In today’s blog, Dr Dieter Hoffmann, Head of the Global Land Department at the RSPB shares his experience of Hutan Harapan in Indonesia – a remnant of rainforest brimming with life and one that the RSPB, BirdLife International and Burung Indonesia have been working to protect for many years.

Hutan Harapan in Sumatra, Indonesia is a fantastic remnant of rainforest that once covered much of Sumatra. Today, Hutan Harapan is almost completely surrounded by oil palm and timber plantations.

Today, Hutan Harapan (circled in yellow) is almost completely surrounded by oil palm and timber plantations. Very little of the original forest remains. In fact, dry lowland Sumatran forest is among the most biodiverse but threatened rainforests in the world. Source: Hansen/UMD/Google/USGS/NASA.

More than 15 years ago, I and colleagues from Burung Indonesia and the BirdLife International Secretariat started an initiative to protect the forest and it is clear to us that without our intervention, the forest would have gone and would now be oil palm or timber plantations.

Reaffirming our commitment to protect the forest
During the BirdLife World Congress and 100-year anniversary celebrations in September, the RSPB, BirdLife International and Burung Indonesia reaffirmed our commitment to conserve Hutan Harapan.

The initiative was hailed by the more than 115 strong Partnership (the world’s largest and oldest Partnership of conservation organisations) as one of the world’s most important conservation initiatives.

Experiencing a rainforest rich in life
I recently had the great privilege of again visiting Harapan. PT REKI, the company created by the consortium of Burung Indonesia, BirdLife International and the RSPB, has been doing a great job in protecting this forest and supporting the indigenous communities living there to earn sustainable livelihoods.

I woke up every morning to the sound of the Gibbons calling to each other across the forest – a natural musical symphony. In addition to the Gibbons, which are common in Hutan Harapan, the forest supports a wide range of species including Sumatran Elephants, Sumatran Tigers, Sunda Pangolins and numerous other animals and birds.

Camera trap image of Sumatran Tiger in Hutan Harapan. © PT REKI.

One day we were able to visit the forest in the south of the concession in Jambi Province, some of which is threatened by development proposals. What a wonderful piece of forest this is! The Kapas River winds through the rich canopy of the forest which stretches to the horizon. This is an incredible piece of forest, one of the richest and most biodiverse on the planet. We even saw footprints of Tigers and heard the sound of Rhinoceros Hornbills flying overhead! We sent up a drone which captured amazing images of the forest!

The stunning forest along the Kapas River taken in August 2022. © PT REKI.

Looking to the future
We welcome Indonesia’s "just energy transition partnership" (JETP), announced by the Indonesian government at the G20 leaders’ summit in Bali, which commits Indonesia to reach net zero by 2060. Retaining and restoring natural forests such as Hutan Harapan as carbon sinks will help Indonesia to reach that goal.

PT REKI and other Indonesian colleagues are doing a tremendous job of maintaining the forest under challenging circumstances. I hope that they will be given the support they need to protect Hutan Harapan for future generations, this wonderful rainforest that is the heritage of all Indonesians and indeed the world.

With thanks
My visit to Hutan Harapan was made possible by PT REKI and Burung Indonesia. I would also like to acknowledge the support of our other partners BirdLife International and NABU (Nature and Biodiversity Union, BirdLife Germany) who work together with the RSPB and our Indonesian partners to conserve Hutan Harapan.

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