Sumatran tiger.
Sumatran tiger. Credit: Roger Smith/Flickr

Big news this week in the paper industry. Jakarta-based paper giant Asia Pulp & Paper (APP), the largest paper and pulp company in Indonesia and the third largest in the world, has agreed to stop clearing natural forests and use “only plantation forest,” as managing director of sustainability Aida Greenburg told Reuters. The news, announced on Tuesday, follows years of advocacy by groups such as the Rainforest Action Network, Greenpeace and the Forest Trust, who will continue to monitor APP’s Indonesian operations.

Having worked in Indonesia with The Orangutan Information Centre (OIC), Gunung Leuser National Park and the Farmer Guardians of Leuser to restore areas of illegally converted protected forest, we’re happy to hear the news. According to Orangutan Foundation International, Indonesia is home to 10 percent of the world’s remaining rainforests and is one of the five most species-diverse countries in the world. Such a biodiversity hot-spot has global significance, yet Indonesia is also the country with the third highest number of threatened species.

Orangutan. Credit: Tony Hisgett/Flickr

Among the many endangered animals that have been further threatened by APP’s forest clearing activities are Sumatran orangutans — a more social species than their Bornean relatives, often gathering together at fig trees to enjoy a favorite fruit — and Sumatran tigers, the smallest and darkest tiger subspecies. The ramin tree, a protected genus, was also discovered among some of the trees at an APP paper mill.

These endangered species are not the only ones who will benefit from APP’s proposed new practices. A large percentage of the land the company had been operating in is forested peatland, storing high levels of carbon that are released as the forests are cleared. APP’s plan to rely on farmed trees will have a big effect on its contribution to atmospheric carbon levels.