This week the Jakarta Globe reported that a teenager named Ahmad Rafi was killed by a Sumatran tiger. He was mauled while he and his parents were tapping rubber trees in their plantation in Rimbo Melintang, a village in Riau province on the island of Sumatra.
When I first read this, I felt sick. I thought what a horrible way to die. What a horrible thing for your family to see. No one should have to die in such a way.
Then when processing this news on a deeper level, it made me angry. I realized that Rimbo Melintang is in the Senepis area, an area where Asia Pulp and Paper ( a subsidiary of Sinar Mas Group) along with other Sinar Mas-associated companies have expanded their natural forest clearance operations in five concessions.
In 2009, Eyes on the Forests released a study that showed that most violent incidents between people and tigers in Sumatra’s Riau Province occurred near forests being cleared by paper giant Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) and associated companies. Specifically, at least 147 of 245, or 60 percent, of all human-tiger conflicts in Riau occurred in the Senepis area.
As Asia Pulp and Paper clears and converts rainforests in the Senepis area and elsewhere in Indonesia, they eradicate tiger habitat, forcing tigers to roam into villages or onto plantations in search of food and setting off conflicts with unsuspecting humans like Ahmad Rafi.
While on the surface, the death of Amhad Rafi seems like a distant tragedy for most Americans, the reality is that there is a connection for all of us. Ahmad Rafi was a victim of deforestation and the unsustainable practices of Indonesian pulp and paper companies, and American demand for cheap paper products, like copy paper, toilet paper, and even books, is driving this deforestation.
As American consumers, we can try to honor Ahmad Rafi and his community by ensuring that our purchases don’t come from companies that are razing rainforests in the Senepis area or elsewhere in Indonesia. Find out more about our effect on Indonesian wildlife and what you can do about it by attending a Hot August Nights screening near you this month.