Author Archives: wafauna

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Global “Love the Leuser Ecosystem” Movement Brings Unprecedented Attention to Little Known Biodiversity Hotspot



Global “Love the Leuser Ecosystem” Movement Brings Unprecedented Attention to Little Known Biodiversity Hotspot

Regional and international NGOs, renowned graphic artist, wildlife photographer and actor Leonardo DiCaprio join forces to highlight the world-class values at stake in Indonesia

Jakarta/Banda Aceh/San Francisco/New York/London –

The Amazon, The Great Barrier Reef, The Grand Canyon . . .The Leuser Ecosystem? An unprecedented global movement including local and international organizations have combined forces with renowned graphic artist Asher Jay, celebrated outdoor photographer Paul Hilton and actor and activist Leonardo DiCaprio to bring global attention to this little known but highly valuable region on the north tip of Sumatra.

Local grassroots groups, top wildlife biologists, forest conservationists, human rights and climate advocates say it is past time the Leuser Ecosystem gets the recognition it deserves as a globally important conservation priority. Their plan is to utilize art, photography, video and virtual reality through social and traditional media to elevate the profile of the unique landscape to the point that its fame affords a degree of protection from the industries seeking to exploit it for short term profit.

The 6.5 million acre Leuser Ecosystem is one of the largest intact expanses of rainforest left in Southeast Asia and is the last place on Earth where orangutans, elephants, tigers and rhinos still live together in the wild. Top wildlife scientists have warned that all four of these critically endangered, iconic species are at risk of extinction if the remaining forests of the Leuser Ecosystem are destroyed.

The Leuser Ecosystem is an ancient ecosystem where many millennia of unbroken evolution have produced one of the highest concentrations of biological diversity known to science. This rich flora and fauna includes at least 105 species of mammals, 386 species of birds, 95 species of reptiles and amphibians and 8,500 species of plants. Many of these, like the Thomas Leaf Monkey, also known as ‘punky monkey,’ are endemic to the region and can be found nowhere else.

The Leuser Ecosystem flanks two Sumatran provinces, Aceh and North Sumatra. Aceh just elected a former governor, Irwandi Yusef, who in his previous term had been dubbed the ‘green governor’ by some, so anticipation is high to see if the new political leadership will prioritize Leuser conservation to a higher degree than recent years.

About a third of the Leuser Ecosystem is designated as the Gunung Leuser National Park, an UNESCO World Heritage Site, though much of the Leuser Ecosystem’s most biodiversity rich lowland rainforest and peatland areas lie outside of the park’s boundaries.

Millions of people in the region depend on the clean rivers of the Leuser Ecosystem for drinking water, flood protection and irrigation for agricultural livelihoods. A growing local conservation movement has grown to include robust political, scientific and legal citizens efforts across the region to advocate for its protection, alongside a green growth strategy for development.

The Leuser Ecosystem was featured as a critical region to protect due to its outsize influence on the global climate in Leonardo DiCaprio’s hit climate documentary Before the Flood, which has become the most widely watched documentary in history. The Leuser is home to three major peat swamps, which in addition to being dubbed the ‘orangutan capital of the world’ are among the most carbon-rich landscapes on earth. These flooded forests capture large quantities of carbon and store it safely underground and out of our atmosphere.

Unfortunately, while it is illegal to do so, these peatlands are regularly drained and burned to make way for industrial palm oil plantations. When this happens, immense amounts of carbon pollution are released into the air, with the latest episode of fires estimated to have caused upwards of 100,000 deaths across Southeast Asia. At the height of the 2015 fire season the human caused wildfires in Indonesia released more carbon pollution daily than the entire economy of the U.S. combined.


Contact: Blair Fitzgibbon (English)

Leoni Rahmawati (Indonesian)


Quotes from regional and international organizations working to protect the Leuser Ecosystem:


Wildlife Asia

“We are tragically on the cusp of losing Sumatran rhinos. The Leuser ecosystem is the last bastion of hope for this and so many other critically endangered species,” said Clare Campbell, Executive Director of Wildlife Asia. “We have one last shot to turn the tide for Sumatran orangutans, rhinos, tigers and elephants but in order to act with enough urgency we need the world to know Leuser and we need the world to love Leuser.”

