Tue, 23 Aug 1994

Monkeys, tobacco getting smoked out by bushfire

JAKARTA (JP): The current forest fires on the slopes of Mt. Merbabu in Central Java have caused two casualties -- the fires have spread to a tobacco farm, and monkeys who inhabited the forest have been forced to migrate in droves.

Meanwhile, preliminary investigations found that unextinguished campfires lit by careless hikers may have been the prime cause of the week-long fire which was extinguished on Saturday.

An official of the Forestry's Office in Surakarta, S. Poerwanto, said they found evidence consisting of left-over bread, two candies and an orchid, which are all currently being held as evidence at the Boyolali chapter of the State's Perhutani forestry firm.

Poerwanto was quoted by the Antara news agency as saying that the fire, which lasted from last Monday to Saturday, burnt some 200 hectares of bush land, 30 hectares of pine forests and several tobacco plantations belonging to local farmers located in Ngargoloko village of the Ampel subdistrict, Boyolali regency.

Antara reported that the fire caused a pack of monkeys to move to a safer location. The black-furred monkeys, known by the locals as lutung, are said to be eaters of the farmers' crops such as corn.

According to Forest Police officer Suyanto, the fire was put out by 12 forest police from the office's Pentur Unit, by forming a barrier around the fire to prevent it from spreading.

Strong winds however made their job difficult and the fire could only be extinguished after surrounding villagers gave a hand.

Poerwanto said the area of the Pentur Unit which is located on Mt. Merbabu totaled some 2,470 hectares of bush land and productive forests.

The area which caught fire was small compared to this, while total losses reached some Rp 750,000 (US$345), excluding the loss of the farmers' plantations, he said.

According to Warto, a forest policeman of the Pentur Unit, Mt. Merbabu has four craters, having an average diameter of two meters each, which are popular sites of attraction for hikers.

Warto estimated that tigers still roamed the mountain since forest policemen often found the animal's feces with traces of its fur. (pwn)