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Sumatra's Leuser Ecosystem rainforest fights against illegal palm oil

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His name is Tezar Pahlevie, and this year he was honored by winning the 2013 GRASP Conservation award for his team’s work restoring rainforests damaged by illegal palm oil plantations, according to Rainforest Action Network. But now, a dangerous push from palm oil companies could see all their hard work undone. “I write from my home in Aceh,” writes Pahlevie, “on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, because the people and the place I love most are in danger and I urgently need support from people around the world to save them.”

This is a really scary time for him, because the governor of Aceh has on his desk a disastrous plan that would remove crucial protections from the Leuser Ecosystem, opening up huge areas of some of the world’s most biologically diverse forests to major industrial development. This new plan could be signed by the governor at any time.

The six million acre Leuser Ecosystem is home to the densest population of orangutans remaining anywhere and it’s the only place where orangutans, tigers, elephants, rhinos and sun bears live in the same forest together. Nearly four million people depend on the rainforests of the Leuser Ecosytem to provide them with clean water for drinking, irrigation and food production.

“I am really sad and frustrated because every day and every month I see the destruction of the forests around my home,” continues Pahlevie. “We in Aceh have experienced the dangerous floods that come after the logging and destroy people’s homes, livelihoods and in some cases, takes the lives of our friends or family. Witnessing all this destruction breaks my heart.

“We have a different vision for Aceh. We must protect the Leuser Ecosystem and the people who rely on it. The Aceh people have long fought to protect these forests because they provide us with clean water, food and are important for the next generation.”

Just recently, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) identified the Leuser Ecosystem as one of the world’s foremost “irreplaceable areas” that must be protected to preserve biodiversity. Scientists from across the world are right now calling on the governor of Aceh to protect these forests by nominating the region to become a new UNESCO World Heritage site.

“It gives me hope that by people across the world calling on the governor, he will listen to the people instead of the companies that want to destroy our forests, and work to find a balance that will protect the forests and the livelihoods of Aceh’s people.” – Tezar Pahlevie.

Please click here to automatically send a fax to Governor Dr. Zaini Abdullah asking him to listen to the traditional wisdom of Aceh’s people by supporting the nomination of the Leuser Ecosystem as a new UNESCO World Heritage site.

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Amanda Carlucci has her finger on the pulse of the green movement. Stay up to date on the latest in green activism. You can make a difference. Be a part of the movement, and subscribe here.

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