Sharing Big Scrub Knowledge

 Kelvin Davies and Krista Bernard report on the visit to the Big Scrub by two Sumatran bush regenerators

The knowledge and skills gained in restoring the Big Scrub are being transferred to other parts of Australia and the world. An example of this occurred in August 2010 with the visit of two members of the Indonesian Orangutan Information Centre. Mr Panut Hadisiswoyo and Mr Ahmad Azhari (aka Ari) were on a fact-finding tour, hosted by not for profit organisation Rainforest Rescue. 

The Big Scrub Rainforest Landcare Group (BSL) has been restoring the Big Scrub remnants since 1991 and in this time has become a leader in developing and documenting the process of rainforest restoration; there are hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of trees that BSL has established through assisting the natural recovery processes of rainforests, augmenting the extensive planting also being undertaken. 

BSL has achieved this by employing rainforest restoration practitioners. Their work, rather unglamorously, involves removing weeds that are inhibiting the regeneration of seedlings in, and on the edges of, the remnant patches of the Big Scrub. 

The secrets of successfully restoring rainforests have been revealed to Big Scrub rainforest regenerators and scientists by their careful observations over many years. Observations of vital functions, such as when trees set seed and the role of birds and bats in their disbursement, provide important learning about the natural ecology of the rainforests and the processes by which rainforests can restore themselves with our assistance. BSL has documented this in two manuals – Subtropical Rainforest Restoration and Common Weeds of Subtropical Rainforests of Eastern Australia. The manuals record the accumulated knowledge of individual rainforest restoration practitioners, as well as a significant input from the landcare group’s technical committee, composed of biologists, forest ecologists and other contributions by independent scientists. 

Panut and Ari’s visit was aimed at learning first-hand from the experience and knowledge that has been gathered over 20 years of restoration of the Big Scrub in order to transfer this to Indonesia. 

Panut and Ari’s project is restoring the habitat of the endangered Sumatran orangutan. Panut is the founding Director of the Orangutan Information Centre, which has been in operation since 2002, and Ari works for the organisation in rainforest regeneration, removing illegally planted oil palms and replanting rainforest trees in the Gunung Leuser National Park. Rainforest Rescue has been supporting this work since 2007, as part of its Orangutan Habitat for Survival Project. 

A highlight for Panut and Ari’s Australian tour was the visit to Rocky Creek Dam where they spent time with rainforest regenerators Ralph Woodford and Dave Rawlins. They were particularly impressed by the natural regeneration techniques employed by Ralph and the success achieved over the past 20 years. On their visit to Australia, Panut and Ari also met with forest ecologist Rob Kooyman and biologist Tim Low. They also visited other tree planting and rainforest restoration sites in Northern NSW and the Daintree rainforest in Far North Queensland.

Now back in Sumatra, with copies of the Big Scrub Rainforest Restoration Manual, Panut and Ari are utilising the knowledge gained from their Big Scrub site visits to establish a number of rainforest restoration trials, which will improve their work restoring the Gunung Leuser National Park. 

Their work includes cutting down 500 hectares of illegally planted oil palms inside the boundaries of the national park and restoring the rainforest; a total of 22,000 hectares of the Gunung Leuser National Park have been illegally cleared. The removal of the 500 hectares of oil palm will enable the area to be revegetated and will also reinforce the boundaries of the national park and reduce further illegal incursions. In addition, the Orangutan Information Centre is educating the communities that live around the national park and creating sustainable livelihoods for people so that they do not need to rely on the many illegal trades inside the national park, such as oil palm crops, logging or hunting wildlife for meat or the pet trade. 

Mullumbimby based rainforest regenerator, Dave Rawlins, will be visiting the Orangutan Information Centre and their project site in March 2011 to provide further support and advice to the team; and Rainforest Rescue is also assisting other bush regenerators to visit the project and share their skills with Indonesian regenerators.

For more info on Rainforest Rescue’s Orangutan Habitat for Survival Project and the work to protect and restore the rainforests in Indonesia visit or phone 02 6684 4360

Rainforest Rescue would like to thank Ralph Woodford and Anthony Acret of Rous Water for assisting with Panut and Ari’s visit to Rocky Creek Dam.  


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