Bengkulu (ANTARA News) - Wide forest areas as habitats of rare animal species in the province of Bengkulu have been damaged on rampant illegal logging. One of the areas badly damaged is the Nature Tourism Park of Elephant Conservation Center in Seblat in the regency of North Bengkulu. Illegal logging remains rampant in the area, which is home to tens of wild animals including elephants, Sumatra tiger (Phantera Tigris Sumatrae) and Malayan bears. Meanwhile, coal miners are seeking to expand their operation into the protected forest areas, says Erni Suyanti Musabine, an official in charge of the conservation center. Erni said so far there had been four applications for license to explore for coal in the 7,000 hectare area. "Applications for coal exploration license have kept coming in whereas the Seblat conservation center was just given the status of nature tourism park from earlier status of production forests," she said on Tuesday. However a decision of the forestry minister had changed the status of 500 hectares of that area into conservation forests. "It causes us great concern as that in the 500 hectare area there are various rare species of wild animals," she said. Barlian, an environmentalist from the Bengkulu Walhi, said dwindling habitats as a result of change in forest functions, has caused frequent conflicts between the wildlife in Bengkulu. Barlian questioned the decision of the forestry minister changing the function of 500 hectares of the Seblat conservation area into conservation forest. "The decision is highly questionable as that area is habitat for various rare animal species," he said. Coal miners if allowed to enter that area would finally eliminate the rare animal species, he added. He warned that the survival of wild elephants in Sumatra have just been declared being critically endangered. (H-ASG)

Editor: Ella Syafputri
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