THE BLOG
03/20/2009 03:21 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Humans Maul Sumatran Tiger

It's not just Greenpeace activists who are taking a beating. On the Indonesian island of Sumatra, one of the world's largest paper companies is threatening one of the planet's most endangered species.

Sumatran forests are among the world's most biologically diverse, but more than half the island's forests have been destroyed since 1985, often to feed local pulp mills or to establish oil palm plantations. Eyes on the Forest - a coalition of 25 NGOs in central Sumatra - recently obtained maps depicting large areas of rainforest that have been cleared to feed the pulp mills of Asia Pulp and Paper (APP/SINAR MAS), Indonesia's largest paper company and its parent holding company. The coalition integrated those maps with data showing the location of deadly encounters between tigers and people. Sure enough, destroying intact rainforests doesn't sit so well in the Sumatran tiger community anymore.

Check out the maps here.

Since 1997, in Riau province alone, 55 people and 15 Sumatran tigers have been killed. Another 17 tigers have been captured and removed from the wild. "With so much forest loss, the tigers have nowhere to go," said Ian Kosasich of WWF-Indonesia. "In the last month alone, four tigers have been killed in Riau. There are fewer than 400 tigers estimated to remain in the wild and every tiger killed is a significant loss to the population of this critically endangered subspecies."

These deaths, both human and tiger, are now part of the cost of our printer paper. They are also a sign of how badly the cycles of life are being disrupted in ways that damage our communities and the natural landscapes that nourish us. Worse, these deaths are only a first symptom of a larger problem that deforestation is causing in Indonesia.

Many of the forest concessions (an industry euphemism for clearcut logging) operated by APP/SINAR MAS in Sumatra and elsewhere are located in peat forests, essentially swamp forests with waterlogged soils. Peat forests store more carbon than any other ecosystem on earth. The destruction of peat forests in Southeast Asia, 90% of which occurs in Indonesia, results in 2 billion tons of CO2 emissions, the same as emissions from all coal power electricity in the U.S., and is the biggest reason why Indonesia is the world's third largest greenhouse gas emitter.

Much of the paper from APP/Sinar Mas is sold to corporate customers in the U.S. and Europe. Some companies, such as Staples, Home Depot, and Wal-Mart, have cut ties with the paper giant; other customers have dragged their feet. APP/Sinar Mas doesn't want us to think about this part of the supply chain when we're buying printer paper at Target or admiring a specialty shopping bag that holds our treasures from Gucci. But as scientists are making clear every day, deforestation in Indonesia is now our problem too. In a way, we are all tigers in danger of losing our only home.