626px-female_orangutan__baby_perthzoo_smc_sept_2005.jpgIndonesian authorities have pledged to stop the devastating loss of forests and species in Sumatra, one of the world’s most ecologically important hotspots. To protect the homes of iconic species like the tiger, orangutan, rhinoceros and elephant, all ten governors on the island have committed to obey the principles of “ecosystem-based planning”, where any projects detrimental to ecological health would be banned.

The historic agreement, also endorsed by four Indonesian Ministers governing the Ministries of Forestry, Environment, Interior and Public Works, represents the first-ever island-wide commitment to protect Sumatra’s stunning biodiversity.

Sumatra is the only place on Earth where tigers, elephants, orangutans and rhinos co-exist.    The goals are to “restore critical ecosystems in Sumatraand and protect areas with high conservation values,” said the Deputy Minister of Environment. “The Governors will now work together to develop ecosystem-based spatial plans that will serve as the basis for future development on the island.”

More than 13 percent of Sumatra’s remaining forests are peat forests, which sit atop the deepest peat soil in the world; clearing these forests is a major source of carbon emissions that cause climate change. “By protecting these forests from deforestation, Sumatra will provide a significant contribution to mitigate global climate change,” said Marlis Rahman, Vice Governor of West Sumatra Province.

The World Wildlife Fund, Conservation International, and other conservation groups working in Sumatra have agreed to help implement the political commitment to protect what remains of the island’s species-rich forests and critical areas. The island has lost 48 percent of its natural forest cover since 1985. “WWF is eager to help make this commitment a reality to protect the magnificent tropical forests across Sumatra. These forests shelter some of the world’s rarest species and provide livelihoods for millions of people,” said Mubariq Ahmad, CEO of WWF-Indonesia.

(Read full details at BBC) Thanks to Bill F. for the story tip!

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