Indonesia’s Leuser Ecosystem is known as the last place on earth where orangutans, rhinos, elephants and tigers coexist in the wild and has been called one of the world’s most irreplaceable places. Despite it’s environmental and economic value as an intact rainforest, conservationists are still battling to stop it from being destroyed.

Over the weekend, Leonardo DiCaprio, along with fellow actors Adrien Brody and Fisher Stevens, ventured there to raise awareness about the importance of protecting it, highlighting the cost of destruction and development of palm oil plantations on elephants, whose habitat is being lost and fragmented.

He also announced that the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation would be supporting efforts to build a mega-fauna sanctuary there. Sadly for the orangutans, rhinos, elephants and tigers who call this place home, they’re all now listed on the the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List as Critically Endangered.

While the effort to save these iconic species has garnered a lot of attention, they’re not the only ones who will benefit from preserving this ecosystem, which spans across the provinces of Aceh and North Sumatra. Millions of people also depend on this ecosystem for their livelihoods and clean water, while the entire world benefits from the way it acts as a carbon sink, the value of which is estimated to run into the billions.

While the ongoing development of palm oil plantations is particularly concerning, the Leuser Ecosystem is also under threat from a controversial spatial land use plan that would threaten Aceh’s protected forests by opening the door for more palm oil  plantations, in addition to timber concessions, mining and the development of roads, which opponents fear will fragment precious habitat, encourage development, cause more conflicts with wildlife and create more access to rare species for hunters.

Not only would this be a huge blow to critically endangered species and overall biodiversity, but it will also harm local communities. Environmentalists have predicted that further deforestation will lead to natural disasters that include more flash floods, landslides and erosion, in addition to destroying livelihoods that are forest-dependent and threatening the water supply that millions of people rely on for drinking and food production.

In January, a class action lawsuit was filed by the citizens of Aceh in an effort to stop the land use plan and get the government to ensure the Leuser Ecosystem will be protected from further destruction.

“We are an alliance of concerned citizens who have been fighting for nearly two years, since the Aceh government legalized a new land use plan that would effectively dissolve protection of much of Aceh’s remaining tropical rainforests, whitewashing crimes of the past and paving the way for a new wave of catastrophic ecological destruction,” said Farwiza Farhan, one of the plaintiffs.

You can help by signing and sharing the petition asking Aceh’s governor to protect wildlife and local communities by supporting a nomination of the Leuser Ecosystem as a World Heritage site.

For more info on how to help, visit Forest, Nature and Environment of Aceh (HAkA) and the Rainforest Action Network.

Source: Leonardo DiCaprio Visits Elephants On Trip To Protect One Of The World’s Most Irreplaceable Places | Care2 Causes