Forest, Nature and Environment Aceh (HAkA)

“The Leuser Ecosystem is a crucial life-giving resource for millions of people, many of whom have depended on its healthy forests and clean water as the basis of their livelihoods for generations,” said Farwiza Farhan, Chairperson of Forest, Nature and Environment Aceh (HAkA). “Protecting the irreplaceable forests of the Leuser Ecosystem is a critical environmental priority, but it is also very much a human rights issue as well.”


Orangutan Information Center (OIC)

“The Leuser Ecosystem is the hope of the future for wildlife, people and the earth,” said Panut Hadisiswoyo. “Extinction is forever but ‘Critically Endangered’ means there is still time to save these magnificent animals if we act now to save the Leuser Ecosystem.”


Leuser Conservation Forum (FKL)

“For us people who were born and raised in Aceh the deepest value the Leuser Ecosystem is the water it provides,” said Rudi Putra of the Leuser Conservation Forum. “Millions of people depend on this water source and when the forest is broken, our communities begin to break down too. The Leuser Ecosystem is a beautiful and fascinating place. It has the power to bring tears to your eyes. Yet greed for fleeting wealth and status has driven many to exploit it. Now we face the sad reality that unless the forest destruction stops, our grandchildren may someday live without water. But we are not standing by to leave a legacy of disaster for the generations to come. We are fighting back. Working together I am sure we have the power to stem the destruction and protect the Leuser Ecosystem far into our shared future.”


Indonesian Forum for the Environment (WALHI) Aceh

“Leuser Ecosystem is rich of flora and fauna that does not exist in any other place in the world, it also serves as an area to protect water resources for people living in Aceh and North Sumatra,” said Muhammad Nur, from WALHI Aceh. “But several facts has shown that threats from land clearing activity for energy, palm oil plantations, roads construction, mining, and illegal logging, without paying any attention to the environmental laws have continued to destroy the balance of Leuser Ecosystem. Therefore, Aceh spatial plan need to provide special protection to Leuser Ecosystem. There is also an urgent need to have a common understanding between international, national and local governments about Leuser Ecosystem’s management, utilization, and control policy.”


Rainforest Action Network (RAN)

“The Leuser Ecosystem is a true global treasure and one of the world’s most important remaining intact rainforests, but few people outside of the region have heard of it yet,” said Lindsey Allen, Executive Director of Rainforest Action Network (RAN). “To survive, the Leuser needs to be elevated into the international spotlight by a global movement of people who recognize their role in protecting this extraordinary place from further destruction for international commodities like palm oil.”


Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme (SOCP)

“People have to understand that Leuser’s forests are far more economically valuable left as they are, for the long term prosperity of its surrounding human population, than they could ever be if exploited for short term gain,” said Ian Singleton of the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme. “The environmental damage we see every year in Indonesia’s forests is not only costly in terms of biodiversity losses, it’s extremely costly economically too. Flash floods destroy entire towns and kill people. Haze from fires kills people and causes widespread health issues. It also blocks out the sun, interfering with agriculture, and disrupts business through cancelled flights and a host of other means.”


Sumatran Orangutan Society (SOS)

“It’s simple: protecting Leuser means that orangutans, and so many other species, can survive and thrive in the wild. With your support, we are backing the local people of Sumatra in their fight against the destruction of Leuser – a battle that can, and must, be won,” said Helen Buckland, Director of the Sumatran Orangutan Society.



“The Leuser Ecosystem has everything, everything but protection.” said Nicole Rycroft, Executive Director of Canopy. “Canopy’s market partners including many of the world’s largest fashion brands, printers and publishers are working to ensure that these magical rainforests continue to grace our planet.”


Asher Jay (National Geographic Explorer, Creative Conservationist)

“There are very few places left on this planet where our evolutionary and biological history has been kept intact by a wild that has seen the rise and fall of entire civilizations. Where our true lineage is archived for future generations to connect to. Landscapes that predate our existence on this planet, where the soil is rich with stories, and ancient trees serve as the gatekeepers of time. The Leuser Ecosystem is one such verdant Eden, and if it isn’t protected, we stand to lose not just an irreplaceable habitat for Sumatran tigers, elephants, orangutans and rhinos, we stand to lose volumes of our origin story.” – Asher Jay, National Geographic Explorer, Creative Conservationist.


