Protecting Sumatran Tiger habitat – KELOLA Sendang

Indonesia is the third most forested country in the world, and a biodiversity hotspot. It is home to 17% of the world’s biodiversity. Over one thousand of the species found in Indonesia are found nowhere else, and 9% of them are threatened. Despite the global significance of Indonesia’s forests and wildlife including Sumatran tigers, orangutans, Asian elephants and rhinos, they face unprecedented threats.


Threats to Sumatran tiger habitats

Key habitat for the critically endangered Sumatran tiger – found only on the Indonesian island of Sumatra – is shrinking and the remaining forest is increasingly fragmented. Tigers cannot move freely to hunt and breed, and the 400 individuals left live in small, isolated populations, in danger of becoming inviable.

Much of the vital tiger habitat is valuable peat ecosystems. These support a huge amount of biodiversity, and mitigate climate change by storing carbon. Peatlands are naturally water-logged, so when they become dry they are very vulnerable to burning - often intentional through practices such as slash-and-burn land clearance. As well as destroying essential habitat, burning peat releases a huge amount of carbon into the atmosphere.

The remaining areas of forest and peat act as 'stepping stone' habitats. These need to be protected to nurture a corridor, so that tigers can move and have a viable future. To achieve this, the competing pressures of human development must be addressed.

Burned and unburned area in Berbak Sembilang National Park
Burned and unburned area in Berbak Sembilang National Park


The competing pressures of human development

In South Sumatra, development and natural resource exploitation have resulted in a mosaic-like landscape of privately-owned agriculture, community land, and land that is formally government-protected, but often with very little natural forest remaining. Oil palm and timber plantations lie alongside national parks and areas of great importance for biodiversity. Illegal logging and increasing human populations, along with irresponsible practices such as peatland drainage, continue to drive deforestation, environmental degradation, CO2 emissions and biodiversity loss.


How ZSL's KELOLA Sendang project responds to the threats

KELOLA Sendang is a ZSL-run project, working with the Indonesian Government, communities and the private sector across 1.6 million hectares in South Sumatra – an area roughly 10 times the size of Greater London. This landscape lies between two protected areas: Sembilang National Park – where the Sumatran tiger population has almost doubled to 35 individuals since the start of ZSL intervention – and Dangku Wildlife Reserve.

The name KELOLA Sendang comes from Indonesian Bahasa, and loosely means 'spring water' and 'partnerships for landscape management'.

In order to connect these two tiger habitats, we work with the private sector to promote sustainable production, including using ZSL’s SPOTT programme to increase transparency and corporate accountability, so that stakeholders can monitor and manage the risks of commodity production. We work with the government to push conservation up the provincial and national agenda, while supporting the national ‘Green Growth Vision’, and working to restore and rehabilitate degraded land.

KELOLA Sendang also works with 21 villages across the landscape to ensure sustainable livelihoods, especially so that they can strengthen their agriculture businesses while using land in an environmentally friendly way. We supported the 'Let's be responsible for our waste festival' in Sembilang National Park.

Ultimately, KELOLA Sendang focuses on building and managing a sustainable landscape, where all species that call it home (humans and tigers) can thrive!

Community waste management and income generation Sembilang National Park
A village that never had waste management due to difficult access, tests a model for generating income while cleaning up, by collecting rubbish for sale to a recycling plant.


Plans for the future

In March 2020 the KELOLA Sendang interventions and achievements will be handed over to the provincial government, ensuring that the management of the landscape will be continued by those most closely affected. ZSL will continue to support sustainable land use and conservation that benefit both humans and wildlife.

Click for more information on Sumatran tiger conservation, and the KELOLA Sendang project.

Key Species

  • Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae) - Critically Endangered
  • Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) - Endangered

People involved

  • Professor Damayanti Buchori – Project Director
  • David Ardihan – Deputy Project Director
  • Sophie Kirklin – Project Liaison Officer

Current partners and donors

  • Government of South Sumatra
  • BKSDA and FMUs (Indonesian forest management units)
  • Hutan Kita Institute (Our Forest)
  • SNV-Netherlands Development Organisation
  • Daemeter Consulting
  • IPB-Bogor Agricultural University
  • Yayasan PUTER
  • Penabulu
  • PT DIFFA Yasindo

Kindly funded by the Government of Norway through the Norwegian International Climate and Forest Initiative (NIFCI), UK Aid from the UK Government.

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