In a desperate bid, Indonesian citizens are suing their provincial and federal governments to halt devastation of the last place on Earth where Sumatran tigers, rhinoceroses, orangutans, and elephants still survive together in the wild.
For the past two years, ALERT has been actively engaged in efforts to save the world-renowned Leuser Ecosystem (for a sampling, see here, here, here, here, here, here, and here), in the Aceh Province of northern Sumatra.
The Leuser Ecosystem is at risk of being destroyed by an Aceh government scheme to allow extensive road-building and concessions for mining and oil palm plantations in the area.
In the recent lawsuit, the public group Gerakan Rakyat Aceh Menggugat (GeRaM) launched a civil lawsuit at the Central Jakarta District Court.
"[The plan] effectively dissolves protection of much of Aceh's remaining tropical rainforests, whitewashing crimes of the past, and paving the way for a new wave of catastrophic ecological destruction," GeRaM representative Farwiza Farha said.
The short-term profits from the developments would not benefit the people of Aceh, Farha said. "They are after quick immediate short-term gains, but the consequences will be borne by the rest of the community."
"The [Aceh plan] opens up massive areas of lowland forests to potential new concessions for plantations, mining, timber even, and it also legalizes many roads that have been cut through the forest ... and roads alone are enough to send these species to extinction," said Farha.
Leuser: Last Refuge for Endangered Nature
The Leuser Ecosystem, spanning more than 2.6 million hectares across the provinces of Aceh and Northern Sumatra, is one of the richest areas of tropical rainforest in Southeast Asia. Within the ecosystem is Gunung Leuser National Park, which is listed as a World Heritage Site.
"The Leuser Ecosystem is a jewel in the crown of the world's rainforests -- and it's unbelievable that the Aceh government isn't taking stronger steps to help protect it," said ALERT director Bill Laurance.
"In a world in which invaluable ecosystems are vanishing almost daily, the Leuser is becoming one of the most alarming environmental tragedies unfolding anywhere," said Laurance.
In concert with other civic and environmental groups, ALERT has been campaigning to have the entire Leuser Ecosystem listed as a World Heritage Site.
"Virtually anywhere else on the planet, the Leuser would be protected as a World Heritage Site -- a crucial element of our global heritage," said Laurance.
"I think the best hope is that the Indonesian federal government might be persuaded to intervene in Aceh, just as we saw happen in Australia with the establishment of World Heritage sites in Tasmania and the Queensland Wet Tropics."
"I haven't seen much evidence that the Aceh government on its own is going to the swayed to protect Leuser," said Laurance.