SumOfUs (SOU)

“With the Leuser Ecosystem, corporations have a unique opportunity to demonstrate their good faith and walk the walk,” said Fatah Sadaoui, Senior Campaigner at SumOfUs. “After a decade of sustainable palm oil promises, commitments, and policies, consumer goods companies such as PepsiCo, Unilever and Nestle have the responsibility to protect one of the planet’s most precious and biodiverse ecosystems. The clock is ticking and consumers all over the world are watching. If corporations don’t take immediate action to ensure the preservation of the Leuser Ecosystem, there’s no going back.”


You can donate to Wildlife Asia’s appeal to protect the Leuser ecosystem here








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GROUND-BREAKING DISCOVERY: Survey of uncharted Myanmar region finds Southeast Asia’s last great wilderness

Yangon, Myanmar (3 March) – The Karen Wildlife Conservation Initiative (KWCI), with financial support from WWF and other partners, have conducted six camera traps surveys in the hill forests of Northern Karen State, Myanmar, previously inaccessible to biologists and conservationists for security and political reasons. The surveys found at least 31 mammals including tigers, leopards and Asian Elephants. 17 of the 31 are categorised as Near Threatened, Vulnerable or Endangered on the IUCN Red List.

PicMonkey Collage-2

“It is incredibly rare to find such rich and diverse wildlife anywhere in the world today but certainly in Southeast Asia.” said Clare Campbell, Director of Wildlife Asia, the Australian conservation NGO that coordinates the KWCI. “Thanks to the long-standing conservation efforts of the Karen people this area is a refuge for the last tigers in the region, Asian elephants and so much more.”

“Karen people have intricate knowledge of their forests and wildlife which is directly responsible for the abundant wildlife in this region,” said Saw Sha Bwe Moo, technical field expert for KWCI and lead author of the survey. “However, as the peace process brings rapid economic development to Myanmar we are seeing increased habitat destruction and wildlife poaching that have decimated much of the wilderness in other parts of Southeast Asia. We must act now if we are to protect this last great wilderness.”

According to the FAO Global Forest Resource Assessment, 2015, Myanmar had the world’s third highest annual net loss of forest area between 2010–2015, behind only Brazil and Indonesia.

Poaching in the region, driven by the multi-billion-dollar illegal wildlife trade, is also at critical levels. During the survey, multiple groups of poachers were caught on camera traps.

“The illegal wildlife trade is rapidly emptying Myanmar’s forests and proximity to the infamous Golden Triangle Region makes it particularly vulnerable,” said Nick Cox, WWF-Myanmar Conservation Director. “The illegal wildlife markets in Myanmar’s cities and along all its borders must be closed, and well-trained rangers are needed on the ground if Myanmar is to keep its incredible wildlife.”

The survey was carried out in four areas of Karen State from December 2014-–July 2015. Other important species found included Asiatic golden cat, sun bear, and dhole.

PicMonkey Collage

For full survey see article published in Oryx Journal First structured camera-trap surveys in Karen State, Myanmar, reveal high diversity of globally threatened mammals (*1)

Wildlife Asia is an Australian based organisation committed to the preservation of high biodiversity landscapes in Asia. Acknowledging the significant work of the Karen people to date to protect wildlife in this region and respecting their cultural traditions we are growing our support to build local capacity and foundations for long-term sustainable management. This is the first time we have alerted the international community to the global significance of the wildlife harboured in Karen State and really presented the evidence for conservation investment.

Wildlife Asia acknowledges the generous support of our major donors to this project; Mr Peter Hall, Hunter Hall International, Rainforest Trust, the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, Balcombe Trust, WWF Myanmar, Zoos South Australia, Mr G Whitehead and the late Mr Martin Copely.

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Freedom for Javan gibbons

On August 10 another family of Javan gibbons were released back into Puntang Reserve in West Java. Mel, Pooh and baby Asri had undergone many years of rehabilitation at the Javan Gibbon Centre after being rescued from the illegal pet trade.


Wildlife Asia’s partner, the Silvery Gibbon Project supported the establishment of the JGC back in 2002 and since then has been instrumental in the development of the Reintroduction Program and also the operation of the very first Wildlife Protection Unit deployed to protect a population of gibbons.


