An orphaned Sumatran orangutan at a rescue facility run by the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme
Activists have launched an urgent appeal calling upon outgoing Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to step up protection of the only ecosystem that houses Sumatran orangutans, rhinos, elephants and tigers.
End of Icons, an initiative led by environmentalists in Aceh, is urging Yudhoyono to elevate the protected status of the Leuser Ecosystem before he leaves office. End of Icons is targeting the president ahead of his UN Climate Summit speech next week.
Environmentalists fear that a proposed plan to revise Aceh’s spatial plan — the zoning law that governs land use in the north Sumatran province — will spur conversion of key habitat for industrial plantations and mining concessions.
Yudhoyono has frequently spoken of his love of wildlife and the importance of Indonesia’s forests during his presidency.
“I do not want to later explain to my granddaughter Almira, that we, in our time, could not save the forests and the people that depend on it,” he said during a 2011 speech at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) in Bogor. “I do not want to tell her the sad news that tigers, rhinoceroses, and orangutans vanished like the dinosaurs.”
Yudhoyono has committed the country to reducing emissions significantly from a projected 2020 baseline and initiated a reform process within the agencies responsible for forest management. However, despite these efforts, forest loss has risen during his time in office, according to data published by researchers at the University of Maryland, World Resources Institute, and Google, among other institutions.
Jokowi, Yudhoyono’s successor, is expected to carry on Yudhoyono’s efforts, although some NGOs have voiced concerns about the lack of specifics in his plans for Indonesia’s forests.