Sumatran tiger's forest home a top climate change priority

The 143,000-hectare Berbak National Park in Sumatra has become an official REDD+ Demonstration site, pointing the way to greater financial and political support to tackle illegal logging and deforestation. Forests store large amounts of carbon, so when they are cut down and burned to clear the land this stored carbon is released into the atmosphere. Tropical deforestation generates about 12% of global greenhouse gas emissions. In response to this the UN is designing a mechanism, called REDD+, to help tropical countries protect their forests, and the endangered wildlife within them.

Norway has already committed 1 billion dollars in support of Indonesia’s REDD+ action plan, with the Indonesian government also preparing to use more of its own national budget to save its forests, starting with priority ‘demonstration’ sites like Berbak.
Berbak – an area of forest the size of London – is a key breeding ground for the Sumatran tiger and over the past four years the Zoological Society of London’s (ZSL) camera trap studies have recorded enough photographs of the tiger population to establish the site’s critical role in the future of the subspecies. Every year, however, logging, drainage canals and encroaching farmland damage the forest and the fragile deep peat soils on which it sits. This damage is releasing millions of tonnes of the greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide. Action is urgently needed to save the habitat and reduce carbon emissions.

Since 2009, ZSL has led the ‘Berbak Carbon Initiative’ alongside the National Park agency, gathering the evidence base for the Indonesian government’s decision. Berbak’s approval as an official REDD+ demonstration site gives a green light for efforts to be ramped up to save its threatened carbon and biodiversity.

Laura D’Arcy, Country Manager for ZSL’s Indonesia Programme says: “We are delighted that our applied biodiversity research and teamwork with the National Park agency has helped to put Berbak on the map in the national REDD+ action plan. Together we are ready to step up our efforts to create long-term benefits for conservation, communities and the climate.”

Over the next five years, ZSL and the National Park agency will aim to make a forest teeming with wildlife financially productive for the Indonesian economy without the need to cut it down and replace it with plantations. Donor countries such as Norway, Germany and the USA, as well as private climate funds will be asked to invest in conservation actions that save Berbak’s massive carbon store while securing its tiger population and improving the livelihoods of local communities surrounding the park. The lessons learned from the project will be shared with other parts of the country that are aiming to curb deforestation, as well as across the globe.

Dr Hayani Suprahman, Head of Berbak National Park, says: “Berbak is one of Indonesia’s most important conservation areas. Its recognition as a priority site in our nation’s efforts to tackle deforestation is a vital stepping stone towards protecting its unique natural heritage for generations to come. My team looks forward to developing our partnership with ZSL as we push forward at a new frontier of international cooperation.”

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