Report: Global Biodiversity Hotspot Threatened; Fate of Sumatra’s Leuser Ecosystem Depends on Actions by Indonesian President and Palm Oil Giant Musim Mas

Rainforest Action Network releases evidence linking Musim Mas to deforestation in Leuser Ecosystem; says approval of Aceh spatial plan on new president’s desk would be ‘disastrous’


Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

CONTACT: Before 11/13, contact Laurel Sutherlin, (U.S. 415.246.0161) After 11/13 contact Christopher Herrera (U.S. 510. 290. 5282)

In Indonesia, after 11/13, contact Fitri Sukardi to be connected to a RAN spokesperson (+62 81291737400)

San Francisco, CA – A new report released today by Rainforest Action Network (RAN) exposes the imminent threats to Indonesia’s high conservation priority Leuser Ecosystem and outlines the steps needed to protect endangered species and community livelihoods from encroaching industrial development. The report documents the growing number of companies operating legally and illegally within the protected Leuser Ecosystem, including over thirty palm oil companies alone.

Titled, The Last Place on Earth Exposing the Threats to the Leuser Ecosystem: A Global Biodiversity Hotspot Deserving Protection, the report contains newly released information from case studies, supply chain research and on the ground investigations. The report names the companies responsible for the conflict and deforestation eating away at the edges of the vast but threatened ecosystem.

“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 crown jewel of Indonesia’s natural legacy – home to tigers, orangutans, rhinos, elephants and sun bears – depends on urgent choices made right now,” said Gemma Tillack,  agribusiness campaign director with Rainforest Action Network. “As the palm oil trader most at risk of trafficking Conflict Palm Oil sourced from the Leuser Ecosystem, Musim Mas Group must break its ties to the destruction of this irreplaceable treasure immediately.” 

At 6.5 million acres, the Leuser Ecosystem is a rich and verdant expanse of intact tropical lowland rainforests, cloud draped mountains and steamy peat swamps. It is among the most biodiverse ecosystems ever documented by science, and it is the last place where orangutans, elephants, tigers, rhinos and sun bears still live together.

But the Leuser Ecosystem exists at a tenuous crossroads. Despite being protected under Indonesian national law, massive industrial development for palm oil, pulp and paper plantations and mining threaten critical areas of forests, as well as the continued wellbeing of the millions of people who depend on it.

In particular, the report contains field evidence that connects a refinery jointly owned by the Musim Mas Group and the Indonesian government’s state-owned palm oil plantation company, PT. Perkebunan Nusantara (PTPN) III to a mill that processes palm oil fruit grown inside the Leuser Ecosystem. Musim Mas Group is a large company involved in every step of palm oil production. It has its own plantations and factories across Indonesia and ships palm oil to buyers across the globe.

Additionally, the newly elected Indonesian president, Joko Widodo, and his cabinet are poised to approve or reject a new spatial plan that would remove protections from large regions of forest within the Leuser Ecosystem and open up critical landscapes to large-scale industrial development. This would place communities at risk from floods and landslides and the loss of lives and livelihoods that results from these impacts. It would also almost certainly exacerbate the yearly regional haze crisis resulting from fires set to clear forest for plantation development in Sumatra.

“The revised Aceh spatial plan would be disastrous for the millions of Acehnese people who depend on the Leuser Ecosystem and it would push the Sumatran orangutan, Sumatran rhino and Sumatran tiger even closer to the brink of extinction,” continued Tillack. “Incoming President Widodo has the power to reject this misguided plan outright and this decision is now the first major test of the strength of the new president’s conviction to do what’s best for the people of Indonesia by preserving the country’s irreplaceable natural legacy.”


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: