Would you walk hundreds of miles in the hot sun or trudge through heavy rain in areas where tigers and elephants are known to roam? Does riding motorbikes on slippery and muddy terrain, and navigating crocodile habitats in boats seem too dangerous? For the Landscape Conservation division at Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) Sinar Mas, these conditions are part of their routine for programs aimed at key wildlife species.
These conservation programs are critically needed. Over the last 25 years, illegal poaching, habitat encroachment and human-elephant conflicts have led to an alarming decrease in the Sumatran elephant population.
With a key focus on three priority wildlife and ten species of rare trees, APP’s conservation programs support the Government of Indonesia’s initiatives for protecting the country’s vulnerable flora and fauna. The conservation team is focused on protecting and conserving the Sumatran elephants, which have been classified as Critically Endangered.
The Biodiversity Conservation team is responsible for ensuring the implementation of conservation programs, such as the monitoring of wildlife and their habitats through the installation of camera traps and GPS collars during patrols to mitigate conflict.
For conservation programs to be fully implemented, it is equally important to involve other stakeholders such as local government and the community, which is why APP also assists with educating and socializing village residents on living peacefully alongside these creatures.
One of the most important programs is elephant-friendly village initiative, which is an economic-based community empowerment program and conservation of endangered animals by encouraging "coexistence" with elephant wildlife. Supported by the Indonesian Wildlife Conservation Foundation (YKSLI) and with the assistance of the Indonesia Elephant Conservation Forum, the pilot initiative was first implemented in 2015 in Jadimulya village near the PT Karawang Ekawana Nugraha (PT KEN), APP’s ecosystem restoration concession area in the Padang Sugihan landscape by involving village community representatives in conflict mitigation training with wild elephants with the principle of coexistence.
APP works with various elephant experts and entities such as the Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA), Indonesia Elephant Conservation Forum (FKGI), Forest Wildlife Society (PJHS), YKSLI, and more to conduct elephant conservation training and share conflict mitigation strategies with members of the community and company workers.
In addition to this, a ‘no-burning’ commitment was declared in the village to ensure there would be enough space for elephants to live, as agricultural burning leads to shrinking habitats and conflict.
When the pilot was successfully implemented, the concept was then applied in two other villages that have an annual history of human-elephant conflicts. Now, two more villages are targets of the elephant-friendly village program.
The team underlines the importance of having "a strong mentality and a sense of purpose", critically needed to understand the natural behaviours of wildlife and the principle of sharing a common space with them.
Through integrated synergy and collaborative management with the Government, researchers, the private sector and the community, in monitoring, conserving and protecting umbrella species, APP hopes it can continue to support the government to help provide opportunities for wild animals to survive in habitats inside and outside conservation areas in the long term and avoid local extinction.