To celebrate Earth Day’s 46th anniversary on April 22nd, Rainforest Trust is working to conserve threatened rainforest in Sumatra by establishing the new Kluet Wildlife Reserve. Located within the great Leuser Ecosystem, this 6.4-million-acre tropical wilderness is the last place on Earth where the Critically Endangered Sumatran Rhinoceros, Sumatran Orangutan, Sumatran Elephant and Sumatran Tiger are all found within one ecosystem. As the largest surviving block of rainforest remaining in Sumatra, it is the only place in the world capable of supporting the survival of all four species.
The smallest of the world’s rhino species, the Sumatran Rhino, is listed by the IUCN as Critically Endangered and is rapidly running out of space and time. Today, fewer than 100 exist in the wild – scattered in small, isolated populations. Threatened by poaching and habitat loss, the Leuser Ecosystem is the last refuge and global stronghold for the species.
The area’s myriad ecosystems also provide habitat for an astounding number of other species as well. Clouded leopards, White-handed gibbons, Sun bears, Marbled cats, Dholes (Asiatic wild dogs) and over 192 bird species have also been documented here, including the Critically Endangered Helmeted Hornbill.
Following decades of relentless deforestation for growing swaths of oil palm and rubber plantations, less than a quarter of Sumatra’s rainforest remains. The presence of large, functioning forest ecosystems like Leuser has become absolutely crucial for the survival of the island’s endangered species.
The proposed 2-million-acre Gunung Leuser National Park is a step in the right direction. However, lying outside the park’s boundaries are some of the richest biodiversity areas with the most important animal populations. Rainforest Trust has identified the Kluet watershed as one of the most vital areas for the survival of Sumatran Rhinos and Sumatran Elephants and is working to strategically purchase private properties in the watershed to establish the 184,795-acre Kluet Wildlife Reserve (approximately the size of New York City).
The new Kluet Wildlife Reserve lies adjacent to the proposed Gunung Leuser National Park and is crucial to blocking a key access point into the watershed and the proposed National Park. Furthermore, the new reserve lies within an important wildlife corridor for Sumatran Elephants and has been identified as one of the most important areas of habitat within the greater Leuser ecosystem for Sumatran Rhinos.
By controlling access to one of the most important watersheds and actively patrolling the boundaries of the new reserve, Rainforest Trust can help safeguard the future of Sumatra’s last great wilderness. In the process, the grave threats to this spectacular area can be diminished, halting access for wildlife poaching and the extraction of forest products while ensuring the protection of Leuser’s outstanding biodiversity.
Header photo: Today fewer than 100 Sumatran Rhinos exist in the wild. Photo by Willem V. Strein.