A former palm plantation in the Indonesian rainforest has been regenerated, bringing back biodiversity to this ecologically important part of the world following a fundraising campaign to buy the land.
In northern Sumatra, biodiversity is returning to a once decimated area of a World Heritage forest. The Gunung Leuser National Park of the Leuser Ecosystem is recognised as one of the most important forest areas in the world, yet is threatened by palm plantations, illegal logging, and hunting. Since 2017, some 100 hectares of oil palm plantation directly adjacent to the park have been transformed as a result of two campaigns by the Sumatran conservation group the Orangutan Information Centre and the Sumatran Orangutan Society, and supported by Lush.
The NGO, which is dedicated to conserving the orangutans and their rainforest homes in Sumatra, cut down at least 100,000 palm oil trees, initially reforesting 50 hectares with plants from the Leuser forest. A further 50 hectares were then transformed into environmentally-friendly agricultural land using a permaculture system, with the intention of restoring its rich plant diversity.
Bukit Mas Permaculture Centre
Now known as the Bukit Mas Permaculture Centre (BPC), it is home to a permaculture learning and ecotourism site. Adjacent to the Gunung Leuser National Park and Besitang River, the garden is being used to educate local farmers and visitors in how to create sustainable incomes in an environmentally-friendly way, without chemical fertilisers or pesticides. It is also helping communities improve the local economy through conservation practices, and through building new income streams through ecotourism.
The first nature school in northern Sumatra has been established on the land with support from the Whitley Fund for Nature and Sumatran Orangutan Society, helping to educate future generations to protect the Leuser forest. It currently educates 35 children from around the restoration area and further afield.
The garden is the first of its kind in northern Sumatra and is now producing organic high value crops such as ylang ylang, lemongrass, coffee, and cocoa. The area is also being used to create mini Leuser forests: 55,000 trees of 22 different species have been planted, and as a result of the area’s regeneration, more than 50 additional tree species are growing naturally alongside them and many wildlife has been roaming to this restored land as an extension to their natural habitat..
The Gunung Leuser National Park
The park is a forested area of 862,975 hectares in the Leuser Ecosystem in northern Sumatra and is recognised as one of the most important forest areas for biodiversity hotspot in the world. Some 8,500 plant species are found in the Leuser Ecosystem, and around 4,000 of those are inside the Leuser National Park. It is also the last natural place on the planet where four key animals can be found together: the Sumatran rhino, the Sumatran orangutan, the Sumatran tiger and the Sumatran elephant.
About the SOS Sumatra campaign
In 2017, a campaign from conservation charity the Sumatran Orangutan Society (SOS) - sister organisation of the OIC - was supported by Lush in a bid to return 50 hectares of palm plantation into a biodiverse habitat. Sales of 14,600 Orangutan Soaps - the number of orangutans remaining in the wild - raised £126,014. The campaign was revived in 2018 to buy and reforest another piece of 50-hectare land.
Find out more about replanting rainforests here.
Find out more about regenerative work in Sumatra.