Monday, 25 May 2009

Fire on Elephant Conservation Forest (palm oil implicated)

Fire on Elephant Conservation Forest
Monday, 25 May, 2009

TEMPO Interactive, Riau:A fire swept the Sultan Syarif Kasim Forest Park area at the Siak – Pekanbaru border in Riau, yesterday. “There was a big fire and it caused panic among the local people,” said Riau Forestry Office chief, Zulkifly Yusuf, in Pekanbaru, yesterday.

“The fire was under control after 10 hours,” Zulkifly said, adding that at least 75 hectares of the area was scorched. He suspected that the national park area intended for elephant conservation was intentionally set on fire by a palm oil company to expand their plantation area in Siak regency.

Until yesterday afternoon, fire fighters were still trying to put out the fire to prevent it from spreading. According to Zulkifly, the fire, which began on Friday, was halted on Saturday.

The case is now being handled by an integrated team. The staff, Zulkifly said, have questioned the local people and palm oil managers near the area.

The Sultan Syarif Kasim Forest Park is a protected forest spread over three regencies and cities in Riau. The 7.000 hectare-area is part of Pekanbaru city and the regencies of Kampar and Siak.

Although the area is designated a national park, until today, hundreds of plantation companies and local people continue to clear land around it to expand their plantations.

Riau Forest Rescue coordinator, Susanto Kurniawan, said reducing this national park, have caused the elephant’s habitat to shrink and can no longer be categorized as a protected forest.

“More than 30 percent of the forest have been planted with palm oil trees. Ironically, not one offender has been brought to court,” said Susanto.

JUPERNALIS SAMOSIR,20090525-177920,uk.html