By Dave Armstrong
In 2013 the large mammals of Sumatra were saved from destruction. A concerted worldwide effort prevented paper manufacturers, mining industries and agricultural multinationals from enlarging their bases near National Parks in Aceh. Rudi Putra who is a local activist wrote tellingly that, "I live and work in the last place on Earth where endangered orangutans, rhinos, elephants and tigers still roam together, but it'll be bulldozed to bits unless our President hears our call and steps in to save this unique habitat." Now the same battle is to be refought!
Local government n Aceh Province have always tended to open protected forests up for exploitation. The obvious reason is the profits from industry, but too many of these end up elsewhere. While the EU sponsors large sustainable forestry projects in Sumatra, its money must be withdrawn if deliberately negative action is taken by local government. Individual nations have been lobbying for conservation effort, but the EU itself is responsible for larger support. The federal government is definitely positive for conservation when it extends forest or peatland moratoria, leaving only the governor and local politicians as potentially exploitative.
The orang-utans and Sumatran tiger and elephant populations are critically endangered in the small peninsulas to which they have been driven. Without these final refuges, the captive programme for preserving their species is all we have left. That might as well be in another country where they are safe, unless the Indonesian people can prove they want these unique creatures on their islands. Avaaz is one organisation that was involved last year and is seeking petitions to the EU ambassador, Olof Skog. The link is here: Avaaz Petition.
They hope to cause him to bring the European and international influence to bear heavily on decisions about forest depredation. Aceh government action to give the forest to industry should be stopped, as EU investment could then cease. A team to ensure rainforest protection is legally upheld needs to be installed while the Gunung Leuser National Park ecosystem seem to need a lot of attention above and beyond these legal battles.
It has one of only 2 sanctuaries for Pongo abellii, the Sumatran orang-utan, it's a World Heritage Site and has a possible 27 Sumatran rhino too. There are of course, sambar deer, serow, leopard cat and many others in the reserve. This site on the borders of Aceh in the NW of Sumatra is only one important gain we need to secure for wildlife, forest and even tourism, which is very important to the economy.