Restoration site before planting
Update on Cinta Raja restoration site
Fabien Garnier, SOS Conservation Programme Manager, 07/05/2017
The team and I left Medan at 7 am on Tuesday morning. Initially we made good progress, but from Stabat to Cinta Raja, the journey was through oil palm plantations covering thousands of hectares. Our off-road van was essential on these dirty, muddy and chaotic plantation tracks. Around 12pm, we finally reached Cinta Raja restoration site and its cabin, where the 4 restoration field workers have been living since the beginning of the project a month ago. Finally, at the end of the road, the Gunung Leuser National Park!
The team seemed in good health and we could see the restoration buildings taking shape: the 2 storey cabin was strong and would protect the team from bad weather, storms and wild elephants. The field workers had already started to build the nursery, with a capacity of 30,000 seedlings. We had brought mattresses with us, as well as kitchen equipment. The first task was to fix the water pump and tend the area around the cabin. The next step was installing solar panels to provide electricity.
After 5 hours spent in the car, I was happy to climb the nearest hill to look at the new restoration site. There were 75 hectares of what were once illegal oil palms to replace with indigenous rainforest trees. The oil palms, planted 22 years ago, should never have been planted as they are within the confines of the Gunung Leuser National Park. The palm oil trees were chopped down in February this year thanks to an appeal you helped to fund. We also had help from the National Park Authority, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry and the police force to secure the area. There were also lengthy discussions with the 18 families who occupied the area.
Now we can begin to restore this area to its former glory. It will not be long before orangutans, sun bears, elephants and many other species live here once more.
Establishing a new restoration site always provokes mixed feelings. The first impression is emptiness and desolation, with the palm trees lying on the ground, slowly decaying and fertilizing the soil. The second is anger at the thought of the forest and biodiversity that has been destroyed, because of lack of law enforcement, corruption and no respect for the environment. But at the same time we are optimistic, knowing that in a few years, thanks to your support and our work, the forest will regrow.
Rio, our forest restoration project manager, knows these feelings very well. He has worked on many restoration sites with us over the last few years. He too shares this feeling of pride: “Look Fabien, this banana tree next to the cabin. An elephant ate it in few minutes, the staff was scared he would attack the cabin, but he went away. That’s why we have to restore this area, so elephants and orangutans don’t come near humans anymore. We have to rebuild their home, the forest.”
I agreed and we had a last look at Cinta Raja before meeting the team to organize the upcoming activities. With one goal in mind: 30,000 trees planted by the end of the year.
Nursery for 30,000 tree seedlings
What the site could look like in 5 years' time