Rudi Putra: Rainforest guardian fighting Sumatra’s illegal palm oil deforestation and saving the rhino

Indonesian biologist, Rudi Putra, is leading the fight against illegal oil palm deforestation and protecting the habitat of the critically endangered Sumatran rhino in northern Sumatra’s Leuser Ecosystem.

Rudi Putra and his team identify plantations and poachers encroaching into the Gunung Leuser National Park, an area marked out by the Indonesian government as a conservation forest, protected by law from land conversion, and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Leuser Ecosystem in Sumatra is ranked as one of the “world’s most irreplaceable protected areas” Leuser is the last place in the world where Sumatran orangutans, rhinos, elephants and tigers still co-exist in the wild.

As a high school student growing up in the Aceh region, Rudi Putra showed an early interest in nature and animals. He studied conservation biology and fell in love with the Sumatran rhino, the smallest – and the most critically endangered – member of the rhinoceros family.

Around four million people live near the protected Leuser Ecosystem. The inhabitants rely on the forestland for sustainable agriculture and water. The forests also provide much-needed protection from flooding, which has grown in frequency and severity in recent years.

Rudi Putra’s work to dismantle illegal oil palm plantations within Sumatra’s Leuser Ecosystem, as well as his activism around a plan to remove protected status for vast areas of forest across Aceh, in 2013 culminated in a petition asking the Indonesian government to enforce conservation laws and reject Aceh’s proposal. The petition was signed more than 1.4 million times, catalysing broader awareness of the issue and sparking intense international outcry.

In 2014, Rudi Putra was honoured for his work and awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize.

Last year, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation partnered with the biologist and conservationist to create a wildlife sanctuary in the Leuser Ecosystem and report deforestation.

Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She is a writer who specialises in sustainable lifestyle and living, wellbeing, and entertainments. Rosa also works as a psychic, counsellor, intuitive reader and spiritual life coach helping people to become who they truly are and manifest their heart & soul’s desires into their lives: www.rosalindmedea.com

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