Right now history is being made in the Leuser Ecosystem. If you were in Aceh Tamiang this week you would hear the sound of chainsaws ringing out. But for once this isn’t a bad thing. It is the sound of illegal oil palms being cleared to begin restoration of this vital part of the Leuser Ecosystem. In this district in the south east of Aceh over 4,000 hectares of protected forest had been illegally destroyed for oil palm plantations. Aceh Tamiang government, Aceh provincial forestry and KPH Wilayah III came together with the local community, police and NGOs and worked long and hard to regain this area. The sound of chainsaws on 29 September signalled that restoration of the first 1,000 hectares of cleared forest has begun!
During the opening ceremony for the restoration, the Head of UPTD KPH Wilayah III cut down the first illegal oil palm tree. The sapling of the first native tree was then planted and watered. Thousands more oil palms are now being marked for destruction and the area will be patrolled while the forest slowly comes back to life and reforms an important elephant migration corridor.
Sumatran elephants are Critically Endangered due to the relentless fragmentation of their habitat for oil palm plantations, logging, roads and mining. Their migration through this forest in Aceh Tamiang had been cut off by the mass clearing of protected native forest and that natural corridor was replaced by a monoculture of oil palm native to Africa.
After this alien crop is removed, the forest can regenerate quickly under the watchful eye of our patrol teams and can provide critical elephant and orangutan habitat once more. Separated populations of these species can reconnect. Once regenerated this forest will also again provide clean water and many other vital ecosystem services to the local community in Aceh Tamiang.
The project is a result of a collaboration between the Aceh Tamiang district government, Aceh provincial forestry department and KPH Wilayah III and is supported by FKL (Leuser Conservation Forum), HAkA, other local NGOs, the local community and the police. This restoration in Tamiang is pivotal step in the history of the protection of the vulnerable and threatened Leuser Ecosystem which covers over 2.6 million hectares in Aceh and North Sumatra, and is the last place on earth where orangutans, rhinos, elephants and tigers still co-exist in the wild.
We will continue to work day and night to ensure the Leuser Ecosystem can be fully restored and maintained as one of the world’s most important biodiversity hotspots. Stay tuned for updates!
Read more about the topic in the Jakarta Globe:
Aceh to Fell 1,000 Hectares of Illegally Planted Oil Palm Plantations