The Sumatran tiger is one of the rarest animals on Earth, with only a few hundred individuals estimated to survive today. Perhaps its greatest stronghold is Kerinci Seblat National Park in the mountains of western Sumatra — the largest park on the island.
And shockingly, the government of Jambi Province wants to punch a series of roads right into the heart of the park.
Why imperil one of Earth’s greatest biological jewels? The government is using the excuse that the roads are needed for ‘emergency’ evacuation in case Mount Kerinci — an active volcano that periodically belches smoke and ash — should happen to erupt.
However, very few people live near Mount Kerinci. The closest villages are at least 8 kilometers from the base of the mountain, according to experts from Flora & Fauna International.
But that doesn’t matter to the local government. In late 2013, Mount Sinabung in northern Sumatra erupted. And although the government had imposed a 7-kilometer exclusion zone around the volcano, farmers illegally encoached deep into the zone. When the volcano erupted, 16 people were killed.
Roads to Ruin
Punching roads into Kerinci Seblat would be a disaster not just for Sumatran tigers but also for the park’s other wildlife, which is among the richest on Earth.
Notably, the park formerly including the critically imperiled Sumatran rhinoceros, a species even more imperiled than the Sumatran tiger. But, tragically, the rhinos have been completely poached out of the park.
Roads would surely bring more poachers and illegal loggers, farmers, and miners into the area. Poaching is already taking a terrible toll on Sumatran tigers, as reported recently in ALERT.
For an animal that is this critically endangered, even limited poaching can be lethal — and that is happening already. How much worse would it get if the tiger’s best stronghold is breached?