, Indonesia.
© WWF-Indonesia / Tiger Survey Team
Burning in plantations and extensive land clearing. Palm oil trees in the smoke from forests fires.Riau province, Sumatra, Indonesia.
© Tantyo Bangung - WWF