Protecting Sumatran rhinos in the Leuser Ecosystem

The Leuser Ecosystem in Aceh in northern Sumatra is critical remaining habitat, supporting the largest population of the Critically Endangered Sumatran rhino. Protection of this habitat and the wildlife it supports, including Sumatran tigers, elephants and orangutans is vital. Threats include habitat loss from plantation development, logging and other human encroachment as well as snares and traps from poachers that endanger the rhinos and other wildlife.

With support from the International Rhino Foundation (IRF), a local Acehnese nonprofit organization, the Yayasan Forum Konservasi Leuser or FKL, works closely with the government of Indonesia and Gunung Leuser National Park Authorities to prevent the extinction of Sumatran rhinos and to ensure that population in the Leuser can grow and thrive in a protected habitat.

Beginning with only two patrol teams in 2013, FKL now deploys 30 teams of rangers, called Wildlife Protection Teams (WPTs), which operate similar to Rhino Protection Units that patrol in other Indonesia national parks. With over 200 staff members, FKL covers almost 75% of the Leuser Ecosystem in Aceh. WPTs patrol the forest at least 15 consecutive days each month to locate and dismantle poacher snares and camps as well as monitoring wildlife presence data.

During the first half of the year, FKL teams completed 41 patrol missions over 614 days along 2,473 km of forests which is equal to the distance between London and Istanbul. During their patrol, the teams managed to record 48 signs of poaching activities in which they dismantled and destroyed 51 snares and traps as well as 11 illegal camps.

“Sumatran rhinos remain in peril due to threats from poaching and habitat conversion and on-going frontline vigilance is vital,” said Rudi Putra, FKL’s executive director. “In parallel with the government and other stakeholders, we must work to protect and restore habitat as well as build local awareness to reduce illegal activities and improve environmental stewardship. By protecting the Sumatran rhino in this area, we will contribute to preserving the irreplaceable Leuser Ecosystem landscape as a whole with its unique biodiversity, vital ecosystem services and globally significant carbon sinks.”

IRF thanks FKL for their work in partnership with the government of Indonesia to protect this vital habitat and key Sumatran rhino population. 

photo by Yayasan Badak Indonesia