New programme aims to save threatened Indonesian forests

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One of the Leuser’s iconic species is the Sumatran orangutan.

Few places on earth are as unique as the Leuser, a 2.6 million-hectare tract of lowland forest on the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

Nowhere else in Indonesia does a single landscape support so many people. The eastern part of the Leuser alone supports 5.7 million souls across 11 districts.

Nowhere else on Earth do elephants, rhinos, tigers and orangutans roam the wild together. In fact, it’s one of the last places to find the rare Sumatran tiger.

And almost nowhere else on the planet can you find such vibrant biodiversity. Rare and endangered species like the clouded leopard, marbled cat, Sunda pangolin and helmeted hornbill call the Leuser home.

Beyond being a biodiversity hotspot and its high value as a provider of ecosystem services, the Leuser is also an important carbon store,” said Dianna Kopansky, UNEP peatlands expert. “The Leuser boasts 3 globally significant peatlands of Tripa, Kluet and Singkil which together sequester carbon potentially in the hundreds of millions of megatonnes. And that’s not even counting the broader forest ecosystem.”

But this landscape is under threat. Habitat loss, human-wildlife conflict and wildlife poaching are putting the Leuser’s incredible wildlife under immense pressure. The Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra, which includes the Leuser, has been on the list of World Heritage Sites in Danger since 2011.

A unique partnership is now working to protect it. Under the Lion’s Share Fund, local and global partners are combining forces to tackle the threats facing the Leuser.

The partnership is focusing on maintaining and restoring the Leuser ecosystem and its population of large animals. It is also establishing sustainable financing mechanisms so that the restorations made will last. The partnership supports conservation-based development.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is also raising awareness about the needs of the Leuser through campaigns and education.

“Biodiversity and healthy ecosystems underpin the well-being, safety, resilience and prosperity of communities, especially within the Leuser,” said Midori Paxton, Head of the United Nations Development Programme’s Ecosystems and Biodiversity Programme, which hosts the Lion’s Share Secretariat. “By partnering with UNEP and other local partners, the Lion’s Share Fund is helping raise awareness of the Leuser’s critically endangered species and the importance of investing in wildlife conservation for the sustainable development of all.”

UNEP is now offering its Wild For Life campaign in Bahasa Indonesia. Wild for Life allows people to find their kindred species out of a number of endangered and threatened animals and plants, including those present in the Leuser, like the tiger, elephant, rhino, pangolin, orangutan and helmeted hornbill.

Visitors to the Wild for Life campaign site can take quizzes to learn more about the various endangered species. They are also able to go on journeys that allow them to see vignettes on endangered species and learn about how these animals help maintain the health of ecosystems, which in turn support human well being.

UNEP is also pushing to make the Leuser more widely known at the global level.

“The Leuser ecosystem is an exceptionally valuable place, both in terms of its unique biodiversity and for the services it provides to millions living in communities around the ecosystem,” said Lisa Rolls, Head of Biodiversity Communications at UNEP. “With more public support, we can work for stronger policies and enforcement that will keep the Leuser vital for both the humans and animals that depend on it for generations to come.”

About United Nations Environment Programme

UNEP is the leading global voice on the environment. It provides leadership and encourages partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations.

About The Lion’s Share

Animals have been used in advertising for over 150 years, and feature in approximately 20 per cent of all adverts we see. Alarmingly, most popular animals used in these advertising campaigns are either endangered or threatened and face a precarious future. With over 1 million species at risk of extinction within decades, our planet is in crisis and the risk of losing iconic species has never been higher. The Lion’s Share presents an innovative mechanism that engages global brands and advertisers in global conservation efforts. The fund, hosted by the United Nations Development Programme, encourages privates sector companies to contribute 0.5 per cent of their media spend on advertisements featuring animals to fund conservation and animal welfare projects around the world. The Lion’s Share is a simple way to make a powerful difference.

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