The Javan gibbon, is the last remaining ape species found on the Indonesian island of Java. Now sharing their home with over 140 million people, very little habitat remains for wildlife. There are however a few viable populations remaining in National Parks and the Reintroduction Program also provides the opportunity to return gibbons to areas of forest where they have become locally extinct.


The illegal pet trade remains a problem for this species however and with a  recent spike in confiscation of gibbons en route to the Middle East, we need to ensure greater protection of wild populations and attempt to curb the trade.


If you would like to help more gibbons get back to the forest please consider becoming a regular donor to our gibbon programs.




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Leo DiCaprio visits Leuser!

Leonardo Di Caprio met with the team in Sumatra recently to get a first hand look at the impact of forest destruction in this region. The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation is supporting our local partners to establish a Mega-Fauna Sanctuary in the Leuser Ecosystem and Leo personally is a strong advocate for forest protection globally. After his recent Oscar’s acceptance speech, Leo is becoming a voice for climate change and his focus on Leuser is providing enormous momentum in our efforts to make the world aware of the importance of saving this critical ecosystem.

Although initial reports in Indonesia focused on an investigation of his visit and potential ‘black-listing’ a more positive story emerged as the Minister of Environment and Forestry  declared her commitment to engage in further dialogue with Leo DiCaprio and expressed concern over the issues he raised.

The report below from The Jakarta Post;

Indonesia’s Minister of the Environment and Forestry, Dr Siti Nurbaya, has declared her appreciation for the good intentions and sincerity of Leonardo DiCaprio after the Oscar-winning actor expressed his concerns that the home range of some key wildlife species continues to be reduced by the expansion of palm oil plantations in the Leuser Ecosystem. 

“My view is that DiCaprio’s concerns are both sincere and substantial, and he has certainly acted in good faith. In fact, we largely share his concerns on this matter. In light of this and to reciprocate his sincerity and good intentions, I am open to working together with DiCaprio in a joint effort whereby both of us can have our concerns addressed, including those that pertain to the Leuser Ecosystem,” the minister told in an exclusive interview on Saturday (Apr 2), on the sidelines of a three-day discussion on Indonesian climate change programs and their implementation which she is leading from April 1-3.

The minister added that she had reviewed all the procedures related to DiCaprio’s time in Indonesia, and especially his visit to the Gunung Leuser National Park, and found nothing untoward in the film star’s conduct. 

“There was even an official from my ministry serving in the province who accompanied DiCaprio on his visit, in particular when he went to see the orangutans in the Gunung Leuser National Park. It’s really not relevant to link the concerns conveyed by DiCaprio with immigration matters,” the minister affirmed.

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Racing Extinction in the Leuser Ecosystem Indiegogo Launch

Here it is!! Wildlife Asia is very excited to launch our crowd funding campaign. When we first learned of the Leuser Ecosystem and heard how the last place on Earth was being destroyed for Conflict Palm Oil, we knew we had to take action, and today we’re so proud to bring you Racing Extinction in the Leuser Ecosystem.

The key to this project is collaboration. We know that the companies responsible for the destruction of the Leuser Ecosystem would rather nobody knew about it, so the first thing we can all do is share this with our friends! Spread the word via social media and let’s make the Leuser Ecosystem a household name so these companies can no longer hide!

Please share our campaign far and wide so that we can reach as many people as possible! THANK YOU for the support!

Coming soon!


