Save the forest, save the tiger
ZSL’s carbon trading initiative aims to protect Sumatran tigers by protecting the forests in which they live by making these habitats more valuable to local communities.
Sumatra boasts some of the highest levels of biodiversity in the world and, with 201 species, has more mammals than any other island in Indonesia. However forests generate no income for local communities and are instead disappearing fast through illegal logging.
The peat swamp forests of Berbak National Park and its surrounds in eastern Sumatra are tiger and carbon-rich. ZSL’s project base in Sumatra is part of a large coastal peat swamp ecosystem which is steadily being eroded by illegal logging and fires.
Indonesia is the world’s fifth largest emitter of CO2 ; 85% of these emissions are due to deforestation, and 70% of that is due to destruction of peat swamp forests, which contain at least six times as much carbon as any other forest type.
Stopping deforestation is one of the most cost-effective, and quickest, ways of decreasing CO2 emissions – and it also conserves not only the myriad plants and animals contained in the forest, but also the ecosystem services of watersheds and soil retention on which the wellbeing of humans as well as wildlife ultimately depends.
With the advent of carbon trading, it is now possible to put a cash value on living, breathing forests full of wildlife. They can become income generators in their own right, perhaps even as lucrative as the land would be if cleared and converted to oil palm or timber.
Tiger friendly carbon credits
Working in collaboration with government and other organisations, ZSL will set up a system where wealthier nations can meet their greenhouse-gas emissions in part by buying tiger friendly carbon credits from Indonesia. In so doing, local communities could earn money by keeping their forests standing rather than cutting them down.
The scheme, officially called Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation REDD+, is perhaps the most important opportunity in our lifetime to save the forests that tigers occupy and the carbon locked up those trees.
It will enable us to lay the groundwork for a scientifically robust and meaningful carbon credit - with added tigers!