The Leuser is a UNESCO World Heritage rainforest in the north of Sumatra and all that remains of that island’s once mighty rainforest. It is the last place on Earth where four iconic big animals – great apes, rhinos, tigers, and elephants – all still live together in the wild. Despite being only 5% of the original forest, the Leuser is still one of the planet’s most densely biodiverse places.
There are more bird species here than in any other forest. Also among the countless species here are furry rhinos, clouded leopards, sun bears, and the world’s largest flower (15 feet tall!)
All of this is critically endangered because the Leuser itself is critically endangered. The elephant and orangutan populations have been plummeting for a century; only a few thousand orangutans remain, and less than 2,000 elephants. The Sumatran tiger, whose cousins on the islands of Java and Bali are already extinct, counts fewer than 400 individuals. And the Sumatran miniature rhino, furry and friendly as a puppy, has fewer than 80 individuals left. Every one of these species stands on the brink of extinction.
For these iconic animals as well as this last fragment of one of Earth’s richest and most endangered rainforests, it is now or never. This last remnant – 5% of the original forest – loses an estimated 50 million trees per year, and that count is accelerating yearly. In 2022, for every single acre restored, 500 acres were destroyed. If we do not act now to reverse these numbers the Leuser will be gone in 5-10 years. The Earth will be left without one of her most powerful defenses against the ravages of global warming, and long lists of irreplaceable species will be lost forever.