January 6, 2020

Minister: Co-habitat for flagship species still mostly intact

JAKARTA ( - The Leuser Ecosystem, covering an area around 85% the size of Belgium, is the only place on earth which forms a co-habitat for Sumatran orangutans, tigers, elephants and rhinos. Major parts of this ecosystem remain an effective home to these four flagship species.

More than 90% of the Rawa Singkil wildlife reserve, one of the key parts of the Leuser Ecosystem lying along the coast of southern Aceh and larger than Singapore, still consists of intact peat forests as of early January 2020.

The latest update on the land cover situation in the wildlife reserve was conveyed by Indonesian Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya in a technical discussion with about the Leuser Ecosystem (Jan 5). 

"The wildlife reserve continues to play an effective role as a co-habitat for Sumatran orangutans, tigers, elephants and rhinos in a peat forest ecosystem which forms one of Indonesia’s main conservation sites," she said.

It should be emphasized, she continued, that “there is no other co-habitat on earth for these four flagship species, situated within a peat forest ecosystem like in the Rawa Singkil wildlife reserve.”

Minister Nurbaya displayed the following USGS Landsat 8 images. An analysis of them by the ministry’s spatial team found that almost all of the Rawa Singkil wildlife reserve (delineated in purple) still comprises intact peat forests, as verified by ground level evidence.

As demonstrated in the two images above, by early January this year the wildlife reserve was still dominated by peat forests, as was the case portrayed in photos from a report (Apr 25) published to coincide with Earth Day last year. 

The minister pointed out that Indonesian forestry authorities continue to make consistent efforts on the ground level, in addition to performing regular flyovers and satellite monitoring, as they have done for the past five years.

“I did a flyover of this wildlife reserve last year myself. All these efforts we are undertaking have a clear aim - of ensuring that the level of intactness of the Rawa Singkil wildlife reserve remains stable, whereby it is overwhelmingly composed of intact peat forests,” she explained.

The minister went on to caution that the Rawa Singkil wildlife reserve still faces real threats which need to be countered by even more intensive monitoring at various levels.

“As we enter 2020, what is certain is that the condition of the wildlife reserve has been confirmed as largely well-protected, with nearly all of it made up of intact peat forests which form a very effective home for the four flagship species,” she asserted.

Minister Nurbaya also confirmed that law enforcement actions are always on stand-by, as has been the case in previous years, to maintain the intactness of the Rawa Singkil wildlife reserve.