In 2011, the International Year of Forests, Sony launched activities to support WWF Japan's forest conservation project in the island of Sumatra, Indonesia.
The tropical forests of Sumatra are listed as a World Heritage Site and are precious areas fostering one of the richest biodiversity in the world. They have, however, rapidly shrunk in size over the last 30 years, and urgent actions are required to save a variety of species of flora and fauna, some of which are in danger of extinction. In addition, the illegal encroachment and cultivation of land within the national parks as well as logging have caused the loss of habitats for wildlife due to the related reduction in forest area. This has also led to conflicts with the local residents. Burning forest fields for cultivation has brought serious damages due to the smoky haze not only in Indonesia but also in neighboring countries.
One of the factors behind the destruction of forests is the felling of natural forested tracts for plantations of acacia and other trees providing raw material for paper production, and for plantations producing palm oil. Made-in-Sumatra paper and palm oil are exported around the world. Most of the copy paper that Japan imports from overseas also comes from Indonesia.
Paper is produced directly from precious forest resources or from planted wood with natural forest destruction. With a keen awareness of the importance of those resources, Sony is promoting the proper use of paper. For example, it has determined guidelines for the purchase of paper and printed matter throughout the Sony Group.
Besides such voluntary in-house activities, we are supporting activities to restore and conserve precious forests on the island of Sumatra as part of our activities to contribute to society, and we are engaged in communication campaigns to spread the word about the conservation efforts and the situation there.
In total area, the Sumatra island of the Southeast Asia is about 1.25 times as large as Japan and the sixth-largest island in the world. The tropical forests that once covered the whole island are rapidly being lost. The depletion over the last 25 years has been particularly rapid. From 1985 to 2012, more than half of the forests disappeared. There are fears that if logging continues at the current pace the tropical forests in low-lying expanses on the island will disappear altogether in the near future.
There is the additional problem of smoky haze caused by the start and spread of forest fires due to the burning of fields for farming in Indonesia in recent years. This is exacerbating air pollution not only in Indonesia, but also in neighboring countries such as Malaysia and Singapore. It consequently has become a major social issue affecting the health of both the animals living in the tropical rainforests and the local residents. It is also viewed with concern from the perspective of global warming as it results in huge atmospheric emissions of carbon dioxide.
It is the goal of this project to enable the local residents to maintain their livelihood by sustainable methods, and to save forests and endangered species in entire Sumatra. The conservation of forests in Sumatra is therefore also linked to the prevention of global warming. Sony is supporting the whole assortment of activities implemented by the WWF in Sumatra, including its tree-planting program, survey of forests and wildlife, elephant patrols, and program for improvement of local agriculture.
The project activities are centered on Bukit Barisan Selatan (BBS) and Tesso Nilo (TN) National Parks. These parks are home to wildlife at high risk of extinction, such as the Sumatran rhinoceros, elephant, and tiger. Sony products are in extensive use on the site of the survey conducted by the WWF of the habitat for these animals. The data collected from these survey activities is of precious value. Besides serving as a key source of information for checking whether or not problems are occurring at the site and assisting in the control of illegal activity, they are vital for communicating the on-site situation to the rest of the world.
WWF has planted trees on 90 hectares in Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park and 85 hectares in Tesso Nilo National Park. In this program, the staff plants a well-balanced mix of seedlings of 12 species of trees native to the area to restore the original forest, and manage the seedlings for a period of five years.
In addition, the staff holds a workshop on education for sustainable development (ESD) at elementary and junior high schools in the area. The purpose is to instill in local residents an awareness of the importance of environmental preservation, and to get the entire area involved in activities to protect forests. The 2014 workshop attracted the participation of 30 teachers from 26 elementary and junior high schools. These teachers imparted the ESD education method to other teachers in their schools, so that it was learned by about 70 teachers. In addition, a cumulative total of about 900 students have taken the ESD class so far.
In Sumatra, patrols are made by mahouts (elephant trainers) astride trained elephants to uncover illegal activity in national parks such as occupation of land and poaching, and to keep wild animals away from villages near the parks where people live. In 2014, the patrols managed to prevent the intrusion of wild animals into residential areas in 229 cases. The program includes the development of female mahouts and spread of the patrols to other areas having problems with the intrusion of wild animals.
In WWF's Forest Conservation Project in Sumatra, efforts are also being made to help local residents make a better living without illegal logging or other such activity. Examples are the promotion of eco-tourism and the introduction of organic cultivation for agricultural products already being produced in the area.
Tomi is a baby elephant that was discovered by the WWF team during a patrol in the forest in July 2009.
The team first tried to return Tomi to the forest, but the little elephant had not yet even been weaned and would have found it hard to survive if put back in the wild all alone. Eventually, the Elephant Patrol members decided to care for it themselves.
Now, about six years later, Tomi has grown up and is fully active as a member of the Elephant Patrol team.