Guest blog By Hanif, executive director of the Indonesian Rhino Initiative
The Indonesian Rhino Initiative (IRI) works with local communities to implement the Way Kambas National Park Reforestation Program thanks to support from the International Rhino Foundation (IRF).
The reforestation projects have several objectives, including increasing forest and land cover, protecting watersheds and conserving biodiversity. The programs also benefit the local communities by increasing incomes, creating livelihood opportunities, and raising environmental awareness and education.
IRI currently manages the reforestation program in three areas of Way Kambas National Park (WKNP). The Rawa Kidang reforestation site was mostly grassland area. With the reforestation work accomplished in this area, the rainforest is regrowing new plants and trees which in turn attracts wildlife.
The area is protected every night by local field staff. Sumatran elephants were one of the first animals to venture into the newly planted area. Though they are a welcome sight in the park, they can damage the new seedlings. WKNP has created the Elephant Response Unit (ERU) to non-invasively herd elephants away from potential conflict areas.
In addition to the elephants, deer have been observed returning to the area finding the young leaves of the trees to their liking.
In June, the field team heard a thrilling sound – the roar of a Sumatran tiger. The return of the tiger is a sign of the success of the reforestation programs. A predator in the area is a key indicator of a functioning and healthy ecosystem. It also means that the local field staff will need to be cautious!
It is very exciting to see the progress of the reforestation program and the impact IRF and its donors have made to revive Sumatra’s rainforest and conserve vital wildlife. With the commitment of the local community and the national park, I am hopeful that one day we will see a Sumatran rhino return to this area as well.
Read more about the reforestation program: