The conservation history of Leuser
The efforts to conserve Leuser started in the 1920’s. Back then a geology expert from the Netherlands named F.C. Ven Heurn explored the prevalence of oil and mineral resources in Aceh. The local customary leaders became worried about the preservation of Leuser, as they considered the Leuser Mountain a holy and sacred place.
Van Heurn didn’t find the minerals he was searching for and instead he started to help the local customary leaders (the Datoek and Oeloebalang) to persuade the Dutch Colonial Government to grant Leuser a wildlife sanctuary status. After discussions with the Netherlands Commission for Conservation of Nature in August 1928, it was proposed to assert conservation status to an area stretching from Singkil (upstream of the Simpang Kiri River) in the south, along the Bukit Barisan mountain towards the direction of the Tripa River valley and the coastal swamp in northern Meulaboh. On the 6th of February 1934 a customary community meeting was held in Tapaktuan that resulted in “the Tapaktuan Declaraton”. This was the first formal agreement concerning the conservation of Leuser.
Following this, constant efforts have been undertaken to strengthen the protection of Leuser, among other things: marking the boundary of Mount Leuser Wildlife Reserve (1940), incorporation of the Kappi, Sikundur and Sembala highlands into the Mount Leuser Wildlife Reserve (1970’s), reassigning the Mount Leuser Wildlife Reserve as a National Park (1980), and initiating collaboration between the Indonesian Government and the European Union to conserve Leuser (1991).
The Leuser Ecosystem was legalised through a decree of the Minister of Forestry No. 227/KPTS-II/1995 and was further strengthened by Presidential Decree No. 33/1998, the Minister of Forestry’s Decree No. 190/Kpts-II/2001 (concerning the Leuser Ecosystem boundary in Aceh), the Minister of Forestry’s Decree No. 10193/KPTS-II/2002 (concerning the Leuser Ecosystem boundary in North Sumatra), law No. 11/2006 concerning the Acehnese Government and the Government Regulation No. 26/2008 establishing the Leuser Ecosystem as a national strategic area.
Leuser International Foundation
As a continuous effort to conserve the Leuser Ecosystem, inspired by the enthusiasm of the local Acehnese leaders during the Dutch-Indies era, some Acehnese figures in Jakarta established the Leuser International Foundation (LIF) on the 23rd of July 1994. The founders of the LIF include H. Bustanil Arifin, SH, H. Abdul Rachman Ramly, Prof. Dr. Ibrahim Hasan, MBA, Prof. Dr. Syamsuddin Mahmud, Drs. H. Sayed Mudhahar Ahmad, Drs. Nurdin Abdul Rachman, Drs. H. Teuku Iskandar and Mike Griffiths.
Since the beginning the LIF has been fully supported by the Indonesian Government and the international community, in its effort to assist the government in managing the Leuser Ecosystem. The largest program that has been implemented so far is the Leuser Development Program (LDP) with funding from the European Union (1995-2004). The LIF also got support from various other donors including ExxonMobil Foundation, the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), US Fish and Wildlife, Secours Populaire Francais, Rotary Club of England, Denver Zoo, the Multi Donor Fund (MDF - through World Bank) and the New Zealand Aid Programme (NZAID). More recent funding has been received, among others, from ExxonMobil, PT Pertamina, USFWS, ARP, The Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, USAID-TFCA and USAID-IFACS.
Facilities and Infrastructure
The Leuser International Foundation has three main offices, i.e. the Jakarta office as the head office for the LIF’s Directors and Founders aiming at building good relationships with donor agencies and the central government in Jakarta, and to approach and conduct meetings with related departments at the central (national) level about important issues. The Medan office is the hub for operating activities in the four districts of the Leuser Ecosystem that are located in North Sumatra (Langkat, Deli Serdang, Dairi and Karo) and is also administering LIF’s financial responsibilities. The Banda Aceh office, located in the Syiah Kuala University campus area in Banda Aceh, is the centre for the Leuser Conservation activities. There is also an office in Bener Meriah, Aceh Province, built and operated with support from New Zealand Aid Programe (NZAID) through the Watershed Protection Programme in Central Aceh
Past and Current Projects