Survival of Sumatran orangutans, rhinos, elephants and tigers to be decided in days
The Leuser Ecosystem harbors the richest representation of biodiversity in Southeast Asia. It is the last place on earth where critically endangered Sumatran orangutans, rhinos, elephants and tigers can all be found together in the wild. Nationally protected by Indonesian law, the Leuser Ecosystem was identified as one of the “world’s most irreplaceable protected areas” in a recent publication by Science, and is rapidly gaining support in Aceh and around the world to be fully recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Nevertheless the very existence of the Leuser Ecosystem now hangs in the balance. Indonesia is only days away from elections and an illegal new Aceh provincial by-law directly contradicts and undermines the legal status of the Leuser Ecosystem. We need to act quickly to ensure that, regardless of the outcome of the upcoming elections, it is clear there is immense global support for the Leuser Ecosystem to remain protected for many years to come.
The stakes are higher than ever. If we cannot immediately stop this illegal by-law, hundreds - if not thousands - more orangutans like Gokong’s mother will die as a result, and the last truly viable populations of Sumatran orangutans, rhinos, elephants and tigers will be placed in immediate jeopardy. It’s not only biodiversity at risk, local communities have been protesting against the plan too. Opening these forests will devastate numerous critical watersheds, threatening the livelihoods and indeed the lives of countless Acehnese people.
What is urgently needed right now is the biggest show of global support we can muster to remind Indonesia’s national government that the world is seriously concerned over the fate of Tripa and the Leuser Ecosystem, and is ready to fully support a just and fair decision that upholds national law.
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Global support has already proven successful helping local communities win a historic court case in 2013, which found another palm oil company in Tripa guilty of illegally clearing peat swamp forests inside the Leuser Ecosystem. PT Kallista Alam was prosecuted and ordered to pay over US$33 million in fines, damages and reparations. Now, unbelievably, the Aceh Parliament has passed an illegal by-law that will remove the protected status of vast areas of the Leuser Ecosystem, allowing in roads and unsustainable, carbon-polluting industries like palm oil, logging and mining.
Time is fast running out, but all is not yet lost. The Leuser Ecosystem is in fact fully protected under national law and the Indonesian Ministry of Domestic Affairs has already warned the Aceh Parliament: “Include the protected status of Tripa and the Leuser Ecosystem in the spatial plan, or the new by-law can be rejected.” Despite these warnings, local media report that Aceh’s Parliament is threatening to ignore the Ministry and ignore national law. The Ministry of Domestic Affairs is yet to announce its formal response.
We wish to congratulate Mr Gamawan Fauzi and his team in the Ministry of Domestic Affairs for their comprehensive legal evaluation of the spatial plan and for giving the clear message that the plan must be revised. We must support them to stand by the Ministry’s review, and reject the illegal by-law that threatens to remove protection from Tripa and the Leuser Ecosystem.
Within Aceh a consortium of local NGOs are rallying together, with the support of Wildlife Asia, to take legal action to protect the Leuser Ecosystem if the spatial plan is not immediately cancelled. With your support, some groundbreaking legal actions have already been won and more are underway against companies operating illegally in Tripa. We can win again. But now we need to step up another level to save the much larger Leuser Ecosystem. This is a historic, make-or-break moment for the survival of the Leuser Ecosystem. We must join forces to ensure we succeed for the sake of Leuser’s spectacular biodiversity, which is found nowhere else on earth, and for the long-term sustainable development of Aceh and its people.
Please sign and share this petition now. This is the most important and urgent petition we have ever launched, and we need your full support today.
According to Wildlife Asia Director, Clare Campbell, ‘This really is the most critical conservation issue of our time. With one decision, we could see the devastating loss of such magnificent iconic species as the Sumatran orangutan, rhino, elephant and tiger, along with vast tracts of forest that are essential for the survival of a host of other wildlife species and human communities alike. Wildlife Asia is making a desperate plea for donations so we can increase our ongoing support to the local leaders and organisations fighting for the Leuser Ecosystem. We urgently need people to get behind us, to fight this devastating new spatial plan. The best way most of us can do that is to help with funding support so that those on the ground can continue to work as effectively as humanly possible. Wildlife Asia is committed to the long-term battle still ongoing in Sumatra.”
Please visit www.givenow.com.au/wildlifeasia to make a donation. Donations within Australia are tax deductible.