US to forgive $30m debt to protect Sumatra’s forests

Tigers, orangutans and rhinoceros to benefit from better protection as US government writes-off debt owed by Indonesia.

Washington, DC – The U.S. Government will announce today that it will forgive nearly $30 million of debt payments owed by Indonesia in return for increased protection of Sumatra’s forests, in a deal supported financially by and negotiated with the help of Conservation International.

The debt reduction will help to provide livelihoods for the people of the island and ensure the survival of some of the world’s most endangered species – including the Sumatran rhino (Dicerorhinos sumatrensis), Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae), orangutan (Pongo abelii) and four endemic primates from the Mentawai Islands.

The swap means that the Government of Indonesia will pay the nearly $30 million to a trust over eight years which will issue grants for critical forest conservation and restoration work in Sumatra.

The “debt for nature” swap is the first ever in Indonesia under the U.S. Tropical Forest Conservation Act as well as the largest of its kind thus far. It will lead to increased protection of 13 important areas of Sumatran rainforest which are home to hundreds of species of important and threatened plants and animals.

Jatna Supriatna, Vice President of Conservation International Indonesia, said: “This is a huge boost for the people and wildlife of Sumatra, and demonstrates a forward-looking policy on the part of the US government. The $30 million will help protect vital habitats and will also help deliver significant social benefits for the people of the island.”

It has been made possible by a contribution of $20 million from the U.S. Government under the Tropical Forest Conservation Act and the commitment of $1 million each by Conservation International and the Indonesian Biodiversity Foundation (Yayasan Keanekaragaman Hayati Indonesia, or KEHATI) as part of the deal. Conservation International’s Global Conservation Fund also helped design and negotiate the swap. Every $1 will bring more than $1.3 worth of conservation on the ground in Sumatra.

Arifin Panigoro, Advisor to CI Indonesia and also Chairman of the Medco Foundation, added: “This  is the first three-way debt for nature swap in Indonesia involving the US Government, Government of Indonesia and NGOs from both Indonesia and around the world. Hopefully it will reduce the deforestation rate and save endangered wildlife in Sumatra.”


White & Case LLP provided external legal support on a pro bono basis relating to this new endeavor.

Photos available here:

Notes to editors:
The 13 areas set to benefit from the debt for nature swap are:

 1. The Northern Sumatra Region:

Seulawah Heritage Forest
Leuser Ecosystem and Leuser National Park
Western Toba Watershed
Batang Toru Forest Range
Angkola Lowland Wilderness Tropical Forest Area
Batang Gadis National Park

2. Central Sumatra Region

Siak Kampar Peninsula
Tesso Nilo Ecosystem
Bukit Tigapuluh National Park
Kerinci Seblat Ecosystem
Siberut National Park and the rest of Mentawai Archipelago

3. Southern Sumatra Region

Way Kambas National Park
Bukit Barisan Selatan Forest Range

Conservation International (CI) applies innovations in science, economics, policy and community participation to protect the Earth's richest regions of plant and animal diversity in the biodiversity hotspots, high-biodiversity wilderness areas and key marine ecosystems. With headquarters in Washington, D.C., CI works in more than 40 countries on four continents. For more information about CI, visit

Rob McNeilInternational Media Director2011 Crystal Drive Suite 500Arlington, Virginia 341-2561
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