Dangku Tiger Conservation Partnership
The Dangku Tiger Conservation Partnership focuses on a region of South Sumatra that represents the plight of the island as a whole. The area is dominated by several large concessions for palm oil, forestry and oil and gas. But stretched across the landscape also lie several small conservation areas. Amongst these conservation islands live some of the world’s last Sumatran tigers.
All of these islands lack significant protection and, on their own, none of them is large enough to support a viable tiger population.
The future of the tigers therefore depends on increased protection of their core habitats, and connectivity through the industrial matrix surrounding them.
The aim of the DTCP is to unite the companies the hold the key to the Dangku tiger’s future and to work together to ensure that economic activities can continue, but not at the expense of the Sumatran tiger and the Islands rich biodiversity.
Sumatra’s biodiversity is held primarily in its forests and is essential for maintaining the environmental health on which people depend. In the last half century, rapid economic development has meant that much of the forest has disappeared, leaving a landscape dominated by industry, agriculture and people and a fragmented and struggling protected area system to conserve what remains of Sumatra’s biodiversity.
However, development and conservation are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Sumatran biodiversity can be conserved by a core of protected areas if it is supported by a matrix of eco-intelligent entrepreneurs working in partnership.
The importance of biodiversity and its conservation is widely recognised but its value intangible. At a functional level, species are an essential component of a functioning ecosystem; they are the bricks that build
the ecological superstructure on which we all depend on for our food, water and survival.
Species diversity is what makes the superstructure robust and adaptable, whilst species losses at the rates we are currently
witnessing equate to the chipping away at the very foundations that support us.
Of course no one can begrudge the benefits brought by such change. But economic development does not have to be at the total expense of the environment. It is therefore essential that wherever possible we find a way to minimise the impacts of our expansion on the biodiversity for our sake and for the sake of those around us.
Human- Wildlife conflict
Sumatra is part of the Sundaland, a biodiversity hotspot -one of the richest biodiversity centres in the world. But Sumatra also represents one of the areas where biodiversity is most at risk, with massive habitat clearance and land conversion driving massive species declines.
Fifty years ago Sumatra was largely covered in tropical forests, abounding with biodiversity, with pockets of human activity interspersed amongst them. Now the situation has reversed, with the remaining forest left as islands in a sea of human expansion with little tolerance for other species.
The last strongholds for biodiversity are the protected areas. These account for some 12% of the land surface, but are highly fragmented and many lack the resources required to be effectively managed. The Dangku region of South Sumatra represents a microcosm of much of the rest of the island.
Covering some six and a half thousand kilometres it is dominated by industrial land uses; oil palm, forestry and oil and gas extraction, interspersed with settlements. But traversing the human-dominated landscapes are a number of small conservation islands under a variety of limited protection regimes.
Whilst heavily threatened, ZSL research has shown that at least some of these islands still contain significant biodiversity value, including the critically endangered Sumatran tiger.
Working with industries for change
Surrounding the chain of conservation islands lies a patchwork of cleared or degraded forest occupied by a network of industrial concessions including oil palm, oil and gas and forestry interspersed by small communities of people.
Recent satellite imagery shows that some degree of forest connectivity still exists between all of the conservation areas - it is probably for this reason that the larger species, such as tigers, still persist.
But this connectivity disappears day by day as forest is cleared for crops, bisected by roads and settled by local communities. This process is happening both outside the conservation areas and inside. If continued unchecked, the landscape will lose much of its biodiversity heritage as well as its biological capacity to cope with change.
But development does not need to progress to the detriment of the environment. All industrial practices can be adapted to some degree to reduce impacts – it is often simply the case that the incentives to do so are absent.
Intelligent placement of new concessions can be the difference between further deforestation and utilising degraded, low value land. Leaving corridors of untouched habitat across plantations could make the difference between isolation and survival for tiger population fragments.
The companies that dominate such landscapes have the potential to make major, detrimental impacts on their local environment. But they also have the potential to mitigate much of this damage, particularly if working together. Making the decision to do so could make the difference a future of a dead landscape devoid of its past biodiversity and a living, working landscapes, a model for the rest of Sumatra.
ZSL has been conducting tiger-focussed wildlife surveys in Sumatra since 2004 and was part of the team that developed a set method for surveying for tiger presence across the island.
The surveys in Dangku will follow the same methods, using a mixture of foot transects to search for wildlife sign and camera traps to take direct photographs of individual species to build a map of wildlife diversity and distribution.
At the same time, ZSL is working with the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) to develop a cost effective but scientifically robust biodiversity survey method for surveying oil palm biodiversity that is compatible with High Conservation Value surveys. The Dangku surveys will contribute to the development of this method.
ZSL is currently negotiating an MoU with the Department of Forestry to cover all activities in Indonesia. The South Sumatra Wildlife and Conservation office (BKSDA) was a partner for the original surveys in Dangku Reserve and will remain a key partner in the field for the Dangku Tiger Conservation Partnership.