Putting the pieces back together-connecting Sumatra’s fragmented forest, for people and for wildlife – KELOLA Sendang

Indonesia is the third most forested country in the world, home to amazing wildlife like tigers, rhinos, elephants and orangutans. Over one thousand of the species found in Indonesia are found nowhere else in the world but, sadly, 9% of them are threatened. These incredible animals need a large and healthy forest to thrive. To ensure that these species have a bright future, it is vital that we do everything we can to protect the spaces they call home from threats such as logging and land-clearing. 

To be effective and support lasting change and progress for wildlife, habitat protection must be large-scale, with conservationists thinking beyond traditional methods and working with other sectors, addressing not only population survival but also climate change and the need to nurture a world where people and wildlife can coexist. KELOLA Sendang, which ran from 2015-2020, in South Sumatra, Indonesia, and was a project which did just this.

Adult and baby Sumatran elephant
Adult & baby Sumatran elephant captured on camera trap


Threats to Sumatran tiger and elephant habitats

Key habitat is shrinking for the critically endangered Sumatran tiger and elephant – found only on the Indonesian island of Sumatra – and for countless other endangered species, with the remaining forest becoming increasingly fragmented. Only hundreds of Sumatran elephants exist, seeking routes for food and water across much-changed and human-dominated lands between remaining forest patches. Tigers, cannot move freely to hunt and breed. With only 400 wild tigers left, surviving in small isolated populations across the island of Sumatra – this species is in danger of extinction. 

Tiger habitat in South Sumatra is made up of forest, mangroves and rare peatlands. Peatlands are naturally water-logged so when they become dry, due to slash-and-burn land clearance or from irrigation for commercial crops such as palm oil and rubber, they are vulnerable to burning for weeks on end. Not only essential habitat is destroyed for wild animals, but also burning peat releases a huge amount of carbon (a greenhouse gas) into our atmosphere, contributing to climate change and producing widespread toxic smog for weeks affecting everyone across SE Asia.

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


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, land conversion and increasing human populations, along with irresponsible practices such as peat land drainage, drive deforestation, environmental degradation, CO2 emissions and biodiversity loss.

The patches of forest and peat land that survive act as a 'stepping stones’ for wildlife in Sumatra. These must be protected to allow corridors of natural land so tigers, rhinos, elephants and many more animals can travel, reproduce, and so populations with sufficient space can remain healthy and genetically diverse. 


How ZSL's KELOLA Sendang project responded to the threats

KELOLA Sendang was a ZSL-run project, working with the Indonesian Government, communities and the private sector across 1.6 million hectares in South Sumatra – roughly 10 times the size of Greater London. This landscape lies between two protected areas: Sembilang National Park – home to an estimated 10% of the remaining Sumatran tiger population worldwide – and Dangku Wildlife Reserve.

In order to connect these two stepping stone habitats, we worked with the private sector to promote sustainable production, including using ZSL’s SPOTT programme (a tool enabling stakeholders to monitor and manage the environmental impacts of the palm oil and natural rubber industries).  We also worked with the government to promote conservation in the provincial and national agendas, while supporting the national ‘Green Growth Vision’, and restoring and rehabilitating degraded land. This included the design and implementation of cutting-edge technologies for land-use planning and monitoring. 

KELOLA Sendang worked with 21 villages across the landscape, ensuring sustainable livelihoods, and supporting them to strengthen their agriculture businesses in an environmentally friendly way. This included the introduction of eight new businesses, training in sustainable farming and community-based fire prevention.

Ultimately, KELOLA Sendang focused on building and managing a sustainable landscape, where all species (tigers, rhinos, elephants, humans and many more) can thrive. Please read PDF icon here (1.64 MB)for a full list of all achievements. 


Achievements of KELOLA Sendang

Plans for the future

Between March and August 2020 the KELOLA Sendang interventions and achievements were handed over to the provincial government, ensuring that management of the landscape is continued by those most closely affected. The legacy of the project, the achievements and the valuable experience continues to influence ZSL’s global conservation work.

Click for more information on Sumatran tiger conservation (2000 - 2020).

Key Species

Stories from the Field – Find out more about the project

Watch a video about the project here.

View the KELOLA Sendang photo story book here. 

The KELOLA Sendang project has seen some great developments over that last five years, for example the Bear-Friendly Honey Initiative, and ongoing support for the national parks agency to mitigate human-elephant conflict for local communities and plantations.

Technical support for future Sustainable Landscape Management 

Read more about the project in our technical papers:

Learn more about the ZSL SPOTT tool, enabling stakeholders to monitor and manage the environmental impacts of the palm oil and natural rubber industries.

All KELOLA Sendang stories, articles and books are stored on the Neliti Online Portal

  • Current partners and donors

  • Government of South Sumatra
  • Ministry of Environment & Forestry, Indonesia (MoEF)
  • Taman Nasional Berbak Sembilang (BSNP)
  • BKSDA and FMUs (Indonesian forest management units)
  • Hutan Kita Institute (HaKI)
  • SNV-Netherlands Development Organisation
  • Daemeter Consulting

Kindly funded by the Government of Norway through the Norwegian International Climate and Forest Initiative (NIFCI), the UK Government’s UK Aid under the UK Climate Change Unit.