(Press release issued by BirdLife International, Burung Indonesia and the RSPB)
Indonesia’s forests, which have been severely diminished by logging and burning in recent decades, today [Friday 18 June, 2010] received a boost as the Government of Indonesia doubled the size of the country’s first forest for "ecosystem restoration."
Indonesian Forest Minister Zulkifli Hasan announced that he would expand the 52,000-hectare concession held by Burung Indonesia, the RSPB (UK) and BirdLife International in central Sumatra to a total area of 98,000 hectares. The restoration area now equals two-thirds the size of greater London and is greater than the size of Singapore.
This welcome news comes as other applications for "forest restoration" licences are flowing in to Indonesia’s Ministry of Forestry – a sign that the BirdLife consortium’s pioneering work has inspired others to follow. In 2009, the Ministry received as many applications for forest restoration licences as it did for logging concessions. Applications for forest restoration totalled a further two million hectares, and are now being assessed.
Harapan Rainforest is one of the last remaining areas of dry lowland Sumatran forest and is one of the most threatened rainforests in the world. It is home to a host of rare animal and plant species, including the critically endangered Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae), of which fewer than 300 remain in the wild. It supports an amazing 55 mammal species, including the globally-threatened Asian elephant (Elephas maximus sumatranus) and Malayan tapir (Tapirus indicus), as well as the world’s rarest stork – the Storm’s stork (Ciconia stormi) – and a rich diversity of other wildlife.
An initial licence of 52,000 hectares was granted to the environmental consortium in 2008, allowing them to protect, nurture and restore the forest in a former logging concession. Burung Indonesia, the RSPB and BirdLife International can boast considerable achievements from the project’s first phase:
- More than 170 "green jobs" have been created in forest conservation, almost all for the local community, and several for the indigenous Batin Sembilan community;
- A massive program of planting more than five million trees has begun in the most degraded areas of the forest, to link up the fragments of rich forest into continguous wildlife habitat;
- Illegal logging has been significantly decreased and forest fires, which once released significant carbon dioxide emissions, have been all but stamped out. Not only is the forest an important carbon store, but the tree planting programme in Harapan Rainforest is capturing more carbon from the atmosphere;
- The Asiatic wild dog or dhole (Cuon alpinus) about which little is currently known, has been photographed by camera trap in the forest. We have also captured images of the Malayan tapir, the rare Argus pheasant (Argusianus argus), and Sumatran Tiger, each identifiable by their unique stripes. Harapan Rainforest is a habitat of global importance for the Sumatran Tiger.
- As part of extensive biodiversity surveys, the "tawny costa" butterfly (Acraea violae) has been recorded for the first time on the island of Sumatra
- Botanic experts from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in the UK have identified a plant growing in the forest, Emblemantha urnulata B.C.Stone that is unique to the area and had only been recorded twice before;
- Village natural resource management agreements have been negotiated between the project and neighbouring communities, allowing for sustainable use of forest resources to support family livelihoods and the local economy.
Agus B. Utomo, the Executive Director of Burung Indonesia, said: ‘The Ministry of Forestry had the foresight to create a new form of forest management in 2004 with the ‘ecosystem restoration’ licence. We’re delighted that ecosystem restoration is now an integral part of forest management strategies in Indonesia. As a result, Burung Indonesia is already planning to expand our portfolio of ecosystem restoration concessions.’
‘Sixty million hectares of Indonesia’s forest land is categorised as production forest, but much of this forest, like Harapan Rainforest, has significant density of trees and an amazing richness of biodiversity. It makes sense for our economy and our natural environment to turn areas of great potential like Harapan Rainforest into thriving centres of forest restoration. When such forests are burned or converted to agriculture, it’s an invaluable loss to our heritage and the natural resource base that sustains us all.’
