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Bold Conservation Project to Save Sumatra's Thirty Hills

The Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry gives the go-ahead for a Conservation Concession for the protection of the critically endangered Sumatran orangutans. The concession will provide 39,000 hectares of tropical rainforest in Bukit Tigapuluh in central Sumatra for the reintroduction of orangutans into their natural habitat.

Bukit Tigapuluh National Park Map (Graphic: himmelbraun.de)
Map of new concession areas.

Jakarta, Indonesia (12th August):  WWF, Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS) and The Orangutan Project (TOP) are pleased to announce that the Indonesian government has granted PT Alam Bukit Tigapuluh (PT AB30) management license for ecosystem restoration concession adjacent to Bukit Tigapuluh National Park in the Bukit Tigapuluh landscape, known as ‘Thirty Hills Landscape’. This heralds a bold, new opportunity to save one of Sumatra’s last rainforests that is home to critically endangered tigers, elephants and or angutans, as well as two forest-dwelling tribes.  

Sumatra has suffered large-scale deforestation since 1985, primarily for palm oil, and pulp and paper plantations. By 2014, Sumatra had lost 13.9 million hectares of forests, leaving only severely fragmented patches covering 25 percent of the island. Our joint project to save Thirty Hills is a response to a crisis situation.

Protecting wildlife habitat for 60 years

By working through PT AB30, we will manage and protect almost 40,000 hectares of forest and wildlife habitats in central Sumatra’s deforestation hotspot for the next 60 years. The company will focus on restoring parts of the concession that have been deforested. While most of the concessions will be protected, some areas will be set aside for indigenous communities to improve their livelihoods. 

Receiving the license to manage the concessions marks a major milestone for conservation of flora and fauna in their natural habitat. Conservation groups have been working since 1995 to expand Bukit Tigapuluh National Park to its originally intended size that would encompass logging concessions that surround it. Over the past few years, we have cultivated a broad base of support in Indonesia including the former president, local political leaders, the provincial governor, communities and indigenous people. Our efforts were supported by global conservation community such as the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation. The actor and environmentalist helped to bring global attention to Thirty Hills.  

A model for innovative conservation

“I am honored that my Foundation was a part of this effort to protect Thirty Hills for the future. This incredible place—where elephants, orangutans and tigers coexist in the wild—is also one of the most threatened. Our work to protect this area is an example of what can beaccomplished when concerned organizations, governments and individuals work together to create a future where both nature and people can thrive,” said actor, environmentalist and WWF board member Leonardo DiCaprio. “To protect this landscape, WWF and its partners had to think big, and think differently. We are working together to ensure the protection of an extraordinary place and create a better future for the local communities of the Bukit Tigapuluh landscape. This project serves as a model for innovative conservation projects around the globe.”  
Thirty Hills was singled out by the Indonesian government at the 2010 tiger summit in St.Petersburg, Russia as one of six priority areas to save critically endangered Sumatran tigers of which 30 are estimated to live in Thirty Hills along with more than 120 Sumatran elephants and 160 orangutans.  

Most of the orangutans are survivors of the illegal pet trade and are part of the only successful reintroduction program for the Sumatran orangutan led by FZS, TOP and the Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry. 
Having partnered with Michelin, the world’s second-largest tire company, WWF will be working with the company to identify key forest within the company’s adjacent rubber plantation for protection of elephants and other wildlife corridors. Michelin is also committed to working with WWF in providing better livelihood for the community living around their plantations.

This coalition is also helping communities to develop strategies to improve their incomes, protect forests that represent significant carbon stocks and save wildlife surrounding the Thirty Hills ecosystem landscape funded partially through a $4 million grant from KfW, the German government-owned development bank.  

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