The Crisis

Ryan Woo

Covering 2.6 million hectares, the Leuser Ecosystem is the last place on earth where orangutans, elephants, rhinos and tigers exist together in the wild. Over 75% of the Sumatran orangutan’s range falls within the Leuser Ecosystem. The degradation of Leuser would condemn this incredible species, one of mankind’s closest relatives, to extinction. Of the 500 Sumatran tigers left in the wild, roughly 70 are living in and dependent upon the Leuser Ecosystem. There are just 100-150 Sumatran rhinos left in the wild. Leuser provides the largest block of remaining habitat for this critically endangered species. Just 2,500 wild Sumatran elephants are left, finding refuge from poaching and conflict with humans in forest fragments across the island. Leuser is a key stronghold for this critically endangered species and countless others. It is one of the most biodiverse and irreplaceable ecosystems on Earth. 

The Leuser Ecosystem is also an important carbon store, with forests and peat swamps holding huge amounts of carbon laid down over thousands of years, and a vital watershed that provides local people and businesses with protection from flooding, drought, landslides, fires and related natural disasters. More than four million people living in the wider landscape rely upon the critical services it provides.

The forests of Leuser are being cleared at an alarming rate to make way for roads, plantations, mines and infrastructure projects. Much of this activity is technically illegal, yet a lack of resources for proper enforcement and inadequate land use planning decisions are enabling the daily degradation. If decisive action is not taken immediately, we stand to lose iconic species and one of the last remaining rainforest wildernesses on Earth.