Winner of the Whitley Award for Conservation in Ape Habitats donated by the Arcus Foundation
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.
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.
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.
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.”
Project Update: 2017 Continuation Funding
A real life Jungle Book: Safeguarding orangutans in the Leuser Ecosystem
£53,000 over 2 years
The Leuser Ecosystem in Sumatra is the only place in the world where orangutan, rhino, elephants and tigers still co-exist. Panut works here to encourage local communities to embrace conservation actions and improve their own livelihoods. This project will incorporate new methods developed by Hotlin Ompusunggu , 2016 Whitley Gold Award winner, and shared during an exchange visit whereby local people undertake conservation actions in return for a local service – in this case for junior schooling. The home grown tree seedlings produced in exchange for schooling, together with seedlings produced in the restoration nursery will be planted to restore 100 ha of forest over two years. Similarly, 200 orange farmers will benefit from learning more sustainable cultivation practices to decrease agricultural encroachment into forest habitat. Over 1,000 community members will benefit from greater environmental awareness and each year 50 primary school children will obtain schooling in their village. This project will enable old and young to work to maintain their unique ecological heritage for future generations.