Fri. Feb 26th, 2021

JAKARTA — An upgrade to a road that cuts through one of Southeast Asia’s last great swaths of intact rainforest is driving deeper encroachment by humans into blocks of forest that may spread into a national park. The road runs 36 kilometers (22 miles) between the districts of Karo and Langkat in Indonesia’s North Sumatra province, and for a long time was no more than a dirt track, a 4.1-km (2.5-mi) stretch of which runs through Gunung Leuser National Park. Authorities recently upgraded the road, paving it over with asphalt, despite calls from UNESCO not to do so. The national park is part of a wider UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s also part of the Leuser Ecosystem, the last place on Earth where critically endangered rhinos, tigers, elephants and orangutans still coexist in the wild — but which has also been eaten away at in recent years by human encroachment for oil palm cultivation and illegal logging. More than 450,000 hectares (1.1 million acres) of the Leuser Ecosystem have been deforested, leaving 1.8 million hectares (4.4 million acres) of intact rainforest as of 2019, according to data from the NGO Forest, Nature and Environment of Aceh (HAkA). Activists say they fear more forests and habitat of key species will be lost in near future the newly paved road provides easier access into previously untouched forest areas, eventually carving into the national park itself. The Bukit Barisan public forest park, a neighboring block of forest that isn’t subject to the same…This article was originally published on Mongabay
Sourced from Conservation news