Winner of the Whitley Award for Conservation in Ape Habitats donated by the Arcus Foundation

Unique ecosystem

A vast expanse of tropical lowland rainforest, the Leuser Ecosystem is the only place in the world where four Critically Endangered and iconic species still survive together – the Sumatran orangutan, tiger, elephant and rhino. Home to an estimated 85% of the remaining Sumatran orangutan population, the Leuser forests also provide vital ecosystem services to four million people. However, this unique landscape is under threat due to the booming oil palm industry, with local communities living alongside the Gunung Leuser National Park illegally expanding agricultural plantations into orangutan habitat.

Panut Hadisiswoyo

Sowing knowledge

Founder of the Orangutan Information Centre, Panut Hadisiswoyo is leading the Community Agroforestry, Reforestation and Education programme (CARE), which works with communities living adjacent to the National Park. By providing training in agroforestry and organic farming techniques, the programme has enabled farmers to move away from monoculture plantations and develop sustainable livelihoods that are compatible with conservation. As a result, productivity of farmland has increased by 25% and pressure on the forest is decreasing.

Sumatran orangutan

Forest guardians

Through the CARE programme, Panut is encouraging local people to become guardians of the forest, creating a network of ‘conservation villages’. In collaboration with local communities, almost 1,000 ha of degraded forest have been replanted with over a million native trees since 2007. Consequently, Sumatran orangutans, elephants, and sun bears have returned to these areas, instilling local pride in the project’s success.

Reforestation - planting seedlings

Panut’s project aims to:

  • Expand the network of conservation villages and the CARE programme to a new region bordering the National Park.
  • Establish sustainable agriculture schemes with 100 farmers, and conduct reforestation activities by planting 66,000 trees at the new site.
  • Raise awareness about the importance of orangutan and forest conservation, reaching 1,200 people from communities surrounding the park.

Why it matters:

  • Sumatran orangutans are in danger of extinction if conservation efforts are not undertaken.
  • In the last 25 years, 48% of Sumatra’s forests have been lost due to logging, infrastructure, and agricultural development.
  • The Leuser Ecosystem has been identified as one of the world’s most irreplaceable protected areas by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

“People can now cultivate their land in a way that boosts income whilst protecting orangutans.”

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