By Leya Musa
The United States government and the Indonesian government have signed a new agreement that will see debt owned by Indonesia to the United States swapped for rhino protection and conservation measures. The new deal also involves Indonesian NGO KEHATI.
The agreement will see Indonesia commit about US$12 million towards conservation programmes to help protect wildlife and habitats in Sumatra. This will include a programme to help conserve one of the world’s rarest rhinos – the Sumatran rhino – which is estimated to have a population of no more than 100. The deal will also see habitat protection for tigers, Sumatran elephants and orang-utans.
The deal was partially funded and negotiated by Conservation International. Global law firm White & Case LLP provided legal support on a pro bono basis.
“Sumatran rhinos number no more than 100, and along with many other species living in these forests, like Sumatran tigers, are among the most critically endangered animals on Earth,” said Susie Ellis, executive director, International Rhino Foundation. “This support will be pivotal in ensuring their survival.”
This is the second debt swap between the United States and Indonesia to help conserve habitats in Sumatra. In 2009 USD 30 million of debt was swapped in order to protect the forests of Sumatra. The two swaps will provide funds for increased protection of 13 important areas of Sumatran rain forest that are home to hundreds of species, and threatened plants and animals.
The debt swap was made possible due to the Tropical Forest Conservation Act. This has seen the United States contribute the USD 11.2 million to the debt relief. An additional USD 560,000 was given by the Conservation International grant programme with help from the Arcus Foundation.
“The conservation of Sumatra’s forests is as much a benefit for Indonesia’s people and their livelihoods as it is for the country’s wildlife and natural ecosystems,” said Annette Lanjouw, vice president of strategic initiatives and Great Ape Program, Arcus Foundation. “Our foundation is investing in trying to balance the immediate and short-term needs of people today with the long-term needs of the environment and wildlife. This debt swap is an important partnership that can significantly improve the situation in Sumatra for all.”
The money from the debt repayment over the next seven years will be paid into a fund that can be used to issue grants to conservation projects.
“The United States is proud to partner with the government of Indonesia and the NGO sector to help protect and preserve the diverse wildlife that exists on Sumatra,” said Kristen Bauer, charge d’affaires at the US embassy in Jakarta.