100,000 Squatters Are Growing Coffee in UNESCO World Heritage Site

Most live outside this National Park in Sumatra, grow crops within its boundaries

By on November 7th, 2012 21:01 GMT

According to a new report recently published in the journal Conservation and Society, more than 100,000 people are now living and/or growing coffee inside Sumatra's Bukit Barisan Seletan National Park, which just happens to be listed as a World Heritage Site.

Interestingly enough, both conservationists and environmentalists have been aware of this situation for quite a long while.

However, it was only now that several researchers have decided to carry out a census and figure out exactly how many people are working the lands in this National Park in order to make a living.

Patrice Levang, presently working with the Center for International Forestry Research, wished to draw attention to the fact that, “Most squatters have a low education level and limited marketable skills. They are looking for cheap land in order to make a living.”

Furthermore, “They would prefer more accessible locations closer to schools and dispensaries, but as such locations are not available they make do with encroaching in the Park, the best available opportunity for the time being.”

Given the fact that this National Park in Sumatra is home to several endangered species such as rhinos, tigers and elephants, it need not come as a surprise that most conservationists are now concerned about how this poignant human presence will impact on local wildlife.

In spite of the fact that growing coffee, cutting down trees or even living in such protected areas goes against conservation laws, it seems that local authorities in Sumatra have done very little to put an end to this situation, Mongabay reports.

“Local authorities generally block any coercive action against squatters as such action is considered as 'politically incorrect',” Patrice Levang goes on to explain.

As far as conservationists are concerned, it is of utmost importance that authorities act immediately towards driving these illegal farmers off the lands of this National Park, as their daily activities stand to harm most of the animals living here.

“We are not taking sides, but one has to choose between squatters and tigers. The two cannot live together,” the people who put together this report explain.

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