Fatbirder - linking birders worldwide... Wildlife Travellers see our sister site: WAND

New hope for Sumatra's lowland rainforests?

Indonesia's first "Forest Restoration Concession" to be announced

The lowland forests of Sumatra are second only to the Amazon in terms of biodiversity. From an original 16 million hectares, less than 500,000 hectares now remain. This dramatic forest loss is mainly due to conversion to oil palm and industrial plantations for pulp and paper. Sumatran lowland forests host numerous charismatic and threatened species such as the rare Sumatran Tiger and six other species of jungle cats, Asian Elephants, Malay Tapirs, gibbons and other primates, as well as many globally threatened bird species.Apart from a few protected areas, the vast majority of the remaining Sumatran lowland rainforest is gazetted as "production" forest for logging or, much worse, due to be converted to industrial plantations. Their future is extremely uncertain, with the World Bank predicting that without urgent action these lowland forests will disappear in just a few years.

In 2002, a coalition of Indonesian and European organisations (notably BirdLife Indonesia and the RSPB) under the umbrella of BirdLife International developed a programme to secure the future of one of the largest remaining blocks of lowland forest in Sumatra.

As a consequence of BirdLife’s campaign, in June 2004 the Minister of Forestry of Indonesia issued a decree allowing production forests to be restored and managed for conservation purposes. This is a truly historical change in legislation that could drastically reduce the loss and conversion of the country's rainforests. In September 2005, the forest identified by BirdLife Indonesia was gazetted as the first ever restoration forest in Indonesia.During this time the BirdLife coalition have been studying the area, engaging with local communities (including the indigenous community that depends on the forest) and developing a management plan. The new forest concession is currently under the administrative process for the issuing the management license. A decision is expected by 20 December.

"Could this be the light at the end of the tunnel for the vanishing lowland rainforests of Sumatra?" said Marco Lambertini, BirdLife International

BirdLife is committed to raise the resources needed for the management of the area. An unprecedented and innovative initiative has been launched: a coalition of local and international NGOs have joined forces and committed themselves to demonstrate sustainable on the ground management of tropical forests. Plans for the development of ecotourism, educational and research facilities, as well as the sustainable use of forest products, are being developed to show that it is possible to manage the forest and generate revenues for the government and local communities, without clearing the habitat."The new forest restoration concession to be shortly announced by the Ministry of Forestry is the first example of this kind in Indonesia and a great precedent that could result in the restoration of many more degraded forests across the country," commented Sukianto Lusli, CEO of BirdLife Indonesia. "This will be an example of forest rehabilitation that also takes into account the ecological functions provided by the forest, as well as its biodiversity."

"Despite many years of illegal logging and corruption in the forestry sector, the auction for this first forest restoration concession will represent a much needed success story for Indonesia in line with the new government policy on sustainable forest management," added Marco Lambertini, BirdLife International's Director of Programmes. "Could this be the light at the end of the tunnel for the vanishing lowland rainforests of Sumatra?"

4th July 2014