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The Leuser Ecosystem

There is only one place left on Earth where Sumatran orangutans, elephants, tigers and rhinoceros coexist together in the wild: the Leuser Ecosystem on the island of Sumatra, Indonesia. Spanning the two provinces of Aceh (where 80% of the Ecosystem lies) and North Sumatra, and an incredible 2.6 million hectares it is the largest rainforest ecosystem conservation area in Southeast Asia. It is one of the most biodiverse environments ever described and millions of people depend on it for food, water and livelihoods. The Leuser Ecosystem is important for everyone, all over the world: it stores millions of tons of carbon in its rich peatland forests, helping to regulate global climate. The Leuser Ecosystem is often called 'the lungs of the Earth' and when you look at a map it's easy to see why. 

The megafauna within this landscape is Critically Endangered. Over 85% of the remaining Sumatran orangutans call the Leuser Ecosystem home and one of the last viable populations of Sumatran tigers live here. With fewer than 80 individuals left, the Sumatran rhino exists mostly in the Leuser Ecosystem, and it is also one of the few remaining habitats left for Sumatran elephants. 


The Gunung Leuser National Park is a protected area within the Leuser Ecosystem that has its own teams of government employed rangers to protect the forest within. The forest edge is where communities settle and the interface of significant human-wildlife conflict. There is increasing pressure on wildlife to find food and safe corridors and they venture out of the forest and into plantations and communities that have settled against the border of the National Park with no buffer zone in between. Livestock are grazed in oil palm plantations that exist both legally and illegally immediately against the forest border. This is an easy opportunity for Sumatran tigers to take livestock, and they may then be persecuted in retaliation. Sumatran elephants frequent the forest edge as their remaining habitat diminishes, and regularly feed on high-energy crops. Sumatran orangutans come into community gardens to eat durian fruit, an important income source for these poverty-stricken communities, and they too may be the subject of retaliatory attacks. Sumatran Ranger Project plays a vital role in helping to maintain a safe and productive environment for the people living along the forest edge as well as helping ensure wildlife can pass through safely without negative consequences. 

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