Replanting Rainforest in Sumatra, Indonesia

by Sumatran Orangutan Society
Replanting Rainforest in Sumatra, Indonesia
Replanting Rainforest in Sumatra, Indonesia
Replanting Rainforest in Sumatra, Indonesia
Replanting Rainforest in Sumatra, Indonesia
Replanting Rainforest in Sumatra, Indonesia
Replanting Rainforest in Sumatra, Indonesia
Replanting Rainforest in Sumatra, Indonesia
Replanting Rainforest in Sumatra, Indonesia
Replanting Rainforest in Sumatra, Indonesia
Replanting Rainforest in Sumatra, Indonesia
Replanting Rainforest in Sumatra, Indonesia
Replanting Rainforest in Sumatra, Indonesia
Replanting Rainforest in Sumatra, Indonesia
Replanting Rainforest in Sumatra, Indonesia
Replanting Rainforest in Sumatra, Indonesia
Replanting Rainforest in Sumatra, Indonesia
Replanting Rainforest in Sumatra, Indonesia
Replanting Rainforest in Sumatra, Indonesia
Replanting Rainforest in Sumatra, Indonesia
Replanting Rainforest in Sumatra, Indonesia
Replanting Rainforest in Sumatra, Indonesia
Replanting Rainforest in Sumatra, Indonesia
Replanting Rainforest in Sumatra, Indonesia
Replanting Rainforest in Sumatra, Indonesia
A herd of Sumatran elephants visited the site
A herd of Sumatran elephants visited the site

Our camera traps have caught images and footage of wildlife returning to the forest restoration site in Besitang, including a herd of critically endangered Sumatran elephants - see the images below! We have also been lucky enough to capture footage of the spectacular mating display of the Great Argus pheasant.

Orangutans and many other species, especially elephants and birds, are sometimes referred to as 'Gardeners of the Forest' because they actually help with the natural regeneration of the forest through the seeds that they 'plant' in their dung. It's really encouraging to see a wide variety of species using the restored habitat.

Thank you for helping us protect and restore Sumatra's rainforests, for all the wildlife that depends on them. Please share our project with your friends, family and networks, and help us restore even more crucial habitat.

A macaque monkey
A macaque monkey
A Great Argus pheasant
A Great Argus pheasant

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One million trees!
One million trees!

This week we planted the millionth tree at our forest restoration site in Sumatra. A heartfelt thank you to everyone who helped us reach this amazing milestone.

To celebrate, we have launched an animation, voiced by SOS patron Bill Bailey, featuring the rather charming Armstrong the oranguatan! You can watch the animation http://orangutans-sos.org/savearmstrong.

SOS Director Helen Buckland is in Sumatra this week to visit the projects and witness the planting of the millionth tree. She says:

"Wildlife is starting to return to this corner of the park, including orangutans and elephants.  When I first visited the site where we are planting the one millionth tree, it was such a barren landscape, you couldn’t even hear birdsong. But today, it’s a thriving young forest , buzzing with life once again. Planting a million trees to restore lost habitat is a fantastic achievement. However, we must keep fighting to protect and restore the last standing forests in Sumatra if we are to turn the situation around for orangutans.  Please share our project far and wide so that we can carry on with our frontline conservation work and keep campaigning against any further destruction of Sumatra’s rainforests.”

Thank you for helping us build a brighter future for Sumatra’s forests, its wildlife and its people.

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The planned destruction of 1.2 million hectares
The planned destruction of 1.2 million hectares

With your support, we are restoring damaged forests in Sumatra, re-creating lost habitat for critically endangered species and restoring ecosystem services for the local people. But a recent announcement could lead to unimaginable destruction of huge areas of forest, that we will never be able to get back.

The Governor of Aceh province in Sumatra is set to wipe 1.2 million hectares of forest off the map, for agriculture (including oil palm plantations), logging and mining. 

These forests are the only place on Earth where orangutans, tigers, elephants and rhinos co-exist - and all are critically endangered.

Experts have warned that if these plans go ahead, all these iconic species could face extinction within 10 to 20 years. It will also lead to natural disasters such as floods and landslides, which spells disaster for the people of Aceh too.

The scale of the proposed destruction is catastrophic - we must convince the Governor to abandon these plans immediately.

This is a conservation emergency and we need your help urgently.

Please sign the petition today, and please ask everyone in your networks to do the same.


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The local Besitang community planting trees
The local Besitang community planting trees

Guardians of the forest...

Since beginning our forest restoration work in Besitang in 2008, we have seen a wonderful reaction from the community. Hundreds of local people sprung into action to help us build organic tree nurseries and plant more than 400,000 trees at this site to date, 180,000 over the last year alone. This grassroots support is the key to the success of the programme, and indeed of all of our projects in Sumatra. By equipping the local people with the motivation and tools to take responsibility for this area of the national park, they have become true guardians of the forest. We are delighted to announce that encroachment into the Sei Betung region of the Gunung Leuser National Park, where our Besitang rainforest restoration site is based, has ceased completely – a major achievement, which we hope can be replicated in other areas which are still under threat.

...and Gardeners of the forest

As well as planting trees, the restoration team have been implementing an innovative new approach: using artificial perches to encourage birds into the restoration site to accelerate natural regeneration.

Birds are excellent seed dispersers” says Ari, our Restoration Manager. “We are planting fast growing tree species that attract birds and other animals to forage in the restoration site, and these animals bring seeds from a wide variety of rainforest tree species. We got the idea when we saw a dead tree in the restoration site with many different types of plants growing naturally around it. We then observed that the dead tree was being used as a perch for various bird species. We began making artificial perches using dead tree branches.” There are now more than 30 within the rainforest restoration site in Besitang. We have already seen a variety of birds using the perches; species including Cerocok, Kipasan Mutiara, Perkutu Jawa, Kirik-kirik biru, Kacer, Striped Parrot and Woodpecker.

