Rare photos of five different wild cats, including the endangered Sumatran tiger, have been caught on camera in an Indonesian forest threatened by deforestation, and the area must be protected, environmental group WWF said on Wednesday.
WWF used camera traps to capture the images of the Sumatran tiger, clouded leopard, marble cat, golden cat and leopard cat in a forest corridor near the Bukit Tigapuluh forest on central Sumatra island, which has seen rampant deforestation for palm oil and paper plantations.
Four of the species are protected by Indonesian regulations and are threatened with extinction, said Karmila Parakkasi, Coordinator of the WWF-Indonesia Tiger Research Team.
"This underscores the rich biodiversity of the Bukit Tigapuluh landscape and the forest corridors that connect to it," Parakkasi said in a statement.
"These amazing cat photos also remind us of how much we could lose as more of these fragile forests are lost to logging, plantations and illegal encroachment."
Over three months, the camera trapping resulted in more than 400 photographs of wild cats, including 226 of Sumatran tigers. WWF estimates that there are only 400 Sumatran tigers left in the wild.
The group released video footage in May showing 12 Sumatran tigers, including a mother with three young cubs playfully chasing a leaf. That footage was taken in the same area as the current photographs.
"Unfortunately much of the natural forest area in the landscape is threatened by large scale clearance for industrial logging, pulp and paper, as well as illegal encroachment for palm oil plantation development," said Aditya Bayunanda, WWF-Indonesia's Coordinator for the Global Forest Trade Network Programme.
He called for a review of the land concession licenses for companies operating in the area and adjustments in accordance with Indonesian regulations, which require concession holders to protect endangered species on their concessions.
"WWF-Indonesia has also called on protection for areas bordering Bukit Tigapuluh National Park, either by expanding the park or managing it under the current forest ecosystem restoration scheme," he added.
In May, a two-year moratorium on new permits to clear primary forests came into effect, part of a $1 billion deal with Norway that could spur projects to cut emissions and slow expansion of plantations.
But the long-delayed moratorium was breached on its first day, as a plantation company burned carbon-rich peatlands on Borneo island, an environmental group said.
Indonesia also revealed a long list of exemptions, in a concession to hard-lobbying plantation firms in Southeast Asia's largest economy.
In the last 70 years, Indonesia has lost both the Bali tiger and the Java tiger.
(Reporting by Elaine Lies; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)