Saving Sumatra’s Rarest Wildlife

Project Cost: $1,366,125

Funding Raised: $1,366,125

$6.82 per acre (1 acre = 43,560 sq ft)
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X The Impact

As recently as the 1950s, the island nation of Indonesia was covered with dense rainforest. Today, just half of this forest remains. Nowhere is this rapid deforestation more apparent than on the island of Sumatra.

Sumatra’s flat and rolling tropical lands so highly prized by plantation owners are the same ones preferred by the island’s most threatened megafauna. As a result, populations of Orangutans, Elephants and Tigers have dropped precipitously, and these species are now faced with extinction.

Rainforest Trust is working with local partner Yayasan Konservasi Ekosistem Hutan Sumatera (KEHUS) to create three protected areas within the forest ecosystem that will conserve 200,396 acres. These reserves will protect lowland areas in the Bukit Tigapuluh ecosystem increasing protection for Orangutans, Elephants and Tigers, among many other species.

Fast Facts

Central Sumatra, Indonesia

200,396 acres

Key Species
Sumatran Tiger (CR), Sumatran Elephant (CR), Sumatran Orangutan (CR), Helmeted Hornbill (CR)

Tropical lowland forest

Illegal logging, palm oil and rubber development, road construction and poaching

Creation of three protected areas

Local Partner
Yayasan Konservasi Ekosistem Hutan Sumatera (KEHUS)

Financial Need

Price Per Acre


Fewer than 400 Sumatran Tigers survive today. More than 30 of these critically endangered big cats live in the Bukit Tigapuluh ecosystem, which makes protecting the population critical to save the species. Due to its importance for Tigers, the Bukit Tigapuluh landscape has been declared a “Global Priority Tiger Conservation Landscape,” one of just 20 in the world.

Of an estimated 1,300 Sumatran Elephants left in the wild, more than 150 remain unprotected in the lowland rainforests of the Bukit Tigapuluh ecosystem. While much of Sumatra’s remaining forest consists of areas smaller than 100 square miles—which is too small for viable Elephant populations—the forests in the Bukit Tigapuluh region are still large enough to support multiple Elephant herds. Like elephants, Sumatran Orangutans also prefer fruit-rich lowland forests. Of the approximately 6,300 Sumatran Orangutans left in the wild, over 150 are found in the Bukit Tigapuluh ecosystem. Many of the Orangutans now living in Central Sumatra have been successfully reintroduced after being rescued from the illegal pet trade. In total, the area is home to over 59 species of mammals, six species of primates and 192 species of birds. Some of the endangered species here include Clouded Leopards, Agile Gibbons, Malayan Tapirs, Sun Bears, Marbled Cats and Dholes (Asiatic wild dogs).


Most of the forest in Indonesia is owned by the state, which leases it as “concessions” for exploitative uses, which include logging, mining and agriculture. A small portion of forest has been set aside as national parks and wildlife reserves. Even in these protected areas, however, a lack of law enforcement has permitted illegal logging to continue unabated.

Unprotected areas are appealing to paper, rubber and oil palm developers since these relatively flat spaces can easily be converted into plantations. The habitat destruction caused by expanding plantations poses a direct threat to Sumatran wildlife. Animals that survive the initial onslaught of deforestation are subsequently threatened by hunting. For Sumatran Tigers, the arrival of poachers carries a particular threat—Tiger parts are highly valued on the black market and these animals have been widely hunted. Together, hunting and habitat loss have caused Tiger populations to decline by more than 50 percent in the last 25 years.


Two indigenous groups live within the Bukit Tigapuluh ecosystem and depend upon the forest for their livelihood and continued survival.

The Orang Rimba, or “jungle people,” are a nomadic group of about 500 members that have inhabited the jungles of Sumatra for centuries, traveling in tight-knit family groups. Although mostly reclusive, the Orang Rimba occasionally interact with villages on the edge of the forest to trade their goods. The Talang Mamak tribe, which contains approximately 8,000 members, lives exclusively in two central Sumatran provinces and relies on hunting and gathering practices to survive. Though the Orang Rimba and the Talang Mamak have been living on their traditional lands for centuries, they do not possess legal land rights. The creation of new protected areas will prevent the logging industry from destroying their homeland and will provide these communities with the opportunity to continue their traditional lifestyle.


With over 75 percent of Sumatra’s forest destroyed, the presence of large, functioning rainforest ecosystems has become absolutely essential for the survival of Sumatra’s endemic megafauna.

To ensure that the Bukit Tigapuluh ecosystem maintains its remarkable biodiversity levels, Rainforest Trust is working with local partner KEHUS to conserve 200,396 acres. These acres will be preserved in the form of three reserves that will protect lowland rainforest for Tigers, Elephants and Orangutans. Rainforest Trust will support KEHUS to purchase three 60-year “Ecosystem Restoration Concessions” that are needed to establish these reserves. KEHUS will then work to permanently protect these concessions by annexing them to an adjacent national park. Regardless of legal status, rainforests both inside and outside Sumatra’s national parks are threatened by illegal incursions. Rainforest Trust is addressing this issue by working with KEHUS to increase law enforcement in the newly protected areas. Wildlife Protection Units, composed of highly trained forest guards, will routinely patrol project sites to prevent illegal activities such as logging and poaching.