Just two months after installing the perches, the restoration team spotted several different tree species growing naturally around them. “They have been brought here by the birds, which must have dispersed the seeds while perching,” says Ari. Plants recorded include Marak Gajah, Sirih-Sirih, Turi-Turi, Kandri, Luingan, Tapak Gajah, Daun Tempe Tempe, Halaban and Senggani. “Most of these are fast growing ‘pioneer’ species that will help shade out weeds,” explains Ari. “They commonly attract wildlife including birds and primates too, as they have fruits. And our team spotted an orangutan nest in Marak Gajah trees in the restoration site!” 

Ari installs a bird perch
Ari installs a bird perch
A Betet loreng makes use of a perch!
A Betet loreng makes use of a perch!

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Chris planting a tree at Besitang
Chris planting a tree at Besitang

"After many months fundraising and organising my trip to North Sumatra I was jumping out of my skin. I was finally taking off on an adventure of a lifetime. This was my opportunity to see firsthand the impact my donations to the forest restoration project in Sumatra were having.

As I touched down in Medan I was welcomed by Panut Hadiswoyo, Founding Director of the Orangutan Information Centre (OIC), SOS's project partners. His commitment to protecting and restoring orangutan habitat in the Gunung Leuser National Park is an inspiration. So much so that he was recognised by the United Nations as a finalist in its Hero of the Forests Award earlier this year.

That night Panut took me out for a traditional Sumatran dinner and to explore the sights, sounds and smells of chaotic Medan.

When I arrived on the project site the next day I was greeted by all the OIC staff and the first thing I noticed as I explored the site was the diversity of the natural regeneration coming up and how close the primary rainforest was to the project site.

Throughout my week I shared a two story bamboo hut with the OIC Restoration Team (and the local insect population).

The Gunung Leuser National Park is an amazing place and I was lucky enough to see Hornbills, Gibbons and Thomas Leaf Monkeys. In the afternoons I could hear the long call of the male Orangutan which was a memorable experience.

As it was the dry season I assisted the restoration team in seed collecting, nursery work and maintenance of previous plantings.

I was shown around the project site by head of the OIC Restoration Program Ahmed Azhari (Ari). His knowledge of rainforest restoration and commitment to the project is a great inspiration to anyone that visits the site.

Over the past four years SOS and OIC have planted 398,692 trees over 196 hectares of National Park in the Besitang region. The growth rates of the trees throughout the project site are astounding. Some are now over four metres tall. The onsite nursery was also impressive with a wide diversity of plants ready to be planted out.

A highlight of my trip was when we were trekking in the nearby rainforest taking in the sounds and wildlife. We discovered some fresh orangutan nests and Ari noticed some orangutan poo on the ground so we collected it and took it back to the nursery. This was a great discovery as from these seeds the Restoration Team can discover what species of fruit and tree the orangutan has been feeding on.

Having seen the project site for myself I now know that the orangutan has a fighting chance to survive in the Gunung Leuser National Park. With continued support and awareness, we can help fight the deforestation of Indonesia’s rainforests."

Chris Jarrett

SOS would also like to share some highlights from the last year of the project:

Highlights this year:

  • A third new tree nursery was built in a new area of the Besitang restoration site, capable of cultivating up to 15,000 seedlings.
  • A total of 70,200 seedlings were cultivated and planted across all three nurseries.  We plan to have produced 85,000 seedlings by the end of 2012. 
  • This formerly degraded land is coming to resemble a young forest, with some trees now over 4 metres tall. We recorded an 85% survival rate of trees planted – an all-time high for the site. 
  • 90 local people have received training in tree nursery management and replanting, 60 of whom have been employed to help with seedling selection, planting and maintenance.
  • We have observed a number of species of wildlife returning to the area - including wild Sumatran orangutans and Sumatran elephants, which play vital roles in assisting growth and regeneration.  
  • The restoration team has been carefully monitoring tree growth and working to ensure new seedlings can thrive. New equipment to measure rainfall, temperature and humidity was installed in February, helping generate a more complete profile of the site and assisting with the planning of future planting sessions.
  • Our staff have been visiting other restoration sites and exchanging knowledge with experts affiliated with Rainforest Rescue in Australia, a restoration conference and workshop held in Bogor, Indonesia, and with the Forest Restoration Research Unit in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
  • Six rainforest restoration camps were attended by local university students and school children.
  • The last illegally planted oil palms have now been removed from the Besitang restoration site, with the final 4,800 felled in December.
  • We are also pleased to announce that agricultural encroachment into the Sei Betung region of the GLNP, where our Besitang restoration site is based, has ceased completely – a major achievement, which we hope can be replicated in other areas of the park which are still under threat.

We aim to match (if not exceed) original levels of species diversity, ecosystem structure and ecosystem function, whilst planting and encouraging natural regeneration of tree species that are indigenous to the Leuser forests. Building the capacity of the local community to become stewards of the replanting programme and guardians of the forest is a central element of this work. Despite some minor setbacks, including drought and floods damaging planted trees, the project is going from strength to strength. 

We are optimistic about the future of this area of critical habitat, and are looking forward to the day when every last hectare that has been lost is well on the way to being rainforest once again.

As always, we wish to thank everyone who has supported this work. We're really proud of the impact we're having, but of course there's a lot more land that needs to be reforested, so please keep supporting and sharing!

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Organization Information

Sumatran Orangutan Society

Location: Abingdon, Oxon - United Kingdom
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Twitter: @orangutansSOS
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Abingdon, Oxfordshire United Kingdom
$132,827 raised of $150,000 goal
 
2,218 donations
$17,173 to go
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