Central Sumatra: Protection of the rainforest and the endangered Sumatran orangutan

Orangutan hanging from tree

Success for the protection of orangutans: Rainforest area secured. Photo: Stephanie Rahn

The recently approved 95-years Ecosystem Restoration Concession protects a total of 39,000 hectares tropical rainforest in the Bukit Tigapuluh region in Central in Sumatra. Prior to the approval, the two largest Asian paper companies, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and Greenpeace had agreed a voluntary moratorium. This agreement, which had been demanded by several nature conservation and environmental protection organisations, including the Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS), reinforces the intention to stop conversion of natural forest into plantations.

Through its International Climate Initiative (IKI), the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB) contributes approx. € 3.6 million to the project. Implemented by the German development bank Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW), the project not only aims to improve and protect the forest structure but also to include the local communities into the sustainable use of the forest. Thus, the project offers innovative opportunities to promote the economic development of the region without negatively affecting the lives of indigenous peoples. In a first step, the parties involved jointly developed a forest usage plan.

The newly protected area covered by the concession is bordering the Bukit Tigapuluh National Park, the largest contiguous lowland rainforest of Sumatra which provides habitat for many mammals such as the Sumatran elephant, the Sumatran tiger, tapir and again the Sumatran orangutan. On behalf of the Indonesian nature conservancy authorities, since 2001 the Frankfurt Zoological Society has been releasing orangutans that had been confiscated as they had been kept illegally in homes. By expanding the protected area additional habitat for more than 300 Sumatran orangutans is created which will help to establish a self-sustaining and sustainable population.