  • Did you see this story in the The Sydney Morning Herald today? The Sumatran rhino can be saved. Yes
    17/Mar/2018 11:48
  • Some rare good news from The Last Place on Earth 👍🐯🐘🦏🌳 Governor of Aceh, Irwandi Yus
    15/Mar/2018 06:24
  • Today, on World Wildlife day, we are very excited to share with you a short documentary celebrating
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  • So it’s no secret that this is my favourite animal on the planet 😍 We just have to celebrate g
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  • It’s WORLD WILDLIFE DAY! The tiger epitomises beauty and strength, yet their fight for survival i
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  • Great little video from Save the Rhino International This message applies to so many species. For S
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  • Want to learn more about the Karen Wildlife Conservation Initiative? This is one of the most excit
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  • Still hope for Javan gibbons but we must protect their remaining habitat and take serious steps to c
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  • Did you know that early in the 20th century there were few than 200 Greater one-horned rhinos left i
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  • How great is this little dude!!! Finn is at it again, helping rhinos AND people! He’s teamed up wi
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  • Just look at these tiger cubs! Great footage and promising to see breeding in Leuser 👍
    04/Jan/2018 13:32
  • Remembering with fondness the magnificent Hsing Hsing who passed away over the weekend. For all of
    18/Dec/2017 08:04
  • Did you catch this great piece on ABC/BBC radio about our work in Myanmar and the exciting plans th
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  • Our Christmas newsletter is out now! Visit our website to sign up if you are not yet on our email li
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  • Good stuff @instagram! This is what you get if you search for tiger selfie images. It’s about time
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  • It is with great sadness that we share the news on the passing of the wonderful anthropologist, frie
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  • The Aceh Citizen Lawsuit Movement (GeRAM) held a press conference on Tuesday in Jakarta. The press c
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  • Wild and Free Keep Cups are here! We have 4 great colour combos of these gorgeous reusable genuine
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  • Slightly delayed post after flying back straight into Art Auction mayhem.........but just had an awe
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  • Well, that's another one down! Can't say a big enough thank you to all the incredible artists who do
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  • The fabulous @artgypsea in action live painting at @ROAR Arts Event! #artforwildlife #startwith1thi
    09/Nov/2017 11:11
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    09/Nov/2017 10:04


  • Wildlife Asia - Please help us to win 20k to help save Sumatran rhinos. Last chance to vote for us!Tue Jul 25 03:03:30 +0000 2017
  • Exciting job opportunity just posted!!! Come and join us on the Karen Wildlife Conservation Initiative May 16 07:54:59 +0000 2017
  • The Karen people have big plans to ensure their natural resources are sustainably managed. Find out how! May 11 04:10:08 +0000 2017
  • @austethical Thank you for helping to save the #LastPlaceonEarth. Letting go of this paradise is not an option. May 04 01:26:53 +0000 2017
  • #LoveTheLeuser? @LeoDiCaprio does. Find out why and join the movement to protect this place Apr 17 01:20:07 +0000 2017
  • The Leuser Ecosystem is a globally important carbon sink. Learn more about it:… Apr 16 11:20:14 +0000 2017
  • No matter where you live, we depend on the Leuser Ecosystem. Join the #LoveTheLeuser movement.… Apr 16 02:20:14 +0000 2017
  • Graphic artist @EarthHeiress tells the story of the Leuser Ecosystem. Find out why it matters:… Apr 14 22:20:11 +0000 2017
  • No matter where you live, we depend on the Leuser Ecosystem. Join the #LoveTheLeuser movement.… Apr 14 10:20:14 +0000 2017
  • Join the #LoveTheLeuser Ecosystem movement, a global effort to raise the profile of the Leuser:… Apr 13 02:20:09 +0000 2017
  • To protect the Leuser Ecosystem, we have a plan to make it famous: LoveTheLeuser Apr 11 22:15:13 +0000 2017
  • The Leuser Ecosystem is a land of rare beauty. Help protect this ecosystem: #LoveTheLeuser Apr 10 23:30:29 +0000 2017
  • Sumatran orangutans #LoveTheLeuser! Join the movement to protect this amazing place. Apr 09 23:30:30 +0000 2017
  • The Leuser Ecosystem is like nowhere else on Earth. Join the #LoveTheLeuser movement: Apr 08 20:30:50 +0000 2017
  • Full of life, the Leuser Ecosystem is Indonesia at its wildest. Join the #LoveTheLeuser movement:… Apr 08 01:30:21 +0000 2017
  • There are few places that vibrate w/ the power of nature like the Leuser Ecosystem: #LoveTheLeuserThu Apr 06 06:30:33 +0000 2017
  • Graphic artist @EarthHeiress tells the story of the Leuser Ecosystem. #LoveTheLeuser Apr 05 01:25:07 +0000 2017
  • Join the #LoveTheLeuser movement to protect clean drinking water for millions: Apr 04 02:05:19 +0000 2017
  • #LoveTheLeuser Ecosystem? Let’s get the world excited to protect this amazing place: Apr 02 21:05:08 +0000 2017
  • Millions of Acehnese & North Sumatran people #LoveTheLeuser! Find out why: #WaterIsLife Apr 02 01:05:09 +0000 2017


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