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WWF Combines Finance With Conservation to Protect Sumatran Rainforest

Image Credit: WWF

Through an ambitious project model combining innovative financing approaches with traditional conservation, World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS) and The Orangutan Project (TOP) are partnering with local communities to actively manage Thirty Hills, 100,000 acres of former logging forest in Sumatra, Indonesia.

The joint initiative in Thirty Hills ensures that some of the last unprotected lowland tropical forest in central Sumatra is formally zoned for restoration rather than clearing, and provides the conservation groups a 60-year license to manage the area. The project effectively expands the protected forests of Bukit Tigapuluh National Park by more than 25 percent and encompasses an essential natural habitat for elephants and orangutans.

The multi-year effort to protect Thirty Hills' forests and biodiversity highlights the importance of partnerships and persistence for conservation success in challenging environments.

WWF-Indonesia and Michelin are partnering in Thirty Hills on sustainable rubber production and reducing human-elephant conflict on a Michelin rubber plantation. FZS is working with local communities to enlist them as partners, and one of the early champions of the project, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, has provided funding and advocacy support since 2010 to WWF and its partners.

Thirty Hills is the site of the only successful program to reintroduce Sumatran orangutans, rescued from the illegal pet trade, back into the wild; FZS, TOP and partners have released 160 orangutans. Thirty Hills is also home to around 30 Sumatran tigers and 120 Sumatran elephants, both critically endangered.

To achieve this conservation milestone, WWF said it established a commercial company to oversee the “ecosystem restoration concession” with the partners and will look for wildlife-compatible ways to generate revenue to support protecting the forest, including selling rattan, tapping shade-grown “jungle rubber” and harvesting medicinal plants in the forest.

Sumatra has the highest rate of deforestation on the planet, according to WWF, and has approximately 130,000 square kilometers of remaining habitat for wildlife — only one-third of which has some form of protection from development and logging. Since 1985, Sumatra has lost at least half of its forest cover, and species like elephants, tigers and orangutans are getting squeezed into shrinking islands of forests in a sea of palm oil and pulp and paper plantations.

In response to global public outcry against the clearing of the last remaining old-growth rain forests in Indonesia, Asia Pulp and Paper Group (APP) in 2013 pledged to produce pulp and paper that is free from fiber or activity linked to deforestation. An independent report released earlier this year confirmed that APP has sufficient plantation resources to meet the pulp requirements of its existing mills as well as its future mill in OKI, South Sumatra.

In June, Asia Pacific Resources International Ltd (APRIL), one of the world’s largest producers of pulp and paper, announced an end to deforestation as part of a new Sustainable Forest Management Plan.


Mike Hower is Marketing Communications Manager at Carbon Lighthouse. With a background on both sides of the communications podium — as a journalist and strategic communicator — he is committed to helping organizations address climate change through sustainability innovation. Previously,… [Read more about Mike Hower]


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