The 2.6-million-hectare Leuser Ecosystem is one of the most biodiverse environments on earth, home to orangutans, tigers, elephants, rhinos, and countless other species, while the 800,000-hectare Batang Toru Ecosystem is the last and only home for less than 800 individuals of the 2017-identified Tapanuli orangutan – making this the most endangered great ape on the planet, nearly immediately after it was discovered. In addition to providing a home for many, many species of wildlife, both ecosystems also play important roles in providing valuable ecosystem services to communities living in and around them – but also too to the global community (e.g. carbon). As such, all our work is ultimately based around trying to prevent deforestation and habitat loss from taking place, such that orangutans are never displaced, and the ecosystem services that both people and wildlife depend on alike are left intact.
One of our main planned activities for 2022-2023 is/was to conduct an updated orangutan distribution survey across Sumatra, as this was last carried out in 2009-2011. The results from these surveys allow us to evaluate population trends and re-evaluate the conservation management of both the Sumatran and Tapanuli orangutan species. Unfortunately, with the Covid-19 pandemic our ability to deploy across much of the island was hindered, but as conditions allow, we are reactivating – as it is of vital importance to have an accurate and updated picture of current conditions.
We are actively involved in the preparation of the Leuser Ecosystem Spatial Plan / National Action Plan (RTR KSN KEL), and other inputs that can support the conservation of key biodiversity areas. Though a positive development in and of itself, the Aceh Wildlife Law (Qanun Satwaliar), like all regulations needs to be understood and known by everyone in order to be effective and enforce, therefore more time and effort is needed for socialization throughout the region. YEL then together with local stakeholders, assisted the Aceh Government in conducting socialization of the new wildlife law across the 13 districts that span across the Leuser Ecosystem.
In this rapidly growing, increasingly connected world of ours, we are all feeling more of the effects of climate change. The earth's temperature is increasing, resulting in heat waves, heavy rains, tropical storms, droughts and forest fires, all of which affect our food production, water quality, and the safety of our homes along with our personal health. Indeed, the adverse effects impact all living things on earth, no matter where we live.
Realizing that this has become a challenge for all of us and that our actions make a difference, the SOCP in carrying out its activities always sees the importance of involving a wide range of stakeholders. Alongside other local organizations, we support the Aceh government to establish baseline information and cross-sector partnerships for developing sustainable land use and commodity production plans for the Leuser Ecosystem. Here we have focused on High Conservation Value and High Carbon Stock (HCV-HCS) methodologies as tools for analysis and engagement. This work identifies and involves various stakeholders, especially local communities and rights holders to be inclusive in spatial land use management strategies and is expected to serve an example that can be applied to other areas and provinces in Indonesia, towards creating a truly sustainable green economy.
The SOCP has been working hard to conserve peatland forest on the west coast of Aceh, Sumatra. Since 2008 much has been done to save these areas of key importance both for global climate change, with the huge amount of carbon stored both above and below ground in peatlands, but also for many species wildlife that thrive in this unique, rich ecosystem. In fact, the highest known densities of orangutan populations are found in peat swamp forest.
After a series of community development programs and surveys of peat areas and even peat depths, the SOCP supported the Government of Aceh in 2019, specifically the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, to compile an Aceh Peat Protection and Management Plan (RPPEG). The RPPEG is an important document as a basis for managing and protecting the peatlands across the province. This process involved stakeholders at all levels, as it is very important to accommodate all inputs as well as concerns of all those that would be most affected. So, it is conservation as it should be and as we like it – inclusive, so that it can be most successful in being implemented.
We were instrumental in assisting the government to increase the size and location of the current provincial strategic area and convert production and ‘Other Use’ (APL) land to protection status zones that have serve to conserve vital Tapanuli orangutan habitat. We also work with local communities to build corridors and restore rainforest habitat through sustainable development initiatives.
We continue to monitor forest crime, such as deforestation, human-orangutan conflict, and poaching, and engage the forest management units to build their monitoring, investigation, and enforcement capacities. We actively provide technical advice on assessing, monitoring and mitigating the environmental impacts of proposed infrastructure development.
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