Tigers threatened by wild forest fires
Thursday 15 September 2011
One of last remaining populations of Sumatran tigers in Indonesia is under threat from wild forest fires. The fires started in mid-August and now surround much of the border of Berbak National Park in Sumatra, a peat swamp forest that is prime tiger habitat. There are only 300 remaining Sumatran tigers in the wild and Berbak is an important site for the species’ survival.
Peat has a high carbon content and burns as smouldering, stealthy underground fires making the fires difficult to track and put out.
Ten local fire fighting teams have been drafted in to tackle the fires and are being aided by more than 100 local community volunteers and National Park staff.
The fires are believed to have been started by local villagers who burn the forest to clear the land for crops. The high energy content of peat meant the fires spread rapidly and are now concentrated in 14 different hotspots.
ZSL’s country coordinator for Indonesia, Laura D’Arcy says: “Berbak National Park is a unique habitat that provides a safe haven for the endangered Sumatran tiger, sun bears, macaques and tapirs amongst many other animals.
“It costs £1000 to provide fire-fighting services for a week, so we’re appealing for public donations to help keep the water flowing until the fires are fully extinguished”.
Photo credit: PK Ujang
The fires have already burnt 200 metres into the forest surrounding Berbak and dry weather is set to further hinder efforts to put them out.
ZSL monitors tiger populations in Berbak National Park as part of the Global Tiger Recovery Programme. Working closely with the Indonesian government, the long-term aim is set up the Berbak Carbon Project encouraging businesses to protect the forest in exchange for carbon credits.
Find out about our tiger conservation work in Indonesia here