UN programme aims to save Indonesian forests

A UN Environment programme known as the Lion’s Share Fund is tackling the threats facing an important area of Indonesian forest. The Leuser is home to rare animals and is an important carbon store.

The Leuser is a 2.6 million-hectare tract of lowland forest on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Its eastern part alone supports 5.7 million people across 11 districts, while it also provides a habitat for elephants, rhinos, orangutans, and the rare Sumatran tiger.

“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, in a statement. “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, according to the statement.

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, explains the statement.

It 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, and is 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.”

Image credit: Gemma i Jere, flickr/Creative Commons

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