JAKARTA, Oct 13 (Reuters) - A video camera hidden in an Indonesian forest has captured footage of a rare Sumatran tiger in the wild and a bulldozer clearing the same area a week later for palm oil plantations, conservationists WWF said on Wednesday.
Habitat destruction has pushed Sumatran tigers to the brink of extinction, with just 400 left in Indonesia from a worldwide tiger population of 3,200, said WWF.
A dispute between the palm oil industry and environmentalists has broad implications for Indonesia, whose plans to limit forest clearing may slow the aggressive expansion of plantation firms in the world's top palm oil producer. <^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
For a PDF on palm oil vs. the environment, see: http://r.reuters.com/hej64n
For a graphic on palm plantations and deforested areas, see:
http://graphics.thomsonreuters.com/RNGS/2010/AUG/PALM.jpg ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ > Footage captured by a WWF camera hidden in a forest in Riau, Sumatra, shows a male Sumatran tiger walking up and sniffing the device. A week later, it filmed a bulldozer clearing trees in the same area to make way for palm oil, WWF said.
A tiger is seen soon after walking through the flattened landscape.
"If we look at the status of the area, it is not an area dedicated for palm oil, which indicates this might be illegal clearing," said Ian Kosasih of WWF Indonesia. "This tells us that law enforcement is weak and improvement is needed."
Habitat destruction, he said, was also putting tigers in closer contact with people and increasing the risk of attacks on humans.
WWF said the area captured on film was declared protected by the Riau provincial government in 1994, but Auria Ibrahim, the forestry department's director general for forest protection, told Reuters the area was not classified as conservation forest.
Indonesia plans a two-year moratorium on new permits to clear natural forest, under a $1 billion deal with Norway aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation.
Poor planning and a lack of coordination between regional and central governments have undermined forest protection efforts in Indonesia, said Daniel Murdiyarso, a scientist with the Centre for International Forestry Research.
"Conflicting spatial planning is the general problem. Everybody has their own idea of land classification. If someone says this area is protected but another says it is not, that's the problem," he said.
"The role of coordinating agencies should be strengthened." (Reporting by Sunanda Creagh; Editing by Neil Chatterjee and Ron Popeski)
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