Save the rainforest: ranger for Leuser Ecosystem 3

Two Ranger Teams for the Leuser Ecosystem

Rettet den Regenwald e.V. supports the Forum Konservasi Leuser (FKL) in the Leuser ecosystem. Almost 30 ranger teams are in action against deforestation, poaching and illegal oil palm plantations. Thanks to our donation, two drones were purchased and two new ranger teams were trained, equipped with uniforms, backpacks, GPS devices and sleeping bags.

Each team consists of four rangers who patrol particularly sensitive areas. “Our” teams are working in the southwest of the Leuser ecosystem, where they are apprehending poachers and loggers, confiscating traps and documenting wildlife around two new roads.

Results of their work: without the conservation efforts now underway, the Leuser area would have been cut into three fragments in a short period of time. Deforestation along the two new roads has been largely halted. Logging is declining, but poaching is still a major problem. And: We know more about the wildlife, especially the endangered orangutans, tigers, elephants and rhinos of Sumatra. We want to help preserve the unique Leuser ecosystem, for biodiversity, climate and humanity.

The two new ranger teams have been patrolling since March 2019. FKL reports that since then, detected illegal activities have decreased by 30%. The decrease in deforestation and illegal logging was particularly significant. In addition, 19% more endangered wildlife was detected, which may be due to an efficient reduction in poaching. The number of traps collected increased slightly, i.e. poaching is still widespread.

A team of rangers discovers an illegal oil palm plantation in the Leuser ecosystem © FKL
Forum Konservasi Leuser

With the Forum Konservasi Leuser (FKL), biologist Rudi Putra has taken the protection of the Leuser ecosystem to a new level. In 2014, Rudi Putra received the Goldman Environmental Prize for his effective engagement. Since then, he has been able to expand FKL’s impact tremendously. FKL works on a variety of levels: Ranger teams patrol endangered areas, Rudi Putra’s people chop down illegally planted oil palms and reforest them in spots. In cooperation with the authorities, FKL files charges and brings the perpetrators to justice.

Rangers find a snare for the Malayan honey bear © FKL
The Leuser Ecosystem

The Leuser ecosystem on the island of Sumatra, Indonesia, is one of the most biodiverse and diverse ecosystems in the world. Only here do the four large mammals orangutan, tiger, elephant and rhino live together in the same habitat. The Leuser ecosystem is threatened by logging, poaching, road construction and oil palm plantations.

This protected area is one of the largest and most important in Indonesia. It bears the name
“Leuser Ecosystem Conservation Area” (KEL, Kawasan Ekosistem Leuser). KEL is mostly located in the autonomous province of Aceh and is named after its highest mountain, Gunung Leuser (3404 meters).

Its landscapes-coastal Indian Ocean, rainforest, mountain forests, peat bogs, and swamps-host various types of tropical forests. Its rainforests have been among the last original in Indonesia. 8,500 plant varieties have been documented, including tropical trees such as meranti (Shorea sp.), damar (Hopea spp.), keruing (Dipterocarpus spp.). The largest flower in the world, Rafflesia, also grows here.

Road Threatening The Leuser Ecosystem © HaKa

Famous for its fauna, the Leuser ecosystem is praised as the only place on earth where the four endangered large mammals orangutan (Pongo pygmeus), the very rare Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatera), the Sumatran rhinoceros and the Sumatran elephant live together in the same habitat.

live together. At least seven cat species can be found in the Leuser ecosystem, besides the Sumatran tiger also the spotted leopard (Neofelis nebulosa), the golden cat (Felis temmincki) and the marble cat (Felis marmorata). There are wild dogs (Cuon alpinus), the honey bear (Helarctos malayanus) and wild goats (Capricomis sumatrensis).

From initial local wildlife reserves, a national park of about 10,000 km² in size was created in 1995 – the Leuser National Park now forms the core of the total 26,000 km² Leuser ecosystem. Two thirds of the Leuser ecosystem are located in the province of Aceh, one third in the province of North Sumatra.

Threats to the Leuser ecosystem: tropical timber, palm oil, mining and roads

“Terrible” says Rudi Putra of the Forum Konservasi Leuser about the state of the Leuser ecosystem. Because protection programs could not prevent nature from being destroyed piece by piece.
Illegal logging: At the end of the Suharto regime in 1998, ¼ of the Leuser ecosystem was destroyed. After the devastating tsunami on December 26, 2004, peace negotiations were politically successful, but ecologically tragic. Logging increased massively.

Oil palm plantations have sprung up in many places in the Leuser ecosystem in recent years. Not infrequently, they belong to former independence fighters and local politicians.
According to NASA satellite data analyzed by the University of Maryland, more than 300 km² of rainforest was destroyed between 2002 and 2008. Between 2008 and 2013, however, the rate of destruction more than doubled to 803 km² (data on Global Forest Watch website).

Road construction (Ladia Galaska, a road system running through the KEL and partly still under construction), severely threatens the existence of the ecosystem.

Deforestation is increasing year by year. Local environmental organizations estimate that only half of the Leuser ecosystem is now forested, of which only 5 percent is primary forest.

Disasters: The immediate result of deforestation, besides the loss of rainforest, biodiversity, and water and climate protection, is the terrible flooding disasters that hit Aceh so frequently.

Poaching is a huge problem. Skins, horn and live animals fetch high prices on the world market, and smuggling of birds, pangolins and many other animals is common. With the support of the animal protection foundation Wolfgang Bösche, two ranger teams could be equipped with GPS devices, backpacks and other equipment.

From the work of the two ranger teams

Based on the rangers’ findings, FKL makes raids, together with authorities and police. Timber and equipment (trucks, chainsaws) are confiscated, illegal loggers are arrested and legal action is taken. As a result, illegal activities decrease.

Patrol routes of the two new ranger teams© FKL
Raid against illegal loggers, together with the police © FKL
Arrested illegal loggers with seized wood © FKL
“Friends of the Leuser “are the hope – youth in the Forum Konservasi Leuser © FKL