Rudi Hadiansyah Putra (1977) receives the Future For Nature Award 2013 for his work on the protection of large mammals, with an emphasis on rhinos in Sumatra.
About Rudi’s work
Rudi has been employed as conservation manager for the newly established Leuser Ecosystem Management Authority (BPKEL) since 2007, apart from some time off for studies at the Bogor Agricultural University. His work entails a comprehensive approach to coordinating the work of the BPKEL area managers, organizing the protection of large mammals with an emphasis on rhino protection, and the rehabilitation of large tracts of forest through a process of terminating plantations inside the Leuser Ecosystem and encouraging natural regeneration.
Rudi on his work
“From the beginning of my employment in the Leuser Management Unit I was engaged in the protection of the rhinos of the Mamas valley. Anti-poaching work began in 1990, with positive results, and by 2000 the range of the rhinos in the Mamas had increased to about 50% of the area. Since then I have ensured that the anti-poaching patrols have never ceased – even in times of financial difficulty. The situation now is very encouraging, and the entire Mamas valley is regularly used by rhinos. Several new rhinos were born last year, and recently a mother and her young calf were caught on film by remote video cameras set up to monitor the rhinos in the Mamas. In addition, anti-poaching patrols were established in the Kluet Valley to the west of the Mamas valley, and the frequency of rhino sightings has increased steadily. The long-term effort has increased the rhino population from a low of around 50 individuals in 1990 to around 80 today. I sincerely hope that the work I am engaged in will result in a steadily increasing population of one of the world’s rarest species, eventually to as many as 2000 individuals.”
Rehabilitation of degraded lands
Another important aspect of Rudi’s work is the rehabilitation of degraded lands. In the early 1990s the foothills and last tracts of lowland forest in the south-eastern part of the Leuser Ecosystem in Aceh began to be cleared for oil plantations. The area had already been logged and the total conversion of these last lowland forests meant that the elephants that regularly migrated from north to south and back again each year could no longer do so. In fact, many of their number were killed on the pretext that they were eating young oil palm trees. For a considerable time plans were discussed for restoring this corridor, but little was done and by 2008 the oil palm plantations (mostly illegal) were mature and had totally replaced the natural forest wildlife corridor.
Rudi decided that these illegal plantations must be stopped. Forming a coalition of local government officials, members of the local parliament, informal leaders and NGOs, he pressed the police into taking action. After an initially hesitant start the police were very supportive and not only was the plantation terminated, but all the oil palms were felled with the help of a team of ex-loggers. Building on this success and capitalizing on the networks developed, over the next two years Rudi led the consortium in closing a further 24 illegal and partially legal plantations inside the Leuser Ecosystem. The elephants are now gradually returning from the north to the regenerating forest.
“Rudi’s anti-poaching success over the last 12 years, and determination to reclaim Leuser’s protected areas from illegal oil palm plantations, show true grit, courage and tenacity. Trying to establish exactly how many rhino still exist within the Leuser ecosystem makes sense, as does convening experts to figure out the best conservation strategies. His great passion and commitment to these highly endangered creatures is an inspiration.” – Saba Douglas-Hamilton, International Selection Committee