Rainforest Action Network Welcomes Moratorium on Destruction of Indonesia’s Leuser Ecosystem

Positive step forward in the protection of the last place on Earth where Sumatran orangutans, elephants, tigers, and rhinos still coexist in the wild 


CONTACT: Emma Rae Lierley, Emma@ran.org, +1 425.281.1989

San Francisco, CA – Top Indonesian political and community leaders have announced a moratorium on new palm oil and mining expansion within the country, which touches down in the Leuser Ecosystem––an area of intact forests of global conservation priority and the last place on Earth where Sumatran orangutans, tigers, elephants, rhinos and sunbears still live together in the wild.

Rainforest Action Network, the US- based NGO that has exposed the threats facing the Leuser Ecosystem, welcomes the announcement by Siti Nurbaya, the Indonesian Minister of Environment and Forestry, and Governor of Aceh Zaini Abdullah to enforce a full moratorium on palm oil and mining expansion in the Leuser Ecosystem

Indonesia’s recently announced moratorium in the Leuser Ecosystem is potentially a hugely positive step forward in the fight for rainforests, the climate, the last Sumatran orangutans, tigers and elephants, and efforts to secure livelihoods for local communities. This moratorium also highlights how much work still needs to be done to uphold customary rights, protect critical habitats, intact forests and the climate from continued threats posed by growing global demand for cheap commodities.

The Leuser Ecosystem has received increasing attention as a global biodiversity hotspot deserving protection, especially since actor Leonardo DiCaprio’s recent visit sparked a media frenzy after he was threatened with deportation for making critical statements about the environmental impacts of Indonesia’s palm oil industry.

This announcement comes just days before a full assembly gathers at the UN for the official signing of the Paris Climate Agreement—an agreement that explicitly names the vital role that forests play in the fight against climate change—underlines its historic importance.

This announcement had the the full backing of the Wali Nanggroe Aceh, the traditional leader of Aceh who has worked to deliver the protection of the Leuser Ecosystem as mandated by former leaders of Aceh decades ago.

“This is a historic alignment of leaders committing to halt the destruction of the Leuser Ecosystem. These commitments must now be turned into real community-based outcomes for forest protection on the frontlines of palm oil expansion,” said Gemma Tillack, spokesperson for Rainforest Action Network.

“The jury is still out on President Jokowi’s moratorium, as it is under development by relevant ministries and its timeline for implementation and enforcement mechanisms remains unclear. If enforced and extended to apply to forests within existing palm oil concessions, this effort could halt the destruction of forests and peatlands, including inside the Leuser Ecosystem, reduce Indonesia’s carbon footprint, the severity of the annual haze crisis and secure the lives and livelihoods of countless communities.

“It is clear that to save the Leuser Ecosystem we need strong, decisive action by the Indonesian and Acehnese government to protect and restore its forests and peatland. A lasting solution will depend on robust law enforcement, the cancelling of all new permits, and the evaluation of all existing permits for all developments in accordance with the national law that protects the Leuser Ecosystem, as well as the revision of Aceh’s potentially disastrous spatial plan governing land management.

“What’s more, global brands like PepsiCo, Unilever, Mars, Nestle, and Kellogg’s are driving the demand for palm oil. They must take responsibility for the impacts of their products and step up to support efforts to secure lasting protection of the Leuser Ecosystem,” said Ms. Tillack.

For more information on the threats and potential opportunities facing the Leuser Ecosystem visit ran.org/lastplaceonearth