Rainforest Rising

The Last Place On Earth

After 140 million years, time has suddenly run out.

The Emerald of the Equator

100 years ago the island of Sumatra was known as the "Emerald of the Equator." Roughly the size of California, it was covered top to bottom with rainforest and teeming with life. It had been this way for 140 million years. She and neighboring Borneo were the oldest forests in the world - sixty million years older than the first Tyrannosaurus Rex. Today only a fraction of that forest remains: the Leuser.

The Last Place On Earth

The Leuser is the last place on Earth where four iconic mega-fauna - great apes, rhinos, tigers, and elephants - all still live together in the wild. It is a UNESCO World Heritage rainforest in the north of Sumatra and all that remains of that island's once mighty rainforest. Despite being only 7% of the original forest, the Leuser is still one of the planet’s most densely biodiverse places.

There are more bird species here than in any other forest. Also among the countless species here are furry rhinos, clouded leopards, sun bears, and the world’s largest flower (15 feet tall!)

All of this is critically endangered because the Leuser itself is critically endangered. The elephant and orangutan populations have been plummeting for a century; only a few thousand orangutans remain, and less than 2,000 elephants. The Sumatran tiger, whose cousins on the islands of Java and Bali are already extinct, counts fewer than 400 individuals. And the Sumatran miniature rhino, furry and friendly as a puppy, has fewer than 80 individuals left. Every one of these species stands on the brink of extinction.

For these iconic animals as well as this last fragment of one of Earth's richest and most endangered rainforests, it is now or never. This last remnant - 7% of the original forest - loses an estimated 50 million trees per year, and that count is accelerating yearly. In 2019, for every single acre restored, 400 acres were destroyed. If we do not act now to reverse these numbers the Leuser will be gone in less than ten years. The Earth will be left without one of her most powerful defenses against the ravages of global warming, and long lists of irreplaceable species will be lost forever.

Restoring Vital Habitat

Currently we are preparing the restoration of a critical tiger habitat and degraded mangrove forest near the edge of the Leuser on Sumatra’s northeast coast. As the map details, there are hundreds of degraded remnants and patches. What was a coastal ecosystem with high concentrations of biodiversity has now been functionally destroyed through fragmentation. You can see the fragmentation on the map: everything in blue is unrestored swamp; green are the forest fragments still remaining.

Our project seeks to re-establish connection and forest corridors between fragments.

This campaign will restore vital habitat for the rich diversity of coastal life which require these mangrove forests to survive and thrive. Mangroves also absorb high amounts of carbon from the atmosphere, as well as protect vulnerable coastal communities from typhoons and tsunamis.

Critically, it will also expand the habitat of the Sumatran tiger who today count fewer than 400 individuals left. It is one step toward keeping these majestic creatures from being lost forever.

Proven Partners

Our partner on the ground is Forum Konservasi Leuser, one of the Leuser’s most established and effective conservation organizations. FKL’s director, Rudi Putra, is a National Geographic Fellow and internationally recognized conservation icon.

The Indonesian government is mandated to restore this coastal tiger habitat and FKL is contracted for that restoration. Restoring this first project also opens the door for the restoration of many more critical habitats in one of the world’s most vital rainforest systems.

For the Leuser and rainforests everywhere it's now or never.

We have agency. We can shape the future.