Combating wildlife crime in the Leuser Ecosystem, Sumatra

Forum Konservasi Leuser (FKL) serves to protect the Leuser Ecosystem, one of the most biodiverse hotspots in the world; home to rhino, orangutan, tigers and elephants. The area is under enormous threat from poachers and deforestation to make room for roads and palm oil plantations


The Sumatran tiger, by many considered the most beautiful of all tiger sub species, is critically endangered. Less than 500 individuals survive in the wild and numbers are still declining. The vast Leuser Ecosystem in northern Sumatra is one of the last true wilderness areas of South East Asia and offers the best hope for the long term survival of this species. However, Leuser’s tigers are continuously threatened by professional tiger poaching, depletion of key prey species and habitat fragmentation due to the construction of new roads. Working in conjunction with local communities and the Ministry of Forestry, this project aims to establish long term and systematic anti-poaching patrols to keep Leuser’s most critical tiger breeding zones 100% free of snares. The project will:
– Conduct and evaluate regular tiger patrols
– Create and distribute an educational booklet to local tour guides and businesses
– Create a long term tiger strategy and secure funding for continuation of patrols in critical areas

The Update

This has been a very successful project from the point of view of the number of patrols that have been carried out (20, averaging 12 days each, covering an area of 2000km2) and the number of snares (over 300) and poachers camps (about 25) that have been found and destroyed.  Two years after the start of the project, conservation action in the region has drastically increased, the first ever regular patrols have been carried out and both local and international attention has been turned on the area – not least when actor Leonardo DiCaprio paid a very high profile visit to the region in 2016, to initiate the establishment of a mega-fauna sanctuary there.  The Eastern lowland forests are no longer a blank spot on the conservation map, and as strong emphasis was put on the integration of local forest police staff in the patrol teams, improvements in local law enforcement will be key to achieving long lasting protection of Leuser’s many endangered species.

The project began by recruiting, training and installing the very first group of motivated eco rangers, including a staff member from the local fire protection authority, and including 32 local people who joined the patrols at least once.  An unexpectedly high number of snares were found and destroyed, many large enough to kill a tiger or even an elephant.

Data was collected throughout the patrols and GPS coordinates of all important wildlife and for future patrols.

A booklet about Leuser and its wildlife was written for visitors and local guides about the many smaller and endangered species living in the forest.  The guide was given to local tourist entrepreneurs and distributed amongst local schools for awareness raising and educational purposes.

The early results of this project have helped FKL secure funding from the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation for a long term wildlife conservation programme along the eastern border of the Leuser Ecosystem.  The LDF will partner with Acehenese conservationist Rudi Putra (CEO of FKL) to build a wildlife sanctuary in the ecosystem, constructing barriers, training wildlife patrols and rangers and reporting habitat destruction. As EOCA’s part of the project comes to an end, the patrol team will become part of this new project and use their expertise to further enhance the long term protection of Leuser’s wildlife.

Image: Leuser Sumatran Tiger. Camera trap FKL