Marco Lambertini, Chief Executive of BirdLife International, said: “Harapan Rainforest breaks new ground in Indonesia as the first forest for ecosystem restoration and as such, we hope it will act as a model for other, similar initiatives around the country as well as in other countries across the tropics.” Since work began in Harapan Rainforest in early 2007, at least four other applications for ‘ecosystem restoration’ licences have been submitted to the Government of Indonesia; these are at various stages of approval.
The extension of Harapan Rainforest is important to the area's ecology. Dr Dieter Hoffmann, the RSPB's Head of Global Programme, said: “By extending the area under conservation management, we significantly increase the populations of threatened species we are able to protect, such as Sumatran tigers, Asian elephants, agile gibbons, and the nine hornbill species we have on site. Larger areas are able to hold larger populations and these tend to be much more sustainable. We also anticipate being able to protect a far greater diversity of plant and animal life.”
The Harapan Rainforest initiative is funded by a range of agencies including the German Government’s Ministry of Environment international climate initiative, through KfW Entwicklungsbank, the Global Conservation Fund of Conservation International, the European Union, BirdLife partners organisations in Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Denmark, Singapore and the Netherlands, various other foundations and agencies and thousands of individual donors.
For further information and to arrange an interview, please contact:
Agus B. Utomo, Executive Director, Burung Indonesia telephone: +62 816 638542
Dieter Hoffmann, Head of Global Programme, RSPB telephone: +44 (0)7738 136202
In the UK:
Martin Fowlie, BirdLife International +44 (0)7899 045106
Grahame Madge, RSPB press officer, on +44 01767 681577.
Out of hours, please telephone: +44 07702 196902 (mobile)
Mairi Dupar, RSPB + 44 (0)7738 881361
Photographs are available to download free of charge from the RSPB Images website. To download images, click on the hyperlink below and please enter the username and password when prompted.
Password: RSPB June 2010
Camera trap images of Harapan Rainforest’s rare wildlife including Asiatic wild dog, Sumatran tiger, Malayan tapir and a range of images of the rainforest habitat are also available for use in association with this story. Please contact Grahame Madge at the RSPB press office.
Please note these pictures are only to be used in conjunction with this story.
Broadcast-quality radio interviews:
To arrange an ISDN broadcast-quality radio interview with an RSPB spokesman please contact Grahame Madge at the RSPB press office.
Surveys in Harapan Rainforest have so far confirmed the presence of eight globally threatened birds out of a total of 296 species recorded, plus 69 near-threatened species. Eighteen globally threatened mammals have been recorded of a total of 55 mammal species, and one globally threatened reptile from a total of 74 reptile and amphibian species recorded. Project staff are currently surveying to determine the abundance and population size of: Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae), Malayan Tapir (Tapirus indicus), Agile Gibbon (Hylobates agilis) and Malayan Sun Bear (Helarctos malayanus). Other threatened species recorded include the first records of Marbled Cat (Pardofelis marmorata) in this part of its range, Asian Elephant (Elephas maximus), Storm’s Stork (Ciconia stormi) and Crestless Fireback (Lophura erythrophthalma).
The Harapan Rainforest initiative is dependent on funding from a range of agencies and many thousands of individual donors. We acknowledge the generous financial support of: Conservation International - Global Conservation Fund; Co-operative Bank; DEFRA Darwin Initiative; Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund; EU - "Tropical Forests"; Care for Nature Trust; International Association for Bear Research and Management; Nature Society Singapore; The Michael Marks Charitable Trust; NABU, BirdLife in Germany; Nando Peretti Foundation; Naturally Plus; SVS (BirdLife Switzerland) - Art for Rainforests; DOF, BirdLife in Denmark; Sea World / Busch Gardens Conservation Fund; US Fish and Wildlife Service.
Harapan Rainforest’s 98,000 hectares straddle Jambi and South Sumatra provinces in the center of Sumatra island, two degrees south of the equator.
Harapan Rainforest is managed by an Indonesian company, PT REKI, on behalf of an Indonesian Foundation, Yayasan KEHI, specifically set up by the Burung Indonesia, RSPB and BirdLife International consortium for this purpose.