Ongoing Clearance by Palm Oil Industry Spurs Imminent Species Extinction and Massive Climate Impact, Says New Progress Report on Critical Leuser Ecosystem

Rampant Plantation Expansion Devastates Deep Peatlands and Major Sumatran Elephant Habitat; Fate of Region Depends on Collective Action by Industry Giants and Local, National Governments

CONTACT: Emma Rae Lierley,, 425.281.1989

San Francisco, CA – In the midst of a catastrophic Indonesian forest fire season, a new report released today by Rainforest Action Network (RAN) exposes ongoing destruction to one of the most biodiverse regions on the planet. The RAN report––titled The Last Place on Earth: Tracking Progress and New Opportunities to Protect the Leuser Ecosystem––cites evidence of continued clearance by palm oil growers supplying palm oil to mills in the region. It highlights Wilmar International, Musim Mas Group and Golden Agri Resources––dubbed the “Big Three Buyers” of palm oil currently at risk of sourcing from the region––and outlines the steps that they, and government officials, need to take to protect endangered species and community livelihoods from encroaching industrial development.

The progress report defines the opportunity to find a new pathway of development for Indonesia’s Aceh province––one that protects the Leuser Ecosystem, secures peace and livelihoods, and creates new economic opportunities for local communities. Indonesian President Joko Widodo is a key factor in securing this opportunity, as he has the power to reject the approval of a disastrous pending spatial plan for Aceh that may soon be subject to a civil suit in Indonesian courts.

Published a year after RAN first exposed the threats to the Leuser Ecosystem in November 2014, this latest report finds that rainforests continue to fall, peatlands continue to be drained, conflicts remain between companies and communities, and the ongoing legal protections for the Leuser Ecosystem remain under threat. The report releases new satellite images and field investigations that expose the ongoing destruction of the most valuable remaining lowland rainforests and peatlands for Conflict Palm Oil. The report also names the companies responsible for the deforestation eating away at the edges of the vast, but threatened, ecosystem––including the Indonesian Government’s own plantation company PT. Perkebunan Nusantara (PTPN) III. From the scale of ongoing destruction in these critical areas, it is clear that if more collective action is not taken now, we risk losing the Leuser Ecosystem forever.

Gemma Tillack, Agribusiness Campaign Director for Rainforest Action Network, said:

“The Leuser Ecosystem is one of the world’s most richly biodiverse landscapes, and millions of people depend on it for their food, water and livelihoods. But the fate of this natural crown jewel––including its peatlands and lowland rainforests that are home to tigers, orangutans, rhinos, elephants and sun bears––depends on critical decisions being made right now.

“The ‘Big Three Buyers’ at risk of purchasing Conflict Palm Oil from the Leuser Ecosystem have the buying power to halt the destruction of the Leuser Ecosystem. These buyers need to step up efforts to work with other stakeholders, and provide real incentives to their suppliers and local and provincial governments, to push forward a moratorium on the destruction of rainforests and peatlands and secure ongoing legal protection for the Leuser Ecosystem.

“A balance must be found between building a diverse economy while protecting human rights, the forests and the ecosystem services that local communities rely on. This opportunity must be seized or Indonesia’s last forest frontiers, including Aceh’s most valuable asset––the Leuser Ecosystem––will fall victim to the same flawed industrial scale development model that has destroyed rainforests and peatlands, led to the loss of livelihoods for communities and driven land grabbing, conflict and the abuse of workers rights across Sumatra and Borneo.

“The destruction of the Leuser Ecosystem would be disastrous for millions of Acehnese people and would push endangered species even closer to the brink of extinction,” continued Tillack. “President Widodo has the power to join forces with these Big Three Buyers––and their peers in the recently launched Indonesian Palm Oil Pledge (IPOP)––to do what’s best for the people of Indonesia and preserve the country’s irreplaceable natural legacy. Efforts to halt the destruction of forests and peatlands––and to stop the forest fires intentionally set to aid the expansion of industrial palm oil development––will reduce Indonesia’s carbon footprint, the severity of the annual haze crisis and secure the lives and livelihoods of countless communities.”


Rainforest Action Network runs hard-hitting campaigns to break North America’s fossil fuels addiction, protect endangered forests and Indigenous rights, and stop destructive investments around the world through education, grassroots organizing, and non-violent direct action. For more information, please visit:

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