The Leuser Ecosystem– one of the most important reserves in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site – provides a haven for many rare species of animals and plants which are endangered on account of the increasing clearance of forests for palm oil plantations. Here there is the world’s highest density of orangutans and other flagship species, for example the white-handed gibbon, the Sumatran tiger and the giant soft-shelled turtle.
The peat swamp rainforest of Tripa, an important part of the Leuser Ecosystem, is particularly endangered. The deforestation of Tripa threatens the unique biodiversity, contributes to global warming and destroys the basis of existence for the local human population. The peat swamp rainforests are an important basis of existence for the people who live there. They provide effective protection against natural disasters such as tsunamis, provide clean drinking water and, with their ample supply of fish and fruits, ensure there are food resources available.
If the peat swamp rainforests are burnt down and drained, huge amounts of carbon are released into the atmosphere in the form of CO2 and contribute to global warming. A study by PanEco and the World Agroforestry Centre ICRAF comes to the conclusion that the destruction of Tripa will release an estimated 30 million tons of carbon in the next 30 years.
Against the background of the acute threat to Tripa, PanEco and its partner NGO YEL started a programme in 2005 to stop the destruction and to ensure the long-term restoration and conservation of the unique rainforests of Tripa. The programme pursues two complementary goals: improving local environmental policy and creating alternative sources of income.
The Leuser Ecosystem with its unique biodiversity is also under great threat: in the province of Aceh the government has introduced a new spatial planning law aiming to free up huge areas of this ecosystem for mining and also paper and palm oil plantations. The law is in conflict with national environmental protection laws, but the provincial government is insisting on its implementation. The Leuser Ecosystem is not only essential for the survival of us humans. It comprises one of the most important rainforests in the world and provides a haven for many rare species of animals and plants which are endangered on account of the increasing clearance of forests.
At the end of 2013 there was a major success: the Indonesian court fined the palm oil company PT Kallista Alam 9 million US dollars for illegal slash-and-burn agriculture in the Leuser ecosystem. In 2014 the court finally rejected Kallista Alam’s appeal and is therefore supporting the decision of the governor of Aceh to revoke the palm oil company’s illegal palm oil concession. This historic verdict sets a precedent and gives hope that there will be similar rulings in other cases.