Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Camera Trap Records Illegal Logging

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) released a video today (look for it after the jump) of illegal logging operations that were captured by a heat detecting camera trap.  The camera trap was being used as part of a study of the behavior and habits of Sumatran tigers in the forest preserve of Bukit Betabuh near Bukit Tigapuluh national park in Riau province, Sumatra, Indonesia.  Bukit Batabuh was made into a protected area 1994, and categorized as a limited production forest, meaning it is illegal to commercially exploit the forest.

Due to environmental pressures such as poaching and habitat loss, there are now as few as 400 Sumatran tigers left in the wild in Indonesia.

In the video release, a male Sumatran tiger is shown sniffing at the camera on the 5th of May, 2010.  The video cuts to a week later, on the 12th of May, showing a bulldozer clearing a path through the same forest. The clip closes with a scene from the 13th of May, showing another Sumatran tiger walking through the area that was once unbroken jungle.

The area appears to be an important area for Sumatran tigers.  In the same general area, just 200 meters from where the male tiger and bulldozer were filmed, another trap camera captured video footage of a tigress and her cubs passing by in late 2009.

The road was most likely being constructed for an illegal palm oil plantation. Palm oil comes from the fruit of the oil palm tree.  The tree, a tropical species, originated in West Africa, but is now grown in many parts of the world as both a food and cash crop.  Part of its strength is that it is capable of producing more oil per hectare than any other major oilseed commodity, and has become widely used as a replacement for partially hydrogenated oils (trans fats) in many processed foods.  Additionally, palm oil is being invested in as a source for biodiesel in Indonesia, making it a lucrative crop to grow and encouraging encroachment of plantations into protected forest areas like the forests around Bukit Tigapuluh.

The WWF contacted local authorities in Riau province with the video evidence, and Ministry of Forestry is now investigating the matter, saying that if this activity is proven to be in violation of the law there will be a strong response.  However, it is unknown if the illegal logging and clear-cutting has been stopped yet.


  1. im pretty sure hemp oil can be farmed more than palm oil.

  2. @JillDine: The growing range for hemp is larger than that of the oil palm, indeed, it is grown in Sumatra, but palm oil still produces more oil per hectare than hemp. Hemp can produce between 0.6t to 2.4t per hectare. Palm oil is 2.5 to 3t per hectare. The two oils also do not have similar characteristics. Hemp oil has a very low smoke point, making it a poor choice for frying, which is one of the primary forms of cooking in places like Indonesia and West Africa. Additionally, palm oil has a far wider range of current commercial usage so there is already a market for the product. Hemp oil is still very niche oriented.

    So, even if hemp oil were the higher oil producer it probably wouldn't replace palm oil production.

  3. That's just terrible. Glad it's been caught though, hopefully something gets done about it.

  4. that is terrible.. we are destroying their home!

  5. Poor tigers, such beautiful creatures (until they eat your face off) but still a tragedy for them to lose their homes.


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